A Girl's Guide To Protest, By Maria From Pussy Riot

Maria Alyokhina's new book, Riot Days, chronicles the story of Pussy Riot, from their infamous punk protest performances on Moscow's Red Square and in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, through to their arrest, trial and eventual imprisonment in Russia's penal colonies. What followed were countless news stories illustrated by photographs of the women wearing their signature rainbow-bright balaclavas, and debates about how a government could crack down on such a comparatively small, non-violent protest. Widely regarded as political prisoners, Maria and Pussy Riot used their time in prison to improve the lives of their fellow inmates, before their release 21 months later.
While the book is a fascinating and important look into what happened to the group leading up to 2012 – relayed through scribbled drawings and hard-to-read details of the conditions in the colonies – what's most striking is its universality. "It's for everyone who wants to take action," Maria explains. "It's not dissident literature. I wanted it to be for a 19-year-old girl in Argentina who doesn't know anything about Russia or Putin. It's for those who just want to be themselves and have a voice in their society."
While punk rock protests and face-covering balaclavas may not be relatable to most people, this year we've seen what ramifications are in store for those who speak out. Munroe Bergdorf not only lost her L'Oréal contract but received death threats for weeks after calling out institutional racism and white privilege. When NFL player Colin Kaepernick knelt during the US national anthem at a game in 2016 to highlight the oppression of black people, American sports fans burnt their Kaepernick jerseys, and many argue that he's still being frozen out of a new team contract due to his politics. And after years of fear and silence, the women who have come forward to bring to light the vile actions of Harvey Weinstein have faced sexism, judgement and victim-blaming.
Scroll through the news and it's easy to see how protesting can impact your life. But as Maria points out, in the face of such hopelessness and uphill struggle, "It's necessary to unite and remind yourself what you are standing for." Reading her electric book will galvanise you to take a stand. Click through for her advice on staying true to your cause, no matter how small, from harnessing the power of social media to taking responsibility for your actions.
Riot Days, published by Allen Lane, is available now.