Pussy Riot give advice for women to defy Putin and Trump

Nadya Tolokonnikova of the political punk rebels detailed how she thinks the Russian leader is more powerful than the American president

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Still from Pussy Riot’s video ‘Chaika’
Still from Pussy Riot’s video ‘Chaika’via YouTube

Nadya Tolokonnikova was imprisoned for two years under Russia’s Vladimir Putin, convicted for her protest performance with political punk group Pussy Riot at a Moscow cathedral in 2012. Challenging Putin and his regime, the group has also set their sights on Donald Trump with a series of ridiculing music videos. The activist and conceptual artist has now written a guide to resistance for women wanting to defy both leaders.

In her piece for Foreign Policy, Tolokonnikova illustrates Trump and Putin’s similarities with a “caveman psychology”, and “their craven need for power, their fragile temperaments and inflated egos, and their anti-feminist sentiments”. She describes how each world leader “acts out”: “For Trump, it is with tweets. Putin has more power, so he puts his enemies in jail. These are just the knee-jerk reactions of children acting out when they feel rejected or scared.”

Tolokonnikova gets at both their very anti-women policies: Putin for decriminalising domestic violence in Russia, and for sexist statements that put the women’s ‘place’ at home and solely as a ‘reproduction machine’. Additionally, his anti-LGBT regime threatens so many. With Trump, he’s reinstated the global gag rule, affected thousands with the travel ban, went after Planned Parenthood and dealt a blow to global reproductive rights worldwide, and of course, not forgetting his vulgar comments about women and sexual assault charges. Summing him up, Tolokonnikova describes Trump as a “stupid ape”.

“It’s time to consider Trump’s election as an opportunity for society to no longer hide from this ugliness,” she writes. “And this is actually a gift for activists and feminists.”

Prior to the U.S election results, Pussy Riot dropped three music videos, “Straight Outta Vagina”, “Organs”, and “Make America Great Again”, that attacked Trump, Russia and the patriarchy.

Tolokonnikova says that instead of panicking or showing fear, the best way to challenge Putin and Trump is to try our best “to be a pain in the ass”, as she did when she and other Pussy Riot members protested and went on hunger strikes in prison. To persevere, she says, it’s important to think in dubious times “how I could improve the lives of people around me... it’s only then — when you start to find a solution — that you will feel good again. Even in the darkest times, helping others is power,” she adds.

That’s not to say we’ll be able to overhaul thousands of years of patriarchy and the oppression of women in quicktime – the musician, artist and activist is adamant that it’s going to be a long fight.

“Men like Putin and Trump think they can smash people,” she concludes. “Putin thought that he could break us. But even in jail we still had our minds, our souls, and our happiness. In the end, we never gave up. And that is how you push back against Trump, Putin, and all those other assholes just like them.”

“We must not give them our fear.”

Read Nadya Tolokonnikova's full guide to resistance here, and catch up with the Pussy Riot manifesto from when Dazed celebrated our 25th anniversary.

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