Should Black Women Care About Pussy Riot?

by Britni Danielle

Unless you’ve been keeping up with international news, you may not have heard about Pussy Riot, the all-female Russian punk group who was recently sentenced to prison time for hooliganism stemming from an anti-government protest.

While the women sound decidedly badass and totally committed to their cause, their names are relatively unknown to most black women.

Writer dream hampton recently commented on Facebook that the “pussy riot girls >>> alla hip hop”, signaling they were harder and more politically aware than every hip hop artist out today, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a fan, or perhaps even a rapper, who knew who they were.

But should we?

While black women have had to struggle with both our female and black identities, often times having to choose which battle to fight at a time—sexism or racism—white women have be able to consistently fight against sexism without worrying about how race and while supremacy factors into the cause.

Over the past week I’ve seen a handful of black women on Facebook and Twitter mention Pussy Riot, but usually the comments were something along the lines of, “Good luck to them, but why should I care about a bunch of white women?”

This line of thinking is problematic on a few fronts. While white women enjoy a certain privilege based on their race, their struggles as women often times mirrors our own. And while we certainly aren’t suffering under an oppresive Russian regime that regularly jails dissenters, building a coalition of women here in the States is necessary if we are to push back against the sexism that still exists in our country and disproportionally affects women of color. Issues of health care, the pay gap, and this newly energized debate over abortion are just a few reasons to align ourselves as women—across racial and ethnic lines.

So while black women’s lives won’t be directly be affect by Pussy Riot and their anti-governmental cause, perhaps we can take a few cues from the trio on how to speak out and advocate for the issues that affect us most.

What do you think? Have you been keeping up with Pussy Riot’s cause? 

*Photos via The Darkroom

  • http://www.okaymentary.com Tim A.

    Back when he was first releasing Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg told a story of screening the film at a Black and Latino high school in Harlem. He reported that one kid, in the post-screening discussion, started clowning an aspect of the film as if it were soft in comparison to the realities of his own life. One of the kid’s classmates quietly interjected to shut down the Oppression Olympics. “Pain is pain,” the second kid said.

    All oppression is not created equal. But it’s still oppression. And anyone who is willing to stand against it anywhere could serve as an inspiration to anyone else who struggles anywhere else.

  • SmartAleck11

    I believe that as women we should be aware of everything that is going on dealing with sexism and gender issues. The question is not “why should we care about white women” the question is “how much do we care about ourselves, our rights, and the rights of other minorities and oppressed peoples”. Of course being Black we have a lot more issues to worry about than White women but when it comes to women’s issues we should all be concerned. The women’s movement needs ALL voices. If we don’t speak up we don’t need White people to ignore us, we are silencing ourselves. This lets them assume that they can create laws for us that we never agreed to; laws that could, ultimately, make life harder for us and we all know if women get any further oppressed that we’re going to be the ones who suffer the most. For this reason alone we should be the loudest and boldest when it comes to ALL women’s issues.

  • Jasmine Caldwell

    Black people in general need to stop waiting on white people to lead the way and to help them. We are not accepted nor appreciated in this society. I will love to help our people and community but I don’t know where to began so all I do is community service.

  • http://gravatar.com/prxtence Salmon

    “Issues of health care, the pay gap, and this newly energized debate over abortion are just a few reasons to align ourselves as women—across racial and ethnic lines”

    Yes, all women of color should be more aware of gendered issues, but also bring to light how systems of racism produce racialized sexism. The fact is, white women have greater access to health care and upward mobility in the work force.We should refute the efficacy of the one-size-fits all feminism and center WOC voices in mainstream feminist dialogue.

  • Gisèle

    I don’t care about pussy riot, russian people are the most racist !
    Do you knwo how it is to be a black woman in russia ??

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4737468.stm

  • Jazmine Brand

    First off, I appreciate articles such as these as I loved to stay informed on both feminist and global issues. It has been said above and I will also reiterate, fighting for women’s rights as black women, we must not limit ourselves and our resources to fellow black women. Alliance building is key and if we are isolating ourselves seeing our cause as different from white feminists, how can we expect to open their eyes to realize that though we have commonality, there is are also distinctions unique to women of color? The scope must be broadened. Though this is no easy task, the first step is to aknowlege that exclusivity as black feminists is counterproductive.
    Let’s stay connected and show support when women, regardless of color are taking to much needed stand against oppression!

  • LemonnLime

    Honestly, I don’t care. So 3 white women are arrested for protesting in Russia? The world just stops when something happens to white women. Are there not others who are suffering from injustice in countries where the people are browner? Why are their stories less important or relevant?

  • African Mami

    I didn’t want to be the first to say, but I just wanted to say thank you. You articulated better than I would have. Cheii!

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    i care about all people who are oppressed.

  • Lisss

    Before we ask ourselves whether we should support them, we need to ask ourselves what exactly are they being arrested for. These are not pretty young girls actively fighting against a corrupted government. Yes the state and Valdimir Putin are on the wrong side of history right now, but these are girls who went into a church, singing obscenities directed at both the faith and the patriarch of that faith. This is the same group that has held public orgies and public masturbations with a chicken bone, disturbing individuals and their families. Like the article below states, i wonder if they would have gotten the same support had they done this in a mosque? Or had they been men who had done the same thing at a feminist conference? This is western hypocrisy at it’s worst. The main reason why i rarely trust any north american media.

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2012/0823/1224322753285.html

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    Bingo! Nobody is breaking their necks to help us but we are expected to be the first to extent the olive branch and hear their plight….I will pass good luck in their fight but I don’t care. Also I disagree with the statement…

    “This line of thinking is problematic on a few fronts. While white women enjoy a certain privilege based on their race, their struggles as women often times mirrors our own..”

    No they don’t a woman of color womanhood’s does not mirror a white woman’s womanhood let’s stop the PC. Sure we might share some experience that affect us as women in general but they aren’t mirror images.

  • African Mami

    Thank you so much for this!!!!! May you be rewarded with a long life.

  • NTG

    I don’t really think so. We saw what joining the Feminist Movement did to us. Plus it’s unwise to jump on bandwagons just because everyone else is doing such or because it seems “cool”. I doubt any white women would be coming out to support us if something like this was to ever happen to black women anyways.

  • http://gravatar.com/prxtence Salmon

    Really though.. just looking at the pictures, they look like they’re posing for a Rolling Stones cover (I’ve seen others online). …or like an instagram photo. I’m sorry but referring to Pussy Riots specifically I can’t support this struggle if these women’s AREN’T EVEN STRUGGLING. *insert backpedaling unity quote here*

  • RobertMwangi (KenyanBoy)

    I think this article is looking at the issue from a skewed point of view. They were NOT jailed for protesting but for HOOLIGANISM which included doing disrespectful things in a church. I just thought I should clarify.

    Just look at this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5I92sUbRqY

  • ChillyRoad

    There are other Russian female political activist, and some male activist in prison in Russia. These women are backed by some powerful anti Russian forces in the West. That is why they are receiving attention, not because they are white.

  • ChillyRoad

    The were protesting Putin in a Church that he has, for political reasons, wedded together. He has accused anyone of being anti Church as being anti Russian.

  • http://twitter.com/AsianBlackCo Nikki @ AsianBlackCo (@AsianBlackCo)

    I actually have been keeping tabs on them but just for social interest. I highlight doubt the black female community can learn anything from them. Not because the issues are invalid but because no matter how well aimed black women advocate we’ll always have to deal with the angry black women image. Speaking up about social issues shouldn’t be about race but sadly it becomes that when we add our voices. Beside if these were 3 black women I doubt it would have made the press in the same way

  • Kacey

    Well, judging by that photo (and others I’ve seen in the media) they don’t seem too concerned…so neither am I. I’m with LemonnLime on this one.

  • ChillyRoad

    I don’t think black women really “joined” the feminist movement. Many black women just adopted parts ideology and took advantage of many of its gains. White women are the face of the Pro-Choice movement but black women have a considerable number of abortions.

    There are a lot of social programs (public and private) that black women and other poor minority women access which was fought for by feminist. Dr. Karen Hill-Scott and the other founders of Crystal Stairs, which assists poor women i.e. black and hispanic women, in California was created by white feminist. These groups are also advocacy groups. They take these issues to state and federal government.

    Lets also not forget that white women are a huge voting block. All these Democrats in office who author these social programs are voted in by white women.

  • Suburban Soulgirl

    I am not paying attention either way, tbh.

    But I am with Chilly Road on this one- I believe that this matter is an international incident NOT because they are po’ little white wimminz being bullied, but cos much of the western world *still* dislikes and distrusts Russia (with good reason for the most part). Ergo, they’re (meaning the West) finding ways to stick it to Putin and Co.

  • Afrostyling

    Don’t give a shit.

  • NOitAll

    If we don’t care about what happens to all women, everywhere, even white women, then don’t complain when they don’t care about us.

    Besides, Pussy Riot isn’t about feminism. They were protesting Vladimir Putin and the way he has consolidated power in Russia. They are part of an anti-Putin movement there. These young Russians don’t want to live under a Soviet-style dictatorship. Anybody who cares about freedom, man or woman, should be behind them.

  • Sick

    Please, they are coming here in droves and they could care less about a black woman! They are racist and let them fight their own battles we did!!!! We don’t need a lesson on how to fight, remember slavery and the sixties???? I think we have it down, don’t you think!!!!!!!!

  • http://madeinwoman.org Sasori

    Very interesting issue. The point is very well explained here: THE TRIPLE OPPRESSION OF RACISM, SEXISM AND CLASS by Klaus Viehmann
    http://utenti.multimania.it/mumiaa/controq/q21_e.htm

  • Allie

    What does it matter what “white women” do? Do you have to wait for white women to stand up for what’s right before you’ll do the same? If white women (or anyone else) wouldn’t support a black band in the same position then THAT MAKES THEM WRONG. And if you have such a beef with white folks it seems doubly silly to base your own moral response on what you think they will or won’t do.

  • ChillyRoad

    @Binks,

    This Russian punk band isn’t asking you to extend anything. Without the black woman’s olive branch, they have managed to get world wide attention.

    I wouldn’t thumb your nose at white feminist if I were you. Margaret Sanger, for all her warts and faults opened the first Planned Parenthood like clinic in Brooklyn New York. Today this organisation is federally funded and has a budget of just over one billion. While providing abortions (thought not federally funded in this area) they also provide cervical exams, STD testing and education, mammograms, birth controls, etc. These are ALL things black women do and can take advantage of. This was a creation of white feminists. So while these white women may not be “breaking their necks” to help black women, they have stuck their necks out politically and socially to bring all women and girls access to life saving, and life changing health services.

    As a black woman, I don’t find common cause with all black women. I can ally with a white woman who is anti abortion before I can ally with a black woman who is Pro-Choice because I am against abortion.

  • Johan Strauss

    Pussy Riot cite 4 Skins as one of their greatest influences. This is a provocative band that played a racist gig in a pub in a predominantly Asian area. An act that preceded the so-called Riot Grrrls bumrushing of an Orthodox cathedral by a good 30 years. You can read all about the 4Skins flirtation with Nazism here: http://killyourpetpuppy.co.uk/news/4-skins-clockwork-fun-records-1981/

    4 Skins refer to these pesky Asians who rioted as “Pakis” in this video:

  • Johan Strauss

    Another band Pussy Riot claims gives them inspiration is Angelic Upstarts.
    http://www.punk77.co.uk/groups/angelicupstartshistory2.htm

    Here Angelic Upstarts talk about “n*ggers”.

  • http://www.overflowradio.tv soulfullyreal

    I care about anyone who is oppressed. Sad thing is our concern or lack thereof will fade just as our concern for KONY did. We have the attention spans of lab mice, and this is just another moment for us to feel good about ourselves and say “I know what’s going on, and it’s wrong!” Makes us feel better to shout out a slogan and tweet our support.

  • ChillyRoad

    @SMH

    You missed the point of my comment. While Margaret Sanger was the brainchild for Planned Parenthood the organisation has blossomed into an organisation that has helped many women- many of whom are poor and of colour. White feminists changed the game and these dismissive comments are out of line.

    “I’m fairly certain that society would have evolved to modern reproductive care without her help.”

    At whose instigation? Should Muslim women wait around for their societies evolve?

  • http://gravatar.com/marloweovershakespeare MarloweOverShakespeare

    No and no.

  • G.

    I agree with you. Russian are extremely racists. I also believe that we are misinformed about Pussy Riot. Those women have pushed the boundaries by having public sex orgies at the Moscow zoo in front of children. They also had sex with a frozen chicken at a supermarket in front small children. They also “hang” as their art work in public. They pushed the boundaries. I am not religious but I can recognize someone who will do anything for fame or money and they are one of them.

  • pinklotus

    Here we go again. This is typical feminist rhetoric. Once you get caught up in sexism the whole divide and conquer mentality sets in. Why not focus on our community as a whole. The overall well being of the Black family, man, woman and child. At the end of the day, we have our own battles to fight. Trust, most white women don’t give a damn about the state of Black women, why waste time supporting those who don’t even want anything to do with us. Get real. Start at home (literally) before wanting to join forces with outside forces. Wake up!

  • pinklotus

    No way! This is typical feminist rhetoric. The only thing this will do for Black women is reinforce the ‘independent woman’ and ‘divide and conquer’ state that we so desperatly need to get out of. Fighting against sexism only further separates the black woman from the black male. What happened to being focused on the overall well being of the Black family unit, man, woman and child. The truth of the matter is that most white women don’t care about the state of the Black woman and have no interest in trying to understand our issues. So why try joining hands with those who have absolutely no interest in uplifting you let alone want anything to do with you? Get real. Black women need to be more concerned about home first, literally.

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