Throwback: Riot Grrrl

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During the mid 1990’s a spurt of feminist rock bands came out of the West Coast, quickly spreading across the nation to start an underground feminist rock movement known as Riot Grrrl. Addressing issues such as rape, domestic abuse, sexuality, racism, patriarchy, and female empowerment—essentially, it’s my favorite rock movement. In addition to a music scene and genre, Riot Grrrl was and still is a subculture: zines, art, the DIY ethic, activism, and political action are all a part of the movement. Riot grrrls are known to hold meetings, start chapters, and support and organize women in music.

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The 1970’s and mid 1980’s contained various female punk and rock musicians that later influenced the Riot Grrrl movement. This included the likes of The Runaways, Siouxsie Sioux, The Slits, Au Pairs, Patti Smith, The Raincoats, and various others. Then later Seattle’s early 90’s infrastructure of Do-it-yourself began, which led young women involved in underground music scenes to use it as a way to articulate their feminist thought and desires. They often had little to no voice in their local scenes, so they took it upon themselves to represent their own interests by making their own music and art— they created punk-rock fanzines and began forming garage bands. Riot Grrrl is often associated with Queercore and the third-wave feminism movement. The term “Riot Grrrl” is said to have originated from the 1991 Mount Pleasant Riot. In reaction to the riot’s violence Jen Smith of the band Bratmobile had been said to have written to band mate Allison Wolfe stating, “We need to start a girl riot.” Following shortly after Wolfe collaborated with Molly Neuman (also of Bratmobile), as well as Kathleen Hanna and Tobi Vail, both from the band Bikini Kill. The four women created a new zine titled Riot Grrrl; combining the “riot” with an oft-used phrase that first appeared in Vail’s fanzine Jigsaw “Revolution Grrrl Style Now.” Riot grrrls took a growling triple r, placing it in the word girl, as a way to take back the derogatory use of the term. Although they deny any credit, both Bikini Kill and Bratmobile both held a large hand in the creation of the Riot Grrrl movement.

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By the mid-nineties, Riot Grrrl had severely broken. Many within the movement felt that the mainstream media had completely misrepresented their message, and that the politically radical aspects of Riot Grrrl had been subverted by the likes of the Spice Girls and their “girl power” message; however, it continues on today. Many of the women involved in Riot Grrrl are still active in creating politically charged music. Carrie Brownstein (well-known for the show Portlandia) was a member of two popular Riot Grrrl bands in the 90’s (Sleater-Kinney and Excuse 17) and is now the lead singer for a current Riot Grrrl-esc band, WILD FLAG. Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill went on to form the electro-feminist post-punk band Le Tigre in 1998, which is still active. Molly Neuman of Bratmobile currently plays in the New York punk band Love or Perish. Various other indie Riot Grrrl bands are still playing and forming today.

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Here’s a playlist of various Riot Grrrl bands:

List of most popular Riot Grrrl bands and associated acts:

  • 7 Year Bitch
  • Adickdid
  • Autoclave
  • Babes in Toyland
  • Bangs
  • Bikini Kill
  • Blood Sausage
  • Bratmobile
  • The Butchies
  • Cadallaca
  • Casual Dots
  • The Coathangers
  • Cold Cold Hearts
  • The Element of Crime
  • Emily’s Sassy Lime
  • Erase Errata
  • Excuse 17
  • Fabulous Disaster
  • The Fakes
  • Fifth Column
  • Finally Punk
  • Free Kitten
  • Frightwig
  • The Frumpies
  • The Gits
  • Gossip
  • Heartless Martin
  • Heavens to Betsy
  • Hole
  • Huggy Bear
  • Jack Off Jill
  • Julie Ruin
  • Kids Love Lies
  • L7
  • Le Tigre
  • Lolita Storm
  • Lucid Nation
  • Lunachicks
  • Lungleg
  • Mambo Taxi
  • Mecca Normal
  • Mika Miko
  • Modern Reveries
  • The Need
  • Partyline
  • Petty Crime
  • Phantom Pregnancies
  • Pussy Riot
  • The Quails
  • Quix*o*tic
  • Red Aunts
  • The Scissor Girls
  • Scrawl
  • The Shondes
  • Shoplifting
  • Shrag
  • Sister George
  • Skinned Teen
  • Slant 6
  • Sleater-Kinney
  • Spider and the Webs
  • Spitboy
  • Sta-Prest
  • Suture
  • Swan Island
  • Tattle Tale
  • Team Dresch
  • The Third Sex
  • Tribe 8
  • Viva Knievel
  • Voodoo Queens
  • White Lung
  • Wild Flag
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