#HCWC #WCW: The Members of Pussy Riot

WCW
Picture taken from Amnesty International’s Flickr Page here.

Our first Woman Crush Wednesday this month is dedicated to the women in the feminist punk-rock group Pussy Riot. Last year, I got to see two of its members, Nadezhda and Maria, speak at the Harvard Institute of Politics and I can attest that they are just as amazing and awe-inspiring in person as they are with their online presence.

The group was founded five years ago and became famous for its guerilla performances of music in public that was in opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Pussy Riot’s music champions feminism, refugee rights, and rights for the LGBTQ* community as well as acts as a form of protest against the human rights abuses against Russian civilians by its government. One of the coolest videos you can see of the group is”Punk Prayer” (where the group performs inside of Christ the Savior Cathedral), in which the group protests the Russian Orthodox Church’s support of Putin back in 2012.

As a result of the performance, two of its members, Nadezha Andreyevna Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, were famously imprisoned (they were released after one year after immense public pressure from human rights organizations). At the time, the two women were in their early twenties and each had a four-year-old child that they had to leave behind. Both have been outspoken about the treatment they received while incarcerated, particularly because Maria collapsed from hunger because her nutritional needs (veganism) were not acknowledged. Though they were released in 2013, they were imprisoned in Sochi in 2014 and footage has been revealed of the two women being whipped by Cossacks in the area.

Aside from its activism in Russia, Pussy Riot members have also called to attention injustices in the United States. For example, they protestedpolice brutality with its song “I Can’t Breathe” and are campaigning for Bernie Sanders in this presidential election (at the same time, the group opposes Donald Trump and his racist/misogynistic ideologies, and have protested against him around the United States and spoken out about his views on their Twitter). While at Harvard, Maria and Nadezha even went to the Cambridge Police Department to learn more about an audience attendee who was arrested for entering the University.

Thank you Pussy Riot for challenging, motivating, and inspiring us at the Women’s Center to fight for human rights every day!

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