Why a Russian official called Madonna a moralizing slut

The eight-day trial against three members of the feminist punk rock band Pussy Riot, charged with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after they performed a punk prayer in an Orthodox church, asking  the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of President Vladimir Putin, wrapped up Wednesday. The prosecutors have asked for a three-year sentence and the verdict will be announced Friday August 17th.

The trial was a major miscalculation for the Russian Government. It has shed light on a struggle between  a repressive regime of censorship  on the one hand and martyrs for freedom, free speech and artistic expression, on the other. The defendants themselves linked their persecution to that of Soviet-era writers in their closing statements.  Standing in front of a slit in their glass and metal cage, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova said, “I, like [writer Aleksandr] Solzhenitsyn, believe that words will crush concrete… We sit in a cage, but we didn’t lose. And the dissidents didn’t lose. Disappearing in psychiatric wards and jails, they convicted the regime.”  She also stated, “this is a trial of the whole government system of Russia, which so likes to show its harshness toward the individual, its indifference to his honour and dignity….If this political system throws itself against three girls … it shows this political system is afraid of truth.”  Another member, Maria Alyokhina, said, “I am not afraid of you. You can take away my ‘so-called’ freedom, but you can never take my inner freedom.”

Even worse, the case has attracted international attention and Amnesty International, as well as The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Patti Smith, Yoko Ono have called for the release of Pussy Riot.  During a concert in Moskow on Tuesday night, Madonna voiced her support of Pussy Riot, telling her audience:

“I know there are many sides to every story, and I mean no disrespect to the church or the government, but I think that these three girls – Masha, Katya, Nadya – I think that they have done something courageous…. I pray for their freedom…. “I know that everyone in this auditorium, if you are here as my fan, feels they have the right to be free.”

She also took off her shirt, revealing that she and had written Pussy Riot on her back above her black bra strap.

In another brilliant PR move, Dmitry Rogozin, a deputy prime minister, responded to Madonna’s statement by tweeting, “With age, every former s. tries to lecture everyone on morality. Especially during overseas tours.”  (He used the first letter of the Russian word for “slut” or “whore”).  A fan tweeted back that Madonna “spoke about freedom, it’s government officials that lecture us every day on all the state channels”. Staying classy (and nuanced!), Rogozin responded, “Either take off the cross or put on [under]pants.”

Madonna is set to perform tonight in St Petersburg and has vowed to show support for Russia’s LGBT community. Officials in St Petersburg will be on the lookout for “homosexual propaganda.” A spokeswoman for city councillor Vitaly Milonov even warned that Madonna  could face a fine for violating a local law making it a crime to “promote homosexuality” to minors. The official stated, “We should not allow the imposition here in Russia of Western values that Madonna promotes.” Pro-government and religious groups plan to protest outside the concert, with one preist urging people to call in bomb threats to get the show canceled. Security has been heightened and the US Consulate in Moscow and St Petersburg issued a statement warning citizens of  potential violence: “While we expect that enhanced security measures will be put in place at both concerts, U.S. citizens are reminded to remain vigilant regarding their personal security, and to be aware of their surroundings at all times, especially in crowded areas.”

 

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Born and raised on the mean streets of New York City’s Upper West Side, Katie Halper is a comic, writer, blogger, satirist and filmmaker based in New York. Katie graduated from The Dalton School (where she teaches history) and Wesleyan University (where she learned that labels are for jars.) A director of Living Liberally and co-founder/performer in Laughing Liberally, Katie has performed at Town Hall, Symphony Space, The Culture Project, D.C. Comedy Festival, all five Netroots Nations, and The Nation Magazine Cruise, where she made Howard Dean laugh! and has appeared with Lizz Winstead, Markos Moulitsas, The Yes Men, Cynthia Nixon and Jim Hightower. Her writing and videos have appeared in The New York Times, Comedy Central, The Nation Magazine, Gawker, Nerve, Jezebel, the Huffington Post, Alternet and Katie has been featured in/on NY Magazine, LA Times, In These Times, Gawker,Jezebel, MSNBC, Air America, GritTV, the Alan Colmes Show, Sirius radio (which hung up on her once) and the National Review, which called Katie “cute and some what brainy.” Katie co-produced Tim Robbins’s film Embedded, (Venice Film Festival, Sundance Channel); Estela Bravo’s Free to Fly (Havana Film Festival, LA Latino Film Festival); was outreach director for The Take, Naomi Klein/Avi Lewis documentary about Argentine workers (Toronto & Venice Film Festivals, Film Forum); co-directed New Yorkers Remember the Spanish Civil War, a video for Museum of the City of NY exhibit, and wrote/directed viral satiric videos including Jews/ Women/ Gays for McCain.

Katie is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, and New Yorker.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/doug/ Douglas

    Her absolutely brilliant” !No pasaran!” t-shirt gets no comments here?

    Figures.

    Too busy with Derrida? Her T-shirt is a reference to the kleptocratic subversion of the Russian state, comparing Putin’s conduct to that of Stalin during the Spanish civil war, specifically the battle of Madrid. Well, perhaps some manly history is in order: During the Spanish Civil War,1936-1939, The Soviet Union, under the criminally gained leadership of Joesph Stalin, treacherously betrayed the leftist Second Spanish Republic via slanted arms deals, and in doing so fed the Spanish left to Fascist monsters. The comparison is apt.

    Also, Madonna, yes yes yes yes yes. Best artist of the 80s. -get into the groove-