There’s something wrong with the way the three women of Pussy Riot have been portrayed in much of the coverage of their arrest and sentencing last week, and the same thing is wrong with the way Marvin Hamlisch, the pop composer, was conceived for decades prior to his death this month. The issue is the tyranny of profiling by physical appearance—by simplistic presumptions about sex and ethnicity. Pussy Riot and Marvin Hamlisch have nothing to do with each other, except for the fact that some of what we think we know about them is a product of how their appearances have been perceived.
On the morning of February 21, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Ekaterina Samutsevich walked up the steps leading to the altar of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, shed their winter clothing, pulled colorful winter hats down over their faces, and jumped around punching and kicking for about thirty seconds. By evening, the three young women had turned it into a music video called “Punk Prayer: Holy Mother, Chase Putin Away!” which mocked the patriarch and Putin.