If You Think Feminism Is Pointless, Hear Why The Members Of Pussy Riot Still Fight For It

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For those of us living in our comfortable, Western surroundings, is easy to trample on the feminist agenda thinking it is “outdated” or not needed anymore. There is a dangerous thought in our first world society that tells us “we already have equality” and so feminism is not needed.

Yet all we have to do is open our eyes to see the racism, the political war on women’s healthcare, police brutality, wage inequality, the way transgender, gay and lesbian people are treated to recognize that the fight may be different from 40 years ago, but there are many issues that are not equal.

And when you look elsewhere around the world, even if the above issues don’t resonate with you for some reason, there should be no doubt about the need for gender equality. Female genital mutilation, acid attacks, sexual violence, rape, religious oppression, and other similar crimes prove that we do not live in world that values women as equals with men in many respects.

In Russia, a country ruled by a cruel political leader in cahoots with the Orthodox church, there is little room for activism and human rights without grave consequences. Freedom of speech? Forget about. But one small group of women have become beacons of hope for many in that nation who fear stepping over the line. The members of the political music group Pussy Riot claimed their place in world media headlines after staging a protest in a Russian Orthodox church in 2012. They were subsequently arrested and endured months of interrogation, harassment and jail time for simply raising their disdain with the Vladimir Putin and his government publicly.

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Two of the members, Nadia and Masha, have spent the majority of their time since being released overseas talking to the media and continuing with their activism. The idea that people in Russia are being put in jail simply for being homosexual, or that you are not allowed to protest publicly about something that is forbidden is in direct opposition to a world where all voices are valued and all lives are considered equal. Therefore, these women and their many supporters feel they must speak out in the name of human rights, women’s rights, and equal rights to let the rest of the (sometimes complacent) world know this is a problem.

Their appearance in an episode of ‘House of Cards’ where the storyline features President Frank Underwood battling the Russian President and the HBO documentary ‘Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer‘ show their relentless effort to bring their mission to the rest of the world.

And now in a new interview with Rolling Stone magazine, group member Nadya Tolokonnikova, her husband Pyotr Verzilov and collaborator Matt Kulakov spoke about why feminism is their focus, and how the police brutality we are seeing here in the US is similar to what some Russians experience on a daily basis.

“We have a lot of experience with police violence in Russia. So we feel this situation is our situation as well,” said Nadya.

“In Russia, we don’t really have a minority, or a certain group of people, whose rights are specifically violated. In Russia, everyone’s rights are violated all the time,” said Nadya’s husband Pyotr.

Nadya says that calling herself a feminist is a direct affront to the Russian political system, because in their eyes it doesn’t stand for freedom and equality, it stands for someone anti-establishment and that is a bad thing.

“[I am considered] against the Russian Federation‚Ķbecause I call myself a feminist,” she said.

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Which is why she prefers to use the term “gender equality” because not only is it sometimes easier to understand, but it represents her mission a little more broadly in terms of the human rights she and her peers are fighting for. It’s not just about women having the freedom to do what they choose, but also for men not to be constrained by stereotypical version of masculinity.

“I want to fight for the right for Matt to wear a skirt. Why not?” she asks.

Like many feminists today who see intersectionality as a key component of the modern day movement, Nadya’s husband and friend Matt believe feminism is important for men also.

“A lot of work to promote feminism has to be done not with women, but with men. Feminism should definitely not be exclusively a worry of women.” they said.

It reminds us of Emma Watson’s important speech about the involvement of men in the fight for gender equality, during the launch of the UN Women He For She campaign in September 2014.

“We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes…but I can see that they are and when they are free things with change for women as a natural consequence,” said Emma.

“I want men to take up this mantle of gender equality so that their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice, but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too,” she added.

For the members of Pussy Riot and those around them from Russia, feminism is not just an optional hobby to take part in, it is a very real and important avenue to helping make the world a place where gender equality is part of society. Take a look at what Nadya, Pyotr and Matt have to say about feminism and police brutality in the videos below:

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