July 20, 2013

IconPussy Riot attack “homophobic vermin” on tour of oil facilities

Whilst gay, lesbian and bisexual people across England and Wales celebrate the legalisation of same-sex marriage, authorities in Russia are cracking down on LGBT rights.

A recent national ban on “homosexual propaganda” makes Britain’s Section 28 look positively tame by comparison. Ordinary people face fines of 100,000 roubles (£2,000) for discussing LGBT issues in a neutral or positive light on the Internet; organisations can be fined one million roubles (£20,000). Openly gay foreigners in Russia (including athletes in the forthcoming Winter Olympics) face arrest or deportation.

It is in this troubled context that feminist punk collective Pussy Riot called for lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex rights during a recent tour of Russia’s oil facilities.

In their new video, Pussy Riot argue that political leaders such as president Vladimir Putin and vice-premier Igor Sechin have hoarded oil profits at the expense of ordinary workers.

But their criticisms of the Russian government deliberately link the struggles against sexism, homophobia, individual power and corporate greed.

“Evil fucking sexist, leave the hole alone!

Homophobic vermin, out from history!”

It’s a really big deal that Pussy Riot are prepared to make this kind of stand. The imprisonment of their bandmates has demonstrated that Russian authorities are keen to punish them for taking a stand. Every further radical statement only offers more evidence against members of the group.

Pussy Riot’s message is aimed at the whole world. Part of this is about raising awareness of what is happening in Russia. However, it’s also about encouraging everyone to act on injustice regardless of where they live.

As we celebrate the passage of same-sex marriage in England and Wales (with further legalisation hopefully to follow in Scotland and Northern Ireland), we should remember that the battle for equality is far from won.

Trans people will be further marginalised by the new Marriage Act. Homophobia is still all-too common. Cuts to welfare and support services mean that hundreds of thousands of people have to rely on food banks and many are being forced out of their home. Disabled people are being denied vital benefits.

Pussy Riot remind us that all of these struggles stem from both individual greed and the concentration of power in the hands of a few. The situation in Russia is, of course, very different to that in the UK – but we can still find inspiration in an angry punk song.

You can read more about the Red Prison Tour here.

Please note: it has emerged since the publication of this article that the group which undertook the “Red Prison Tour” and filmed the above video is not the “original” Pussy Riot. A statement from that group can be found here. The points made in this article still stand.

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Ruth Pearce

Video

‘Define Me’ – Ryan Amador (featuring Jo Lampert)

The song DEFINE ME was released exclusively on Ryan Amador’s bandcamp (http://www.ryanamador.bandcamp.com/) in conjunction with Ryan’s live performance at the True Colors LGBT Youth Conference on March 22nd. It was produced by David Baloche for Grove Street Studios. 100% of its proceeds will be donated to organizations actively involved with the LGBT equality campaign. http://www.ryanamador.com/

April 22, 2013