The article below was taken from: http://web.archive.org/web/19990117024141/www.columbia.edu/~rli3/music_html/bikini_kill/girl.html at archive.org. The article was written by a girl named Spirit and the article was written in 1995.
What Is A Riot Grrrl Anyway?
I was fourteen when I first heard about riot grrrl. By that time it had been all over MTV, fashion and news magazines and newspapers yet this was the first time I had heard of it – in a small local entertainment newspaper. I don’t know how long riot grrrl had existed before the media got its slimy hands all over it but I know, from experience, how much it changed afterward.
I was attracted to the idea of riot grrrl initially because the beliefs I thought riot grrrl was about were ones I had always had myself. The San Jose punk scene isn’t very political or issue oriented (not to say that it should or shouldn’t be) so I often felt alienated and isolated in my beliefs which were all generally anarchistic, anti-fascist, anti-sexist, and anti-homophobic. Most of the time I was the only girl around, when there were others everyone knew they wouldn’t stay long – they were always just fucking one of the guys in the scene and they were never punx. I was surrounded by “punks” to whom punk had no meaning and my motivation was suppressed. My impression of riot grrrl as conveyed by that small article was: punk rock girls having the beliefs fore-mentioned, creating a scene alternative to the one that they found themselves rejected by. It was that simple. Who can argue with that? The early riot grrrl scene was inclusive of boys and girls, preserved D.I.Y. punk rock methods and morals, and wasn’t threatening to any other groups, people, or interests. Riot grrrl -the idea, the movement, the non-localized group, whatever -inspired literally hundreds of girls to do zines, start bands, collectives, distributions, have meetings etc. The uprising of riot grrrl has been the only activity in the scene most of us have seen in years, yet most of you probably don’t know what a riot grrrrl is and does, why we face so much opposition or who started it.
I won't offer a definition because it wouldn’t be fair to other grrrls to whom riot grrrl may mean something totally different. I will however offer my insight on what I have seen happen… After the height of mainstream media coverage, many of the more productive and popular chapters such as Olympia and D.C. decided to sort of “close up shop”. Refusing to answer most of their mail, rejecting interview requests, changing meeting locations or canceling them all together seemed like the only way to stop further exploitation, misquoting, and such. If a barrette wearing, magic markered, thirteen year old looking 20 year old was what the words “riot grrrl” would be translated as, they didn’t want it. The mainstream media-what seemed like the best medium for communication, the best way to spread “girl love” – had failed us. In fact, it had come close to destroying us. In some ways I think it did. Lots of girls have been inspired by the idea of riot grrrl after having heard about it through some magazine or TV show. They’ve begun to question, challenge, create, demand…others have learned nothing more than a hot, new, cute way to dress.
The most destructive and inaccurate image of a riot grrrl portrayed by the media was that of a lesbian, man-hating, ignorant, violent, bitter, bitch, an image that has followed feminism before it was feminism. Unfortunately, some girls, imitated the most negative aspects of this image blindly, giving riot grrrl a bad name. I disapprove of all violence outside of self-defense and am hurt when I hear stories of riot grrrls beating up boys “for no reason” or “because they are boys”. Usually these stories are bunk by the time they get back to us but I know this sometimes (rarely but sometimes) happens and it’s embarrassing. Does this scenario sound familiar? It should… to each and every one of you. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, turn on MTV right now. Chances are there’ s a Green Day, Rancid, Nirvana, or clone of one of those three bands on. Is a rich, homophobic, sexist, jock with a wallet chain and Doc’s a fair representation of a punk rocker? Is Sid Vicious even a realistic punker? What’s happening to punk right now and what happened to it in the early 80’s is exactly what’s happened to riot grrrl. For those of you who have had bad experiences with girls who call themselves riot grrrls, please remember that we are all fucking different! In every class, race, scene, etc. there are pollutant people – people who just want to get a piece of the action or feel like they belong
How can we fight the patriarchal, corporate, racist system when we’re fighting each other? When punks are rejecting riot grrrl for not being punk enough, when riot grrrls are rejecting punks for not being conscious enough, it is apparent that all of us have let the media’s image of us affect our behavior and treatment of each other. Riot grrrls – the strongest, the truest of us will outlast the trendiness. Our networking through mail, the internet, through music, through zines and through the punk scene keeps us closely knit and strong. Just as the punk scene itself does the same – no matter how many records Offspring sells or how many cheerleaders wear Doc Martens with 100 dollar outfits.
So where’s the riot? The riot can happen inside each of us, male and female. The riot is something that happens everyday. we are changing the rules, the codes, the fucking standards.
Think of Crass, Vice Squad, The Avengers, Blondie, Naked Aggression, Spitboy….think of Emma Goldman, Valerie Solonas… riot grrrl didn’t invent punk rock feminism. We are simply reclaiming our place/voice in punk rock- a voice we’ve always had that’s been trampled on.
The following quote is from Jennifer Miro of the old punk band, “The Nuns”. She is commenting on what she saw happening towards the end of 1977. *”Later it became this macho hardcore thrasher punk scene and that was not what it was about at first. There were a lot of women in the beginning. It was women doing things. Then it became this whole macho, anti-women thing. Then women didn’t go to see punk bands anymore because they were afraid of getting killed. I didn’t even go because it was so violent and so macho that it was repulsive. Women just got squeezed out”. I’ll be damned if I ever let that happen to me or any grrrl I know again.
DISCLAIMER: I don’t consider myself a spokesperson for riot grrrl, only for myself and I happen to consider myself a riot grrrl. My word is no more than my word of experience and indirect knowledge (reading, stories I’ve been told, etc..). Therefore what i say about riot grrrl should be considered only one girls p.o.v.
* Quote by Jennifer Miro from Punk “77 by James Stark.