The Home Economics of Pussy Rioting

Posted on August 28, 2012

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There were some seriously juxtaposed random things that buckled our Western minds about the way the women of Pussy Riot decided to present themselves to the world.  As only modern Russian women in Russia can, they mashed up stuff we knew, stuff we had no idea existed and knitted fashion.

Image– Balaclavas with pom poms

– Can-can high-kicks at the altar of Russian orthodoxy

– Punk rock in Russia

– Smiles at sentencing hearings

– Coloured spring dresses in winter

– Nuns horrified at young girls genuflecting

– Perceived threat through knit-wear

– The Patriarchy carting off girls for, after all the dust settled,…wishing upon a star

These women, through this rare formula of originality, were able to command the attention of the world, in particular, getting newscasters to say “Pussy Riot”, attract the support of aged rockstars like moths to long-forgotten tasty wool, and make what started out as an idiosyncrasy of their country, a world wide issue: “Putin Out!”  Who cares?  Apparently, we all do!

After my heart especially is the point of the knit-wear worn by the women.  The Pussy Rioters remain “anonymous” by donning wooly balaclavas during their public appearances, some sewn out of t-shirts, some elaborately knitted with eyelets, ribbing to fit and said pom poms on top.  They wear them to make it a non-issue any individual cult of personality of group members (i.e. their message being up for the taking by anyone who wants to join) and to foil the arrest-attempts following their well-documented culture shock jams.

Back to the woolies: knitted things are the most non-threatening of things.  They are by nature, benign–made by a skill that in this modern world is only truly attainable if and only if, you have a proper loving relationship with your babushka–because it could only be she who taught you how to make them or who makes them for you.  I daresay, this has been a multi-generational pussy riot (!)

The very first thing I crocheted at 13, was a copy of an orange toy from Sonic Youth’s Dirty album cover.  My grannies died long before then, but I had a granny on loan in the form of my mom’s friend’s mom.  In an afternoon, she taught me an algorithm of loops that would keep the heads and necks of several future ex-boyfriends warm.  As for “why a toy?”  I have always been too late and too old for everything I’ve ever done.  As a teen, I still loved stuffed creatures because they were forever chubbily sympathetic to long afternoons of emo-bouts of ceiling-staring or almost-mononucleosis (same thing).  They always forgave being tossed about, languishing in the dust of neglect or squished between bed and wall for months at a time.  Anyway, this orange knit caterpillar (?) on the album cover inspired me for being rare and precious–qualities that were true about the true spirit of punk rock: well-meaning and magically endearing only to those with the clarity to see it.  So, I plagiarized it.  Ripping it off was my ode to punk rock.  Kim Gordon, I figured, would have approved–after all, being a girl was a huge lasagna of complications and irony: “Hey Kool Thing.  So tell me.  What are you gonna do for me?  Are you gonna save us girls from the male, white corporate oppression?

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I imagined his body and didn’t make a scarf

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I once read a book about the women of Russia and how they necessarily have been the backbone of Russian families for generations after World War 2.  The 10 million young men who died from fighting the Nazis (up to 20 million estimated by some), and then the disproportionately male gulag prisoners who totaled up to 2 million more, in a country of 190 million at the time, left matriarchs largely in charge in the homes of Russian society.  Furthermore, survivors who returned from the harrowing experiences of war or years-long labour camps, were psychologically destroyed, unable to make ends meet for their families in a desolate economy, amidst crushing unemployment and an epidemic of alcoholism–the highest rate in the world.  The male spirit has been decimated in post-war, and post-Communism Russia leaving the day-to-day survival to the women.  Ruling them all, has been the crooked air-conditioned all-male vanguard in the seats of power who never left.

I wonder if this is the showdown we are witnessing now?  It is the women of Russia who have been behind Russia’s perennial survival of its many winters of discontent; the only reason that Russia is a going concern at all to this day.  To be silenced in a misogynistic regime?  They’re totally not having it.  Not with Internet and knitting skills!  Oh Ladies!  Here is my ode to you.  Sorry it is such a piss-poor Photoshop job, but I pledged a billion Amish hours trying to depict your keen usage of knitted wear as well as I could:

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