Media Framings of Pussy Riot

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2016-08

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Abstract

In February 2012, three members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, were arrested on charges of “hooliganism” for guerilla performances of their controversial music in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The group simultaneously captured the popular imagination of Americans while being labeled as criminals in their home nation of Russia. By doing a comparison between Pussy Riot’s own literature and the articles written about the group by popular news agencies, one may uncover differences and similarities in the framing of the Pussy Riot narrative, as well as key themes that may have popularized the group among Americans while criminalizing them at home. This work looks at 99 articles sampled from Ms. Magazine, The New York Times, Rolling Stone and USA Today for emergent themes about Pussy Riot that has helped frame the group’s identity for American readers, and compares these works to Pussy Riot’s own writings (N=25) for discrepancies and commonalities in how the group is framed. Specific findings include Pussy Riot being framed as having an activist identity by both the group themselves, as well as by the majority of media outlets, with the exception of USA Today, which offered a balanced (50/50) presentation of the group as both activists and musicians. Pussy Riot is also examined through the lens of social movement literature, as members of the group evolve from street performers engaging in contentious politics to internationally known activists leading the charge for prison reform in Russia and other types of social reform.

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Keywords

Pussy Riot, Feminism, Punk, Social movements, Music, Guerilla theatre

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