Riot Grrrl. You know the worrrd, but if your knowledge of the topic includes only vague associations with Sleater Kinney and Seattle, there’s plenty more to educate yourself on. Here’s your Riot Grrrl rundown.
What was Riot Grrrl?
Riot Grrrl was an underground feminist punk movement that existed in the early and mid-1990s. The Riot Grrls were primarily young women, and the movement had a political slant that dealt with issues including sexual harassment and reproductive rights. (The Riot Grrls being against the former, for the latter).The phrase “Riot Grrrl” is strongly associated by the large number of all girl punk bands that emerged from the movement.
Where were the Riot Grrls?
The movement was based primarily in Olympia, WA, Portland, OR, and the greater Pacific Northwest. In 1991, a radio program entitled “Your Dream Girl” and aimed at young women debuted on Olympia, WA radio station KAOS, helping disseminate information and foster the movement’s growth while promoting its music.
Do I know any Riot Grrls?
It’s likely you do. Bikini Kill was the movement’s biggest underground sensation, collaborating with artists including Nirvana and Joan Jett. Other associated groups included Bratmobile, Excuse 17, Heavens to Betsy, Fifth Column, Calamity Jane, Huggy Bear, Adickdid, Emily’s Sassy Lime,The Frumpies, The Butchies and Bangs.
Since Riot Grrrl was a willfully underground movement, most of these bands shunned the major record labels, and instead signed with indie labels including Kill Rock Stars, K Records, and Simple Machines. The movement also embraced cassette culture; Artists often recorded their music onto cheap boom-boxes and passed the tapes out to their friends.
What else did they do?
The rise of Riot Grrl coincided with the rise of DIY ‘zine culture, and many of the women involved in the movement published cut-and-pasted, xeroxed, zines that covered a variety of feminist topics, including political implications of personal experiences with sexism, mental illness, body image, eating disorders, sexual abuse, racism, rape and discrimination.
Where are the Riot Grrrls now?
By the mid-nineties, Riot grrrl had splintered, as many within the movement felt that the mainstream media had misrepresented their message and that the political aspects of Riot Grrrl had been subverted by pop culture. [Think the Spice Girls with their message of “girl power”]
Many of the women involved in Riot Grrrl movement are still making music today. Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna went on to form the electro-feminist post-punk group Le Tigre. In 2000, Bratmobile reunited and released two albums. Corin Tucker of Heavens to Betsy and Carrie Brownstein of Excuse 17 co-founded Sleater-Kinney at the tail end of the movement. Although Sleater Kinney disbanded in 2006, Brownstein went on to form Wild Flag. The band is currently on tour.