”Out of the culture of the 1990’s Pacific Northwest independent music scene, riot grrrl established third wave feminism and brought “girl power” to the masses, proving that music can change the world.” – GRRRL: 25 Years Of Riot Grrrl
I’ve been a bit of a casual follower of the ‘riot grrrl’ scene ever since around 2001 – when the internet first became ‘a thing’ at home. It was through many nights on a little chat room on AOL called ‘MCUK’ that I began my love affair with angst ridden female bands. I remember fondly a time where people didn’t have their actual images on the internet, because digital camera’s and smartphones just weren’t a common possession back then. It was during this time I struck up many conversations with a blogger you may have seen around called Frivolous Mrs D.
I nervously gave her my address (after many conversations to assure myself I wasn’t been groomed) and she sent me a CD in the post. The CD contained my first tastes of bands such as Jack Off Jill, Hole, L7 and Bikini Kill. I mean, these are times when even YouTube wasn’t a site you’d go to and get music from. You had to wait an hour for one song to download off Limewire and even then it was probably a crackly recording from the radio.
With ‘controversial’ movements by groups such as Pussy Riot and feminism creeping more and more in to day to day conversations, it seems a bit of a Riot Grrrl Renaissance is upon us. This week alone we’ve seen bloggers such as LLYMLRS
and Zoe London
have posted about women in the music industry – which I guess inspired this post. I’m noticing more and more conversations online about feminist topics and the patriarchy. As it seems, the woman who some argue began the whole Riot Grrrl punk rock music movement, is being left out. And that woman is Kathleen Hanna
The Punk Singer
is a documentary film about Kathleen Hanna, which I’ve watched about 20 times in the short while that I’ve had it. From the early days of her starting a band, through her marriage to a Beastie Boy and her battle with Lyme Disease, she’s an awes inspiring person who you just kinda want to know. Documenting significant moments in her life, from coming up with the name of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ by spray painting it on Kurt Cobain’s living room wall, to getting punched in the face by Courtney Love at Lollapalooza; Each time you watch the film, you learn something new about her and the music industry she has consistently battled within.
Whilst I appreciate mainstream artists such as Florence and the Machine, Kate Bush and Bat For Lashes, my musical tastes when it comes to the powerful female icons remain true to the heavier punk rock style. Be Your Own Pet, Le Tigre and Hole are probably my favourites, whilst my 14 year old self still appreciates the angsty whailings of Jack Off Jill.
For me, the ethos of Riot Grrrl isn’t about being a feminist, or having anger, or starting any new revolutions. It’s more about appreciating yourself, having confidence and doing what you want (to an extent) despite what people around you tell you that you should do. Use swear words, wear what you want, eat what you want, think how you want to think and say what you want to say. If you’re not offending anyone else you do it. If you’re not hurting anyone else, go for it. Have confidence, accept your body and don’t let any body bring you down – male or female. Don’t apologise for being fearless and if somebody hurts you; don’t get bitter, get better, than them. Because ain’t nobody going to bring you down.
“Everyone is always asking me, ‘How do we restart riot grrrl?’ And I’m like, ‘Don’t.’ Who wants to restart something that’s 20 years old? Start your own f*cking thing.” – Kathleen Hanna