Imagine this: The three men sit in a Moscow court, awaiting their verdict. The youngest, an experienced dissident described by Western media as a “sultry sex symbol” with “Angelina Jolie lips,” glances at his colleague, an activist praised by the Associated Press for his “pre-Raphaelite looks.” Between them sits a third man, whose lack of glamour has led the New Republic to label him “the brain” and deem his hair a “poof of dirty blonde frizz.” The dissidents — or “boys” as they are called in headlines around the world — have been the subject of numerous fashion and style profiles ever since they first spoke out against the Russian government. “He’s a flash of moving color,” the New York Times writes approvingly about their protests, “never an individual boy.”
If this sounds ridiculous, it should — and not just because I’ve changed their gender. These are actual excerpts from the Western media coverage of Pussy Riot, the Russian dissident performance art collective sentenced to two years in prison for protesting against the government. Pussy Riot identifies as feminist, but you would never know it from the Western media, who celebrate the group with the same language that the Russian regime uses to marginalize them.
This is all fair. However. That the “Western media” is covering Pussy Riot at all is probably a good thing. Even if it is to say that they are sexxxy gurrlz and not that they are smart, strong, poised, and spending the next two years of their lives in prison because they saw that something was broken and tried, if not to fix it, then to make others realize that they can’t use it like this anymore.