Ilustration of ‘Boudica’. A British queen who took on Rome. (C) Mary Evans Used in W/E Issue 9th December 2000
As my personal response to field I chose to explain a modern concept to a historical figure; my concept being Modern feminism, focusing on Pussy Riot, and the legendary Celtic Queen Boudicca. I chose these two because I felt that their struggles in many ways mirrored each other; both being primarily about their fight to not only be taken seriously as women and also their fundamental dislike of the patriarchy.
Boudicca was a Cetic Queen most famous for her riotous rebellion that raged through many Roman settlements; starting at Camulodunum
(Colchester) and ending at Londinium (London), were She is reported to have killed herself in Roman captivity before she could be publicly executed for her crimes. Boudicca fought for her right as the Queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe to keep her land and her people safe from Roman rule. after the death of her husband, Prasutagus, who had ruled as a nominally interdependent ally to Rome, he left his kingdom jointly to both his daughters and the Roman emperor in his will. However, after his death, the Romans did not take any notice of the will and anexed the kingdom. Boudicca was flogged and her daughters raped, as Roman financiers took their land and called in their debt to the Empire. Boudica’s rampage was justly caused by this injustice, as the Romans had blatantly violated both her personally and her people also. Rome being a patriarchy, likely did not see her or her army as a threat, so when Boudica’s army fell on the poorly defended city of Camulodunum and they destroyed it, besieging the last defenders in the temple for two days before it fell. Archaeologists have shown that the city was methodically demolished. The future governor Quintus Petillius Cerialis, suffered an overwhelming defeat. His infantry was wiped out—only the commander and some of his cavalry escaped.
This first crucial victory was hugely important, as the crushing nature of the Roman defeat showed just how much of a force Boudicca was. I like to think this was an important lesson to the Romans, showing just how bad an idea it was to think that they could get away with what they did to Boudicca, that simply because her husband had died, she was venerable and an easy target. That because she was woman she would not fight back. Well, they learned how wrong they were the hard way, and Boudicca will now be a permanent black mark against their military history.
This is where I think the most important similarities between Boudicca and Pussy Riot begin.
In February 2012 Pussy Riot made a stand against their, heavily church involved, Russian government by performing their own ‘Punk Prayer’ in protest at the church of ‘Christ the Saviour’ in Moscow. They felt the control of their own patriarchal government and the female oppression of the church, and fought it in a much more modern but equally as shocking manner. In the same sense that Boudicca challenged the preconceived assumption that she was a vulnerable woman who wouldn’t fight back, Pussy Riot, when arrested, proved to be a much bigger problem than the Russian government anticipated; by the time they were sentenced August 2012, Pussy riot had gained international fame, and the support of many feminists and human rights activists world wide. The controversy that Pussy Riot caused there to be a lot of criticism of both the trail and the sentencing. The criticism that this subsequently brought down on the Russian government and their involvement with the Orthodox church supported their cause so much more than these woman could have amassed on their own, due to this there was a lot of speculation as to how legal the court case actually was, questioning the nature of the crimes and weather or not these women were simple excessing their right to protest.
Pussy Riot and Boudicca share similar driving force in their fights, their right as women to not be underestimated. I feel like if Boudicca were a modern woman, that she’d be a hell of a feminist and in full support of the Pussy Riot movement, in the same way that I feel Pussy Riot would be in full support of Boudicca’s plight. In contrasting modern and historical feminist figures, I feel they are a near perfect match, with both the performing violent and controversial protests respectively.