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Pussy Riot Videos Breakdown

Pussy Riot break down their new music videos

The Russian protest-punk group’s Nadya Tolokonnikova discusses how powerful vaginas and castrated conservatives inspired their three politically-charged new videos

Russian punk-protest group Pussy Riot provided a lyrical and visual clapback against Donald Trump, the Russian government, and patriarchy at large by releasing three politically-charged music videos in the space of three days. Coming out just weeks before the US presidential election on November 8, the videos explore the power of pussy and a bleak dystopian reality that a Trump-led American government could hold. Clad in their trademark fluoro balaclavas, the three tracks (“Straight Outta Vagina”, “Organs”, and “Make America Great Again”) see the group ditching profanities to target a larger audience. Featuring literal bloodbaths, inflatable ducks, and a co-production credit for TV On The Radio’s David Sitek, the group are pragmatic in their approach, but as unashamedly feminist, political, and radical as ever. Hoping to mobilise as many people as possible, the timing of the releases undoubtedly conveys a sense of urgency in the run up to the election, irrelevant of the fact the band can’t actually cast a ballot themselves.

Following the releases, and after penning a protest manifesto as part of our 25th birthday celebrations, we asked Pussy Riot group member Nadya Tolokonnikova – who features in, and had the most involvement with the three videos – to share some of her thoughts behind the visuals, and expand on the issues explored in the new releases.

ON BODY POLICE AND CHAUVINIST PIGS

Nadya Tolokonnikova: There are a lot of scary ways that the government could try to suck on your energy and life. They could imprison you for singing. Or they could kill you for speaking up against them as they did with Russian anti-Putin politician Boris Nemtsov. They could close all independent media outlets. And they could control your body and sexuality. They could try to swallow your vitality and creativity. Recently, the Patriarch of the Russian orthodox church – yep, that dude who we mentioned in our punk-prayer – came up with idea of banning abortions in Russia. And, alas, the church thinks that if I were raped, it’s my fault. It’s not surprising for me, but it’s still gloomy and dark. Organised religion works like police: it oppresses you and stops fun. My strap-ons are being replaced with uniforms and icons. My government is a total waste. Laws are useless. This bullshit that’s happening in Russia goes in line with what’s going on in US and in some European countries, such as Poland – attacks on Planned Parenthood, Trump’s willingness to make abortions illegal…

ON TRADITION AND CUTTING MISOGYNIST BALLS

Nadya Tolokonnikova: In 2013, the law against ‘propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships’ was passed in Russia. You could be arrested or fined up to $15,000 if you stand in the middle of the street and speak up about ‘nontraditional sexual relationships’, by which our government means homosexual relationships. ‘Nontraditional sexual relationships’ sounds so stupid and vague. What is considered to be traditional? Do you really want to live according to tradition? Do you want to make America or Russia great again? Okay, go for it. You’re living in a free country, as they say. You don’t want to end unwilling pregnancies with an abortion, like Trump? Then cut off your balls, motherfucker, and there will be no need for abortions. But leave my pussy alone and don’t touch me with your dirty tradition. Relax, man.

ON POWERFUL VAGINAS

Nadya Tolokonnikova: Female power and female sexuality is yet to be discovered. Discussed. Performed. Lived up. They want a girl to be sexy, but they often punish her for being sexually active. I prefer to show up and communicate what I want. Yes – good. No – good as well. My vagina is powerful, just deal with it. During the last several thousands of years, men invented a lot of amusing theories for their convenience. ‘Just think about it,’  says my friend, an amazing women boss, ‘men have to create the whole mythology about their cocks. How strong, hard, and beautiful their cocks are. That’s how phallocentrism was born. But the truth is that 90 per cent of the time their members are not that strong. And now look at the pussy: it’s always ready for action!’ If you’re a woman and you decide to say openly what you need, the amount of people who start to behave like assholes towards you grows exponentially. And it’s not their fault. You’re an alien for them. They know how to handle ‘strong’ men and ‘weak’ women, but you’re a new, unrecognisable type of person.

ON WOMEN WHO FINALLY REBEL

Nadya Tolokonnikova: Women were slaves of the world for centuries. Women got their right to vote less than 100 years ago – Russia in 1917, the US in 1919, Switzerland in 1971. How could we dare to think that cultural shifts can happen so quickly and that we have nothing left to work on? We’re still just about building other roles, norms, and ethics for vaginas owners. The owner of vaginas is not some narcissistic idiot who’d claim that he could grab women by their pussies. The owner of vagina is a woman, who wears her vagina as a badge of honour.

ON THE NEW CONSERVATIVE PATRIARCHAL ORDER

Nadya Tolokonnikova: Why am I voicing my opinion about Trump? Because I strongly believe that the earth could not simply stand the co-existence of Putin and Trump in power. The earth will quit. It’s simply too much bullshit. In my opinion, Putin’s goal – besides stealing money from Russian people – is to establish the new conservative, patriarchal, cynical, masochistic, violent order. That’s why he supports right-wing scumbags in Europe, that’s why he supports Trump. I’m not surprised that Putin is behind hacked Hillary’s emails. He was reading my emails for years – though I don’t know anything interesting he could find in them, besides pictures of my vagina and ass.