Feb. 21, 2012: five young women wearing tights, dresses and balaclavas in odd combinations of bright colors perform an intense "punk prayer" at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow.

They sing in protest of Vladimir Putin, of the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, and of the church's treatment of their country and their people.

After a highly-publicized and wildly-unfair trial, three of the members of Pussy Riot are imprisoned.

Fast-forward two years, and the last two imprisoned members of Pussy Riot are free, now choosing more conventional political activism over the protest songs that garnered them so much attention. But Russian women are making headlines again, this time for a different kind of rebellion – terrorism. These so-called "black widows," usually women whose husbands have died at the hands of government security forces, have threatened to start their own protest — one driven by, and with, violence.

Leaflets in hotels around the city warn of three potential suicide bombers, "black widows" seeking to avenge the death of their husbands, purportedly trained to kill. The threat is considered to be so great that Vladimir Putin has created what Time Magazine called "the sixth ring" of the Olympics — a security cordon of 40,000 armed soldiers circling the city of Sochi.

Among the possible bombers are 26-year-old Zaira Aliyeva and 34-year-old Dzhannet Tsakhayeva, both of whom are believed to have been trained to "perpetrate acts of terrorism." The most notable, though, is Ruzanna Ibragimova, the widow of a terrorist supposedly killed last year in a shootout with police.

Security forces know that Ibragimova goes by the nickname Salima, has a four-inch scar below her left cheekbone, walks with a limp and that her left arm doesn't bend at the elbow. They suspect she has already bypassed the "ring of steel" and is currently at large in Sochi.

Ibragimova is merely 22-years-old.

The average age of the athletes on the United States Olympic team is 26, but we could hardly consider Ibragimova and another 22-year-old, figure skater Ashley Wagner, peers. The thing about Ibragimova that traps our attention, that has garnered her more headlines and more screen time in the past month than almost any single Olympic athlete, is the contrast between her and our mental image of the average 22-year-old woman.

We can't imagine a fourth-year college student strapping on a bomb to prove a point. We can't imagine her frenetically performing a protest song in a cathedral. So, when these things do happen, we take notice. The words "black widow" hiss venomously from the headlines of most newspapers. Americans are scared; even Vladimir Putin is scared.

But once these words have gotten our attention, once they have instilled in us sufficient fear, anger or dismay, are we looking beyond the face that embodies them? Do we know the circumstances that might have driven Ruzanna Ibragimova to become a suicide bomber?

Beyond the many images of Pussy Riot — in bright balaclavas, in handcuffs, behind bars — are we paying attention to what they were saying, what they are still saying?

All of these women have gotten us to look at them so we may consider their message. Have we really heard it?

Marianela D'Aprile is a fourth year in architecture. She can be reached at mdaprile@utk.edu.