Riot Grrrl: The Feminism of a New Generation


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“I have met feminists where their whole thing is about getting ahead within the system the way it is. They’re still defining success the same way it’s always been defined --- by money and how much control they can have over their environment…If we don’t challenge the unhealthy forms of competitiveness that capitalism breeds or the way it teaches us to objectify ourselves to each other, then we’re just selling ourselves out…We need to at least create new structures and new ways of dealing with things.” –Kathleen Hanna Punk Planet, 1998

“I wanted to make it really cool to be a feminist because this was right when Time or Newsweek said that feminism was dead, around ’89. Now everything is supposed to be ‘post-feminist’.”
-Kathleen Hanna Angry Women in Rock

“We were all talking about similar things…We were frustrated with the world and with sexism, and even with the sexism we saw in alternative culture. It was an exciting time for me, feeling like I wasn’t crazy and there were people who felt the same things I did.” –Molly Neuman New York Times, November 15, 1992

“We were talking about starting a widely distributed fan-zine so I said ‘let’s have a meeting about skill-sharing.’ We had the first meeting and about twenty women showed up. A lot of them had never been in a room with only women before and were blown away by what it felt like; everybody had so much to say. That felt like an overwhelming response, so we continued our weekly meetings. And out of this, bands started, and fanzines began…” –Kathleen Hanna Angry Women in Rock

“One of the most telling metaphors of the Riot Grrrls is their dramatic invasion of the most pit. In Olympia, bands often don’t perform on risers, so only the people up front can really see, and, given the violent crush of the put those people are almost always boys. The girls got tired of this. But most of them didn’t want to dance in the pit---it hurts your boobs. And getting touched by a bunch of sweaty males strangers has all-to-familiar, nightmarish connotations for many girls. Perhaps moshing is just another one of what Barbara Kruger calls those “elaborate rituals” men have invented “in order to touch the skin of another man.” But the girls wanted a space to dance in, so they formed groups and made their way to the front, protecting each other the whole way. Any by who shoved them had a whole angry pack to deal with.” –Emily White Chicago Reader, 1992

“Everything changed. Like at first when our band started, men could hardly deal with it. A short time later, they came around and realized what we were doing was valid. In a really short time all these girls were being inspired by each other.” –Tobi Vail

“I can’t tell you how much opposition we experienced, and how much tension was out there…and sometimes even women didn’t understand: ‘Why do you have to have women-only meetings?’ We said ‘Look it’s only one hour a week. Every space is a male space---what’s the problem?’” –Kathleen Hanna Angry Women in Rock

“The things I was saying…were very easily cooptible by capitalism and the mainstream media. They’re very easily interpreted to mean, “it’s feminist to be really sexy for men.’ That’s not what I meant at all!” –Kathleen Hanna Punk Planet

“Like she-devils out of Rush Limbaugh’s worst nightmare. They’re called Riot Grrrls and they they’re coming for your daughters.” Rolling Stone, 1993

“Even Scholastic Update, a trade magazine for teachers, included an article [about the movement] the main focus of which seemed to be how Riot Grrrl poses a threat to more ‘traditional’ girls organizations like Girls Scouts and Future Homemakers of America.” –Punk Planet

“After calls from USA Today, ABC News, Maria Shriver, and Maury Povitch, they’ve instituted a press block…they’ve steadfastly refused to become fodder for the mainstream press.” –Emily White

“The Spice Girls have done the seemingly impossible: they have made feminism with all its implied threats, cuddly, sexy, safe, and most important, sellable.” –The Village Voice, 1997

“Marketers seem to be betting their money on the rad femme (read: Riot Grrrl): Both Lady Footlocker and Mountain Dew have run commercials that showcase feisty but feminine girls.” –The Village Voice, 1997

“Because we must take over the means of production in order to create our own meanings. Because we are interested in creating non-hierarchical ways of being and making music, friends, and scenes based on communication + understanding, instead of competition + good/bad categorization. Because we are angry at a society that tells us Girl = Dumb, Girl =Bad, Girl = Weak. Because we hate capitalism in all its forms and see our main goal as sharing information and staying alive, instead of making profits off being cool according to traditional standards.”
Bikini Kill, Issue #2

“Part of the whose idea of Riot Grrrl was that you couldn’t define it: each person defined it as it happened. So when people would ask what it was, we couldn’t say because we didn’t know because it was constantly changing. One week we would be talking about homophobia, and the next week we would be planning an action.” –Kathleen Hanna

“We don’t have a doctrine…there is no specific leader, no 10-point program.” –Molly Neuman Newsweek, 1992

“A bloke approached me…to ask me: ‘What’s this riot grrrl thing about, then?’ I replied, ‘Girl Love.’ ‘But what’s girl love?’ he demanded. ‘Well,’ I began with a great deal of patience, ‘part of girl love is self-love, because you have to love your own girlness before you can love anyone else’s girlness. So it’s about loving yourself and then about loving other girls, and maybe even boys, too. Its about having a cool time, living out your dreams, doing those things you always wanted to do and finding other people who are into it too…’” –Karen Ablaze Girl Frenzy (fanzine)

“I think that part of the idea of being a star involved how it separates people: stars are superhuman, or ‘real’ people, and everyone else is supposed to be following what real people do, which means that everyone else is less that real.” –Kathleen Hanna Princess

“I think there have to be women out there who are willing to get in people’s faces, just to let them know that women exist. If you read some of the ‘zines that [riot grrrls] put out, you see that they’re writing about incest and rape and all the other things that don’t get talked about with women and teenage girls. These subjects get swept under the rug, and nobody wants to deal with them, because, they’re ‘icky.’ But something like rape or incest is a heavy subject for somebody that it happened to. So I think that it’s a really healthy outlet.” –Joan Jett Angry Women in Rock

“Feminism is routinely ridiculed in the news and entertainment media, its tenets distorted by the willful ignorance of writers and commentators who insist that feminists have gotten everything we ever wanted and we should stop whining already…Bitch was founded on the impulse to give a voice to the vast numbers of us who know in our heart that these images are false, and want to replace them.” Bitch Magazine manifesto

“Through fanzines, homemade cassette tapes, and letter-writing, Riot Grrrls have created an informal, international network of women dissatisfied with current outlets for both Feminism and underground music…Riot Grrrls confront ways that men have dominated underground music. For example, they don’t allow men to crown women out of the front of the audience at shows, and they attack misogynistic lyrics.” –Evelyn McDonnel, “Women Rockers Create Their Own Alternatives,” Billboard 105 (August 7, 1993: 1-2)

“Why has our “alternative” society developed in the same way that “mainstream” society has---where females do organizational, behind-the-scenes tasks, and men perform? When we developed the list of people to invite for this, almost all the men were in bands. Most of the women were involved in some ways, but not in bands---like working for Dischord, or working on fanzines, or doing bookings at clubs. Promoting, encouraging, supporting.” –Maximum Rock’n’Roll (fanzine) 1988 (Cynthia Connolly, Sharon Cheslow, Amy Pickering, Lydia Ely- asked questions od 16 women & 8 men about women in punk)