An ode to Riot Grrrl:”She’s a rocker dressed like a killer, she’s got lips like wine not sugar.”

15 04 2012

As much as Punk and Shoegaze mean to me, there’s always been another movement in music that has meant the world to me. A movement that I feel, was just as vital as Punk. A movement that has the same values as Punk, and is as equally as influential.

Punk basically started in New York. That’s the heart and soul of it. Fast forward a couple of decades in Olympia, Washington. Female fronted bands developed a DIY ethic (much like Punk) and were making their own sound. Creating their own movement that moved like a hurricane. So powerful and as I said, so important. Without this movement, where would we be? Thing is though, I feel most have forgotten about this movement. That now all women must do now to sell records is strip off and sing songs that mean nothing.

I don’t want to write this as a THIS IS WHAT RIOT GRRRL WAS. If you know, then you know. If you don’t, then get to know. Go listen to Heavens To Betsy, Sleater-Kinney etc. Go listen to them. They will show you what music truly is. Play with angst. Play with passion. For gods sake play with HEART. Have something to believe in, and carry it with you. Make some noise.

For me, Riot Grrrl was something entirely sacred. I explored the world of Riot Grrrl because I was a HUGE fan of Le Tigre. I went back and explored the past projects of Kathleen Hanna, which of course, led me to Bikini Kill. That was it. I was hooked. Transfixed. I was old enough (12 years old) to understand why people were mad at society. I was angry too. As a kid, I was constantly bullied all through secondary school. So music was my outlet. Music was the thing I turned to in order to gain some kind of sanity in my life. I needed something I could use that no one could take from me. All my hell and fury was coming out of the songs by Sleater-Kinney, Bratmobile and The Butchies. I felt part of something. I had no voice to unleash all of this, so music did it for me. Punk did it and Riot Grrrl did it. As did Garbage but you already know that.

I favoured Sleater-Kinney above all. I have no idea why, I just did. I connected immediately to their songs. I fell in love Carrie Brownstein. I wanted to be as tough as her so much. Instead, I was just a lost sensitive cause who had no idea what to do. Sleater-Kinney were more than just a Riot Grrrl band. And yes, I was beyond pissed off when they broke up in 2006. I’m not mentioning it. I live in false hope that one day..one day. I know it won’t, but still. You’ve got to cling onto something. I loved Sleater-Kinney because every word of despair that was falling out of the speakers and into my ears was providing me with hope, of sorts.

The whole Riot Grrrl movement helped me come out. For years and years I struggled with it- internally. Hating yourself because of who you are is not living. Thing is, my mum isn’t even homophobic so what was I scared of? So much. In time, as I listened to more and more Riot Grrrl songs with older ears- I found the courage to do it. Mainly because I found so much comfort and security in a band that stemmed from the Riot Grrrl movement-Gossip. Their debut record, That’s Not What I Heard had songs on it that I felt “Oh holy shit…” towards. Fast forward a few years and Standing In The Way Of Control dropped. I followed the band up and down the UK. I skipped lectures at Uni to see them anywhere and everywhere I could. I met them and I felt like..I don’t know. I can’t put it into words. So in 2008, I had the guts to come out. Sure I did it by text message to my mum, but I was in a different country. She likes to mock me for how I did it. Sometimes, the most daunting thing in life is really the easiest thing to confront.

Without being exposed to Riot Grrrl I don’t know what I would’ve done. I probably would’ve remained being an empty shell that never knew what she wanted to do with her life. In my last year of Uni, I did a module called Women In Journalism and I did a presentation on Riot Grrrl and fanzines. I’ll admit I fucked it up a bit. Mainly because I decided at last-minute I hated everything I wrote so I just did my presentation off the top of my head. Besides, it was an excuse to listen to some of the bands all over again and pass it off as “research.” Maybe I’ll go back to appreciating Riot Grrrl everyday when Beyond Pink but their new record out this year. Here’s hoping.

All too often the press will deem a woman as being a “bitch” if she is as honest as the likes of Shirley Manson to Brody Dalle to Courtney Love to Kathleen Hanna to Joan Jett. They fail to acknowledge that they are STRONG musicians and have influenced so many. Their words have tended to souls and saved lives. How does that make someone a bitch?! Sure a lot of angst was flying around, but it wasn’t angst that was like “MY JEANS DON’T FIT ME.” It was angst towards society and how they were (and still are) putting women down, ignoring topics such as rape and domestic violence. The whole Riot Grrrl movement was a platform for women from Washington and beyond to stand up and say “THIS ISN’T RIGHT, AND WE WON’T STAND FOR IT NO MORE.” It may be over in a music sense, but the struggle is still there. You’re shot down if you call yourself a Feminist and you are looked at as if you have 6 heads when you speak freely on taboo subjects such as rape. FUCK.THAT. You can try to shut them up all you want, but it won’t work. Music is more powerful than you can wrap your head around. I wish the Riot Grrrl movement would occur once more. We bloody need it.

Maybe we’ll never have a movement like this again, who knows. But I’ll be forever in debt to the bands involved. Not just for the music but for their words and courage. The zines they created and the music made showed that the whole DIY ethic is something you can never and should never compromise.

Never compromise your art and all you believe in. Ever.


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