Riots Not Diets
Feminism may be a dirty word in Russia, but the punk artists of Pussy Riot and the topless crusaders of Femen are among the few willing to stand up to Putin.
Feminism has long been a dirty word in Russia. Just ask Svetlana Smetanina, a journalist for the state-owned Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper who, in a 2010 article, voiced an opinion that many Russians seem to share: women who self-identify as feminists are harpies, she wrote, “unfulfilled in their personal lives and bent on revenging themselves on men for their own unhappiness.”
Smetanina’s op-ed is representative of the outright disdain in Russia toward feminists—an attitude on full display in recent months, crystallized in the Western mind by images of the punk art collective Pussy Riot being whipped by Cossacks in Sochi and of brutes in Crimea violently choking young, topless activists from the radical group Femen, whose bare-breasted protests against patriarchy and dictatorship (in this case Putin’s invasion of eastern Ukraine) have made them media darlings in the West. Love them or hate them, these women are at the vanguard of the fight against Putin’s repressive state at a time when the domestic opposition has been effectively neutered.