Pussy Riot and Madonna, branded sluts and therefore liars!

Do women who have had sex always tell lies? (Pussy Riot and Madonna)

Every now and again the rhetoric of patriarchal power reveals itself in a specially pernicious way .

Last week in Moscow, Madonna lent her voice to the growing international condemnation of the trial of members of the feminist  performance art group, Pussy Riot.

During a concert she stripped off her shirt to reveal the group’s name emblazoned on her back, before donning a version of their trademark balaclava for a slow rendition of Like A Virgin.

How, we wondered, would the Russian authorities respond to this brazen act  of feminist solidarity? For the deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, the answer was obvious. On Wednesday night on Twitter, he as good as called the queen of pop a whore. Madonna’s benediction  as it were  of Pussy Riot was beautifully apt.

The charge of  “hooliganism” against three members of the group relates to the performance last February of a “punk prayer” in which they exhorted the Virgin Mary to “put Putin away“.

In a recent Guardian interview, a member of the group still in hiding explained that “the main concept was to appeal to the Virgin”, to ask her to “protect the political system” because “the Virgin is the protector of Russia”.

While superficially an act of naive superstition, one suspects the women were not really banking on their leader being summarily swept away by divine intercession.

Just like Madonna before them, the insolent political power of their gesture came from self-consciously reclaiming that great emblem of patriarchal oppression.

They wanted the Virgin to abandon the patriarchs, switch sides, and “become a feminist”. They wanted her pussy to riot.

Against this background Rogozin’s dismissal of Madonna-as-whore almost reads as inadvertent irony. The subtext is nothing if not glaring. In the patriarchal playbook, a woman’s moral virtue is synonymous with … well, her virtue.

Good women are chaste and pure. And the others – those who express their sexuality in ways not sanctioned by church and state, those who are sexual at all – are quite simply not to be trusted. They seduce and entrap.

They’re dirty and diseased. And, above all, they are deceitful and duplicitous. If they want to moralise, they should, as Rogozin told us in his second tweet, put their pants back on. And if they refuse, nothing they say is to be taken seriously or believed by anyone.

A simple sexual slur, and, as if by magic, a woman’s word is instantly devalued, divested of authority and discredited.

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