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Riot grrrl

Riot grrrl is an underground feminist hardcore punk movement that originally started in the early 1990s, in Washington, D.C., and the greater Pacific Northwest, especially Olympia, Washington and Portland, Oregon. It is often associated with third-wave feminism, which is sometimes seen as its starting point. It has also been described as musical genre that came out of indie rock, with the punk scene serving as an inspiration for a musical movement in which women could express themselves in the same way men had been doing for the past several years.[1]

Riot grrrl bands often address issues such as rape,

  • She Came to Riot
  • Riot grrrl collections at the Fales Special Collections at NYU
  • Bikini Kill archive
  • Kathleen Hanna blog
  • Tobi Vail blog
  • Layla Gibbon blog
  • Layla Gibbon 2-part interview
  • The Riot Grrrl Manifesto
  • The Riot Grrrl Portrait Collection
  • Riot Grrrl UK site
  • Andy from Linus's 1993 diary—a glimpse into the UK riot grrrl scene at that time
  • Cranked Up Really High. Chapter IX: Suck My Left One, by Stewart Home
  • ZineWiki
  • grrrl zine archive
  • Grrrl Sounds
  • Genre Profile
  • Everett True on riot grrrl
  • 2009 Guardian article on riot grrrl legacy
  • 2009 Guardian article, by Everett True
  • Jenny Woolworth 3-part retrospective inc. Sara Marcus interview
  • Sara Marcus interview
  • 2011 Guardian article on 20th anniversary

External links

  • Marcus, Sara (2010). Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial.  
  • Meltzer, Marisa (2010). Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music (1st ed.). New York: Faber and Faber.  
  • Monem, Nadine (2007). Riot Grrrl: Revolution Girl Style Now!. London: Black Dog Pub.  

Further reading

  1. ^ Marion Leonard. "Riot grrrl." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 20 Jul. 2014.
  2. ^ "List of Riot Girl Bands". Archived from the original on February 23, 2009. Retrieved September 30, 2012. 
  3. ^ Marisa Meltzer (February 15, 2010). Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music. Macmillan. p. 42.  
  4. ^ Jackson, Buzzy (2005). A Bad Woman Feeling Good: Blues and the Women Who Sing Them. New York: W.W. Norton.  
  5. ^ a b Schilt, Kristen (2003). A Little Too Ironic": The Appropriation and Packaging of Riot Grrrl Politics by Mainstream Female Musicians""" (PDF). Popular Music and Society 26 (1): 5.  
  6. ^ a b c R. Sabin, Punk Rock: So What?: The Cultural Legacy of Punk, (Routledge, 1999), ISBN 0415170303
  7. ^ a b c d E. McDonnell, Rock She Wrote (Cooper Square Press, 1999), ISBN 0815410182
  8. ^ a b c d "Bikini Kill". allmusic. Retrieved November 5, 2009. 
  9. ^ Rowe-Finkbeiner, Kristin (2004). The F-Word: Feminism In Jeopardy—Women, Politics and the Future. Seal Press.  
  10. ^ "Bikini Kill". Kill Rock Stars. Retrieved November 5, 2009. 
  11. ^ Raha, Maria; Gordon, Kim (2004). Cinderella's Big Score: Women of the Punk and Indie Underground. Emeryville, CA: Seal Press.  
  12. ^ a b Belzer, Hillary. "Words + Guitar: The Riot Grrrl Movement and Third-Wave Feminism". Communication, Culture & Technology Program. Georgetown University. Retrieved December 6, 2012. 
  13. ^ "zine scan". Retrieved 2012-09-30. 
  14. ^  
  15. ^ a b The Punk Years – Typical Girls. YouTube.
  16. ^ Raphael, Amy (1996). Grrrls: Viva Rock Divas. New York: St. Martin's Griffin.  
  17. ^ "Le Tigre". 
  18. ^ Sodomy law#Australia
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Rock for Choice". Feminist Majority Foundation. Retrieved September 30, 2012. 
  22. ^ Malkin, Nina. "It's A Girl Thing". 
  23. ^ "Revolution, Girl Style". 
  24. ^ [1] YouTube.
  25. ^ "Riot Grrrl Manifesto". Retrieved December 6, 2011. 
  26. ^ Comstock, Michelle. Grrl Zine Networks: Re-Composing Spaces of Authority, Gender, and Culture. La Jolla: n.p., September 3, 2013. PDF.
  27. ^ Turner, Cherie (2001). Everything You Need to Know About the Riot Grrrl Movement: The Feminism of a New Generation (1st ed.). New York, NY: Rosen Pub. Group. p. 49.  
  28. ^ Leonard, Marion (2007). Gender in the Music Industry: Rock, Discourse and Girl Power. Aldershot [u.a.]: Ashgate. p. 147.  
  29. ^ a b Monem, Nadine (2007). Riot grrrl : revolution girl style now!. London: Black Dog Pub.  
  30. ^ a b "The Riot Grrrl Collection". Fales Library & Special Collections. Retrieved September 30, 2012. 
  31. ^ Soloski, Alexis (April 6, 2010). "Revolution, Girl-Style—Shhh!". Village Voice. In one corner of the hushed reading room of the Fales Library & Special Collections, housed on the third floor of New York University's Bobst Library, squats a strange object. Amid the gray carpeting, carved busts, glass-encased cabinets, and dreadful oil paintings crouches a two-drawer file cabinet covered in stickers that read "Mr. Lady," "Slut," "Pansy Division," "Giuliani Is a Jerk," "Suck It Boy," and "Free Mumia." 
  32. ^ McDonnell, Evelyn (October 10, 2010). "Book Review: 'Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution' by Sara Marcus". Los Angeles Times. 
  33. ^ "Contact: Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution by Sara Marcus". Girls to the Front. Retrieved September 30, 2012. 
  34. ^ "About Sara Marcus". Retrieved September 30, 2012. 
  35. ^ Brooks, Katherine (September 28, 2013). "First Riot Grrrl Exhibition Explores The Lasting Impact Of The Punk Feminist Movement". The Huffington Post. 
  36. ^ Moss Suparak, Ceci Astria (November 6, 2013). "Riot Grrrl, redux". Boing Boing. 
  37. ^ "Home". Retrieved September 30, 2012. 
  38. ^ "About | Chilli Padi Derby Girls". Retrieved September 30, 2012. 
  39. ^ "Comment on Racialicious, by Mimi". February 12, 2011. Retrieved February 12, 2011. 
  40. ^ Riot Girl Essex Zine #1, Essex, England. Available here [2].
  41. ^ Reilly, Phoebe (October 2005). "Courtney Love: Let the healing begin". Spin. 


See also

Look, you've got these highly intelligent imperious girls, but who told them it was their undeniable American right not to be offended? Being offended is part of being in the real world. I'm offended every time I see George Bush on TV! And, frankly, it wasn't very good music.[41]

The "Riot Grrrl" movement has received criticized for not being inclusive enough. One major argument is that the movement focuses on middle-class white women, alienating other kinds of women.[39][40] Courtney Love, a feminist who was not a part of the riot grrrl movement, criticized it for being too doctrinaire and censorious. She is on record saying:


The term "grrrl" (or "grrl") itself has since been co-opted or used by agencies as diverse as advocacy on behalf of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (GRRL POWER 1.0 5-PACK / Memetics for the Ladies)[37] and a roller derby league in Singapore.[38]

In 2013 "Alien She", a touring exhibition on the impact of Riot Grrrl on artists, curated by Astria Suparak and Ceci Moss, opened. It is the first exhibition to examine the lasting impact of Riot Grrrl on artists and cultural producers working today.[35][36]

In 2010 Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution, by Sara Marcus, was published. It is the first published history of the Riot Grrrl movement.[32][33] Sara Marcus herself had attended Riot Grrrl meetings.[34]

Starting during the fall of 2010 the "Riot Grrrl Collection" has been housed at New York University's Fales Library and Special Collections, as "The Fales Riot Grrrl Collection". The collection's primary mandate is "to collect unique materials that provide documentation of the creative process of individuals and the chronology of the [Riot Grrrl] movement overall".[30] Kathleen Hanna, Johanna Fateman, and Becca Albee have donated primary source material, while Molly Neuman, Allison Wolfe, Kathi Wilcox, and Carrie Brownstein are expected to donate material shortly. The collection is the brainchild of Lisa Darms, Senior Archivist at the Fales Library. According to Jenna Freedman, a librarian who maintains a zine collection at Barnard College, "It's just essential to preserve the activist voices in their own unmediated work, especially because of the media blackout that they called for". Kathleen Hanna, while understanding no collection can replicate the concert experience, feels the collection is a safe place that will be "free from feminist erasure".[30][31]

Until I found riot grrrl, or riot grrrl found me I was just another Gloria Steinem NOW feminist trying to take a stand in shop class. Now I am a musician, a writer, a whole person.[29]
Writing about riot grrrl's personal influence on her and her music, she muses on the meaning of the movement for her generation,
A movement formed by a handful of girls who felt empowered, who were angry, hilarious, and extreme through and for each other. Built on the floors of strangers' living rooms, tops of Xerox machines, snail mail, word of mouth and mixtapes, riot grrrl reinvented punk.[29]

In the foreword to Riot Grrrl: Revolution Girl Style Now! Beth Ditto writes of riot grrrl,

The legacy of riot grrrl is clearly visible in numerous girls and women worldwide who cite the movement as an interest or an influence on their lives and/or their work.[27] Some just listen to riot grrrl bands while others form or join bands themselves, slowly paving the way for fulfillment of one of the goals of original riot grrrl – increasing the number and significance of women in alternative music and music in general. Some of them are self-proclaimed riot grrrls while others consider themselves simply admirers or fans. There are many fansites and message boards for riot grrrl on the Internet.[28]

Many of the women involved in riot grrrl are still active in creating politically charged music. Kathleen Hanna went on to found the electro-feminist post-punk "protest pop" group Le Tigre, Kathi Wilcox joined The Casual Dots with Christina Billotte of Slant 6, and Tobi Vail formed Spider and the Webs. Corin Tucker of Heavens to Betsy and Carrie Brownstein of Excuse 17 co-founded Sleater-Kinney at the tail end of the movement, and Bratmobile reunited in 2000 to release two albums, before Allison Wolfe began singing with other all-women bands, Cold Cold Hearts, and currently Partyline. Molly Neuman now plays with New York punk band Love Or Perish and runs her own indie label called Simple Social Graces Discos, as well as co-owning Lookout! Records and managing The Donnas, Ted Leo, Some Girls, and The Locust.

However, the influence of riot grrrl can still be felt in many aspects of indie and punk rock culture. Kaia Wilson of Team Dresch and multimedia artist Tammy Rae Carland went on to form the now-defunct Mr. Lady Records which released albums by The Butchies, The Need, Kiki and Herb, and Tracy + the Plastics.

By the mid-nineties, riot grrrl had severely splintered. Many within the movement felt that the mainstream media had completely misrepresented their message, and that the politically radical aspects of riot grrrl had been subverted by the likes of the Spice Girls and their "girl power" message, or co-opted by ostensibly women-centered bands (though sometimes with only one female performer per band) and festivals like Lilith Fair.

Carrie Brownstein of Excuse 17 and Sleater-Kinney


Many of the women involved with queercore were also interested in riot grrrl, and zines such as Chainsaw by Donna Dresch, Sister Nobody, Jane Gets A Divorce and I (heart) Amy Carter by Tammy Rae Carland embody both movements. There were also national conventions like in Washington, D.C., or the Pussystock festival in New York City, as well as various subsequent indie-documentaries like Don't Need You: the Herstory of Riot Grrrl.

Bands would often attempt to reappropriate derogatory phrases like "cunt", "bitch", "dyke", and "slut", writing them proudly on their skin with lipstick or fat markers. Riot grrrls making political statements to reclaim phrases is a common theme among third-wave feminists. Not only did their music address the same issues as third-wave feminism, but they took a political stance against the oppression they were feeling.

The vehemence fanzines large and small reserved for riot grrrl – and Bikini Kill in particular – was shocking. The punk zine editors' use of 'bitches', 'cunts', 'man-haters', and 'dykes' was proof-positive that sexism was still strong in the punk scene.

Punk Planet editor Daniel Sinker wrote in We Owe You Nothing:

One of the riot grrrls' main forms of communication was through the distribution of their homemade zines. These zines not only gave these women a place to express themselves but they used their zines and publications as a way to make political statements. “Zine making offered many girls a forum in which to discuss the marginalization they felt in the predominantly male punk scene and to discuss sexism and harassment with other girls and women who shared similar experiences.”[28] The zines were xeroxed and people were encouraged to distribute them. Not only was a way for women to see that they were not alone and an opportunity for them to freely tell their stories but it allowed them to address and change the connotation of some of the derogatory terms used against them.

Grrrl zine editors are collectively engaged in forms of writing and writing instruction that challenge both dominant notions of the author as an individualized, bodiless space and notions of feminism as primarily an adult political project.[26]

When I think of how much benefit my teenage self could have gained from the multitude of zines that have proliferated over the past decade, I weep for all the lost potential. Except for Joan of Arc and Anne Frank, the thoughts of teenage girls have rarely been taken seriously.

Even as the Seattle-area rock scene came to international mainstream media attention, riot grrrl remained a willfully underground phenomenon. Most musicians shunned the major record labels, devotedly working instead with indie labels such as Kill Rock Stars, K Records, Slampt, Piao! Records, Simple Machines, Catcall, WIIIJA and Chainsaw Records. The movement also figured fairly prominently in cassette culture, with artists often starting their own DIY cassette labels by as basic and spartan a means as recording their music onto cheap off-the-shelf boom-boxes and passing the cassettes out to friends, seldom charging anything beyond the cost of the actual tapes themselves. Riot grrrl's momentum was also hugely supported by an explosion of creativity in defiantly homemade cut-and-paste, xeroxed, collagey zines that covered a variety of feminist topics, frequently attempting to draw out the political implications of intensely personal experiences with sexism, mental illness, body image and eating disorders, sexual abuse, racism, rape, discrimination, stalking, domestic violence, incest, homophobia, and sometimes vegetarianism. These zines were archived by, and Riot Grrrl Press, started in Washington DC in 1992 by Erika Reinstein & May Summer. Others can be found anthologized in A Girl's Guide to Taking over the World: Writings from the Girl Zine Revolution, for which actress/singer/musician/writer/performance artist Ann Magnuson of Bongwater fame wrote as a foreword:

"BECAUSE us girls crave records and books and fanzines that speak to US that WE feel included in and can understand in our own ways"[25]

Zines and publications

I think it was deliberate that we were made to look like we were just ridiculous girls parading around in our underwear. They refused to do serious interviews with us, they misprinted what we had to say, they would take our articles, and our fanzines, and our essays and take them out of context. We wrote a lot about sexual abuse and sexual assault for teenagers and young women. I think those are really important concepts that the media never addressed.[24]

Corin Tucker of Heavens to Betsy and Sleater-Kinney said:

There were a lot of very important ideas that I think the mainstream media couldn't handle, so it was easier to focus on the fact that these were girls who were wearing barrettes in their hair or writing 'slut' on their stomach.

Writer/musician/historian/artist Sharon Cheslow said in EMP's Riot Grrrl Retrospective documentary:

one huge misconception for instance that has been repeated over and over again in magazines we have never spoken to and also by those who believe these sources without checking things out themselves is that Bikini Kill is the definitive 'riot girl band' ... We are not in anyway 'leaders of' or authorities on the 'Riot Girl' movement. In fact, as individuals we have each had different experiences with, feelings on, opinions of and varying degrees of involvement with 'Riot Girl' and though we totally respect those who still feel that label is important and meaningful to them, we have never used that term to describe ourselves AS A BAND. As individuals we respect and utilize and subscribe to a variety of different aesthetics, strategies, and beliefs, both political and punk-wise, some of which are probably considered 'riot girl.'

As media attention increasingly focused on Grunge and Alternative Rock in the early nineties, the term "Riot Grrrl" was often applied to less political female alternative rock acts such as 7 Year Bitch, Babes in Toyland, The Breeders, The Gits, Hole, L7, PJ Harvey, Veruca Salt, and even No Doubt – although the term could arguably apply to L7 due to their involvement in the creation of Rock for Choice, a series of concerts and compilation albums designed to raise money and awareness for abortion rights and protection of women's health clinics.[21] To their chagrin, riot grrrls found themselves in the media spotlight during 1992, accused of dragging feminism into the mosh pit in magazines from Seventeen to Newsweek.[22][23] Fallout from the media coverage led to resignations from the movement of people like Jessica Hopper, who was at the center of the Newsweek article. Kathleen Hanna called that year for "a press block". In an essay from January 1994, included in the CD version of Bikini Kill's first two records, Tobi Vail responded to media simplifications and mis-characterization of Riot Grrrl:

Media misconceptions

In Tasmania – Australia's smallest and most isolated state (at the time an incredibly conservative environment that had still had not legalised sodomy[18]) – "The Little Ugly Girls"[19] led by Linda J. Dacio were inspiring a small backwater population to feel the neglected power of female rage. Letters between the band's drummer "Sloth" and Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill would soon see the bands share a stage in sleepy Hobart, Australia. The bands played at a chaotic warehouse gig on the city's wharfs.[20] Little Ugly Girls or "L.U.G.'s", were Australia's preeminent and adored Riot grrrl act along with Fur. They went on to influence the likes of Adalita and Magic Dirt amongst countless other strong female Australian acts.

Australian activity

It is also worth noting that there were many girl-centric or all-women punk bands of this era, such as 7 Year Bitch, Red Aunts, Thee Headcoatees, or Spitboy who did not self-identify with the 'riot grrrl' label, despite sharing similar DIY tactics and feminist ideologies.

Other bands and artists associated with the riot grrrl movement in one way or another include Karren Ablaze!); and in Brazil, bands like Dominatrix, Kaos Klitoriano and Menstruação Anarquika.


Quickly amassing a devoted cult audience, the riot grrrl bands worked to ensure their shows were safe spaces in which women could find solidarity and create their own subculture, thus setting the tone for much of the movement. However, this arguably only applied to cis women- trans women have been excluded from later events such as The Michigan's Woman's Music Festival, which have a woman-born-woman policy, which has included Le Tigre in its line up.[17] Consciousness-raising activist-punk group meetings began taking place in international chapters, held in any available space from dorm rooms to community centres to studio apartments, soon becoming much bigger things like conventions and conferences, one of the first of which took place from July 31 – August 2, 1992, in Washington, D.C.

Influenced heavily by DIY culture, most bands' presentation subverted traditional or classically trained 'musicianship' in favor of raw, primitive, avant-lo-fi passion and fiercely deliberate amateurism: an idea growing rapidly in popularity, especially in the Olympia music scene, with bands like Beat Happening coining the slogans: "Learn how to NOT play your instrument" and "hey, you don't have to sound like the flavor of the month, all you have to do is sound like yourselves", arguing that traditional musical skill doesn't ultimately matter and should always be subservient to the passion, the fun and ideas in their music. This argument is similar to the ideological origins of punk rock itself, which started partially as an attempt to dissolve the growing division between audience and performer. These indie-punk bands (and riot grrrl bands in particular) were often ridiculed for "not being able to play their instruments", but fans are quick to counter that identical criticisms were often faced by the first-wave of punk rock bands in the 1970s, and that this DIY garage amateurism "play just 'cause you wanna, no matter what" attitude was one of the most appealing and liberating aspects of both movements.

In adhering to the punk rock culture (not the male dominated ideals), it did not matter if you knew how to play an instrument because any woman could pick up a guitar and let her voice be heard. Not only did their concerts provide a safe haven for women but the riot grrrl movement allowed all types of women the ability to express their thoughts on issues important to their every day life. Riot grrrl's lyrics often address issues such as rape, domestic abuse, sexuality and female empowerment. In one of Bikini Kills songs "Don't Need You", it proclaims: "don’t need you to say we’re cute/don’t need you to say we’re alright/don’t need your protection/don’t need your kiss goodnight", rejecting stereotypical heterosexual relationship dynamics.[5]

Molly Neuman once summarized: "We're not anti-boy, we're pro-girl."[15]

Indeed, members of riot grrrl culture, fans, or members of bands, include men too. Calvin Johnson and Slim Moon have been instrumental in publishing a great many of the bands on the labels they founded, K Records and Kill Rock Stars respectively. Alec Empire of Atari Teenage Riot said, "I was totally into the riot grrrl music, I see it as a very important form of expression. I learned a lot from that, way more maybe than from 'male' punk rock."[15] Dave Grohl and Kurt Cobain dated Kathleen Hanna and Tobi Vail (also respectively), and often played with Bikini Kill even after splitting with them; Kurt was a big fan of The Slits and even convinced The Raincoats to reform. He once said, "The future of rock belongs to women."[16]

Kathleen Hanna would later write: "It was also super schizo to play shows where guys threw stuff at us, called us cunts and yelled "take it off" during our set, and then the next night perform for throngs of amazing girls singing along to every lyric and cheering after every song."[14]

I've been in a state of surprise for several years about this very thing. I don't know why so-called punk rockers are so threatened by a little shake-up of the truly boring dynamic of the standard show atmosphere. How fresh is the idea of fifty sweaty hardcore boys slamming into each other or jumping on each others' heads? Granted, it's kind of cool to be on stage and have action in the front, much more inspiring than to look out at a crowd of zombies, but so often the survival-of-the-fittest principle is in operation in the pit, and what girl wants to go up against a pack of Rollins boys who usually only want to be extra mean to her anyway just to make her "prove" her place in the pit. This was the case when I was first going to shows, and it's sad that things haven't changed at all since. And I usually took the attitude of "Fuck them, I don't care if I DIE in there cuz I can be in front for this band I want to see," and I was kind of into the violent aspect of it anyway. But it would have been so cool if at one of these shows someone onstage would have said, hey let's have more girls up in the front, just so I could have had more company and girls over to side could have seen better/been in the action. So yeah, we do encourage girls to the front, and sometimes when shows have gotten really violent (like when we were in England) we had to ask the boys to move to the side or the back because it was just too fucking scary for us, after several attacks and threats, to face another sea of hostile boy-faces right in the front. Especially when it was at the expense of girls who really wanted to see us and liked us anyway, who stayed in the back. And it's also for the safety of the boys, because a few times the girls have gotten a little out of control, like when we played with the rocking Tribe 8, if I was a boy I would stay far away from the wild chicks in the pit, FOR REAL. As far as why people are scared, well cool boys and the real punk rockers know that shaking up the scene can be a good thing and aren't necessarily as reactionary as the poseurs who get all their ideas and fashion tips from Mtv. It's just like real life.[13]
Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill in 1996

Although many riot grrrl bands included male band members, such as Billy Karren of Bikini Kill or Jon Slade and Chris Rawley of Huggy Bear, the bands weren't always so enthusiastically received at shows by male audience members. Bands would often actively invite members of the audience to talk about their personal experiences with sensitive issues such as sexual abuse, pass out lyric sheets to everyone in the audience, and often demand that the mosh boys move to the back or side to allow space in front for the girls in the audience.[8] Kathi Wilcox said in a fanzine interview:

The riot grrrl movement encouraged women to be able to make their own place in a male-dominated punk scene. "Women could make their way to the front of the crowd into the mosh pit, but had to 'fight ten times harder' because they were female, according to one concert-goer. Women were also sexually attacked; groping by men was common and several women have reported rapes at shows".[12] Many of the riot grrrl bands used their concerts as an opportunity to change the dynamics of punk concerts and create a place where women would feel safe.

Like other third wave feminists, riot grrrls attempted to foster an acceptance of the diversity of feminist expression. Riot grrrl arose after the queercore movement, although the distinction between the two movements is at times blurred, given bands such as Team Dresch and Fifth Column who embraced both genres. For the riot grrrl movement, a large part of their relation to feminism can be seen through their use of lyrics, zines and publications, and taking back the meaning of derogatory terms. All three of these forms serve as a source of empowerment for the women.

Riot grrrl culture is often associated with third wave feminism, which also grew rapidly during the same early nineties timeframe. The riot grrrl movement allowed women their own space to create music and make political statements about the issues they were facing in the punk rock community as well as in society. They used their music and publications to express their views on issues such as patriarchy, double standards against women, rape, domestic abuse, sexuality, and female empowerment.

"BECAUSE we girls want to create mediums that speak to US. We are tired of boy band after boy band, boy zine after boy zine, boy punk after boy punk after boy... BECAUSE we need to talk to each other. Communication/inclusion is the key. We will never know if we don't break the code of silence... BECAUSE in every form of media we see us/myself slapped, decapitated, laughed at, objectified, raped, trivialized, pushed, ignored, stereotyped, kicked, scorned, molested, silenced, invalidated, knifed, shot, choked and killed. BECAUSE a safe space needs to be created for girls where we can open our eyes and reach out to each other without being threatened by this sexist society and our day to day bullshit"[12]

Feminism and riot grrrl culture

The following days would also feature bands like Unwound, L7, The Fastbacks, The Spinanes, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, Girl Trouble, The Pastels, Kicking Giant, Rose Melberg, Seaweed, Kreviss, I Scream Truck, Scrawl, Nation of Ulysses, Jad Fair, Thee Headcoats, and Steve Fisk, and spoken-word artist Juliana Luecking.

An all-female bill on the first night called "Love Rock Revolution Girl Style Now" signalled a major step in the movement, featuring artists like Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy, Jack Off Jill, Nikki McClure, Lois Maffeo, Jean Smith of Mecca Normal, 7 Year Bitch, and 2 side projects of Kathleen Hanna: the first was Suture with Sharon Cheslow of Chalk Circle (DC's first all-women punk band) and Dug E. Bird of Beefeater, the second was the Wondertwins with Tim Green of Nation of Ulysses. It was here that so many zinester people who'd only known each other from networking, mail, or talking on the phone, finally met and were brought together by an entire night of music dedicated to, for, and by women.

As the corporate ogre expands its creeping influence on the minds of industrialized youth, the time has come for the International Rockers of the World to convene in celebration of our grand independence. Hangman hipsters, new mod rockers, sidestreet walkers, scooter-mounted dream girls, punks, teds, the instigators of the Love Rock Explosion, the editors of every angry grrrl zine, the plotters of youth rebellion in every form, the midwestern librarians and Scottish ski instructors who live by night, all are setting aside August 20–25, 1991 as the time.

From August 20 – 25, 1991, K Records held an indie music festival called the International Pop Underground Convention. A promotional poster reads:

International Pop Underground Convention

Wolfe and Neuman started frequenting shows by bands like Fugazi and Nirvana, bragging every chance they got about their band Bratmobile (which at the time did not really exist yet). In 1990 though, Calvin Johnson called them up and asked them to play a show on Valentine's Day with Some Velvet Sidewalk and Bikini Kill, which had just started. Terrified at first, insisting they were not really a band and having only played a few garagey jam sessions at each other's houses, they finally accepted it as a dare and played the show at Olympia's North Shore Surf club. After eventually hooking up with guitarist Erin Smith in March 1991, they finally started playing together as a trio just in time for the IPU convention in August of that year.

It was a really hippie town, and we were getting really politicized, but also really into this DIY thing, so we kinda started creating. 'Let's make our own fanzine!'[11]

They began working on zines called Girl Germs, and later riot grrrl with Tobi Vail, Kathleen Hanna and Jen Smith.

Allison Wolfe met Molly Neuman at the University of Oregon, and while Wolfe was turning Neuman onto bands like Beat Happening and The Melvins, Neuman was introducing Wolfe to sociology classes and Public Enemy.

Allison Wolfe, Anna Oxygen and Jen Smith at a 2011 conference


They started working together on another fanzine called Bikini Kill, which, after recruiting friends Kathi Wilcox and Billy "Boredom" Karren, would eventually become a band.[8][10]

I feel completely left out of the realm of everything that is so important to me. And I know that this is partly because punk rock is for and by boys mostly and partly because punk rock of this generation is coming of age in a time of mindless career-goal bands.

Kathleen Hanna had been working as a stripper to support herself,[8] volunteering at a women's shelter, and studying photography at The Evergreen State College in Olympia. She participated in a small collective art gallery called Reko Muse, which would frequently host bands like The Go Team and Some Velvet Sidewalk to play in between art exhibitions (partially just to keep the gallery running). Hanna started a band, Amy Carter (named after the daughter of the US President Jimmy Carter), with fellow gallery-founders Heidi Arbogast and Tammy Rae Carland. After touring with some other projects like Viva Knievel, she hooked up with The Go Team drummer and zinester Tobi Vail, who had been writing of her own experiences:

Bikini Kill

Although they're known for frequently denying exclusive credit for the movement, two bands in particular remain inextricably linked to its early formation.

Uses and meanings of the term "riot grrrl" developed slowly over time, but its etymological origins can be traced to the actual Mount Pleasant race riots in spring 1991. Writing in Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation's Capital, Mark Andersen reports that early Bratmobile member Jen Smith (later of Rastro! and The Quails), reacted to the violence by prophetically writing in a letter to Allison Wolfe: "This summer's going to be a girl riot." Other reports say she wrote, "We need to start a girl riot." Soon afterwards, Wolfe and Molly Neuman collaborated with Kathleen Hanna and Tobi Vail to create a new zine and called it Riot Grrrl, combining the "riot" with an oft-used phrase that first appeared in Vail's fanzine Jigsaw "Revolution Grrrl Style Now".[8] Riot grrrls took a growling double or triple r, placing it in the word girl, as a way to take back the derogatory use of the term.[9]

In 1991, in what many believe to be an unorganized collective response to the

During the early 1990s the Seattle/Olympia Washington area had a sophisticated do it yourself infrastructure.[6] Young women involved in underground music scenes took advantage of this to articulate their feminist thoughts and desires through creating punk-rock fanzines and forming garage bands. The political model of collage-based, photocopied handbills and booklets was already used by the punk movement as a way to activate underground music, leftist politics and alternative (to mainstream) sub-cultures. There was a discomfort among many women in the punk movement who felt that they had no space for organizing, because of the misogyny in the punk culture. Many women found that while they identified with a larger, music-oriented subculture, they often had little to no voice in their local scenes, so they took it upon themselves to represent their own interests by making their own fanzines, music and art.

During the mid-1980s in Vancouver the influential Mecca Normal fronted by poet Jean Smith formed, followed by Sugar Baby Doll in San Francisco whose members would all wind up in hardcore female bands.[7] In 1987, the magazine Sassy premiered and dealt with tough subjects that conventional magazines aimed at teenage girls did not.[7] An article "Women, sex and rock and roll" published by Puncture in 1989 became the first manifesto of the movement.[7] In 1991, a radio program hosted by Lois Maffeo entitled Your Dream Girl aimed at angry young women debuted on Olympia, Washington radio station KAOS.[7]

During the late 1970s and early and mid-1980s there were a number of female punk and rock musicians that later influenced the riot grrrl ethos. These included Siouxsie Sioux, Poly Styrene, The Slits, Au Pairs, The Raincoats, Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde, The Runaways/Joan Jett, The B-52's, LiLiPUT, Lydia Lunch, Exene Cervenka, Kim Gordon, Ut, Neo Boys, Bush Tetras, Y Pants, ESG, Chalk Circle, Fifth Column, Frightwig, Scrawl, and Anti-Scrunti Faction.[6] The 1980s also featured a number of female folk singers from New York whose lyrics were realistic and socio-political, but also personally intimate.[6]




  • History 1
    • Origins 1.1
      • Bikini Kill 1.1.1
      • Bratmobile 1.1.2
    • International Pop Underground Convention 1.2
  • Feminism and riot grrrl culture 2
  • Music 3
    • Australian activity 3.1
  • Media misconceptions 4
  • Zines and publications 5
  • Legacy 6
  • Criticism 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


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