An ode to the Riot Grrl

Every woman should know about the riot grrl movement. It’s the most recent feminist movement (early 90’s), it’s the cultural companion to the third wave feminism, and it’s fronted by badass punk chicks. And badass punk chicks are cool.

Up until the riot grrl movement and third wave feminism, feminism typically focused on an all-encompassing idea. Third wave feminism was about individualism and rejecting the essentialist definition of femininity: we should not feel guilty about wanting a career and rejecting motherhood, for example, but we also should not feel like less of a feminist because we choose to raise a family over a career. Or maybe we’d like to pick both and not feel bad about that, either.

Most importantly, and relevant to today’s womens’ rights issues, third wave feminism discusses rape, abortion, and derogatory terms. I would go as far as saying discussions of slut-shaming and the celebration of sexuality as a positive aspect of life is not only a result of resilient efforts of third-wave feminists but deeply engrained in the riot grrl movement. 

Cue the one and only Kathleen Hanna, most badass punk chick in the world. Stripper-turned-poet-turned-songwriter, Hanna fronted Bikini Kill, the all-girl punk rock underground band. Before that, she wrote and produced a fanzine of the same name as her band, which published the Riot Grrl Manifesto:

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.

And this is why we should all love her: Hanna is the ultimate symbol of female empowerment within contemporary rock world. If you’re a girl and you enjoy the sweat and rawness of the occasional mosh pit without the concern of being gropped, you have her to thank. During their performances, Bikini Kill hung up signs near the stage encouraging women to come close to the stage and encouraging men to make them feel safe.

Riot grrl bands did not succeed without a lot of hard work and courage. It was common for male audience members to throw things at the performers, call them derogatory terms and ask them to take their clothes off. Hanna often scribbled ‘SLUT’ across her chest when performing to re appropriate the word’s meaning.

The riot grrl movement has allowed every woman to embrace the punk rock world without losing our sense of femininity. These riot grrls have allowed a whole generation of women to throw our fists up in the air, crowd surf, mosh our butts off and flip off anyone who wants to ruin the fun.  It’s allowed us to be who we are without fear of losing sight of what it means to be a woman and to enjoy male-dominated areas without guilt.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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