Why 2010 will be the year of the Riot Grrrl revival (if we want it to be)

kathleen_hannaThe blogosphere has been buzzing for the past few days with news of Kathleen Hanna’s recent donation of treasured papers to NYU Library’s Special Collections. Hanna has gifted her writings, zines, and other ephemera from the late ’80s/early ’90s riot grrrl scene, which will serve to establish the Riot Grrrl Collection–the first collection of its kind (at least in academia).

News of the donation was excitedly received by many sectors of the internet, from feminist twitterers to punks on social networks to hipster music bloggers. Though everyone has pretty much been celebrating the same things (Riot Grrrl being recognized as a legitimate feminist movement, libraries continuing to be awesome despite massive cuts to their funding and staffs), there’s a small but growing voice that goes further to ask, “Will 2010 be the year of the Riot Grrrl revival?” A very good question, indeed.

Young Creature was the first to posit the possibility of a revival when news broke on Friday, pointing out that the donation comes on the heels of Kate Wadkins’ (ex-Carnal Knowledge, ex-Cheeky) announcement that she’ll be officiating a panel on the Riot Grrrl movement for Sarah Lawrence’s Women’s History Month Conference in March. 2010 is clearly the year of the long awaited Riot Grrrl comeback!!, wrote YC’s jacqueline mary, and in a typical fashion, that idea spread out across the Internet over the weekend.

Most are hesitant to be as blunt as jm, however, tweeting instead hopeful “Revolution grrrl-style 2010?”-type questions in a way that kind of annoys me, to be honest. Because if we wait for the Sanctioning Body of Riot Grrrl to give its blessing, that revival we all want probably ain’t going to happen. More importantly, if you’re waiting for someone else to take the lead on starting said revival, then it definitely isn’t going to happen. And you’ve missed the point completely, to boot.

You’re probably thinking, “Well then, how CAN we start the Riot back up again, Debbie Downer?!?” Lucky for you, I’m a pushy Jewess with no shortage of opinions on the matter.

First, let’s review the roots of Riot Grrrl. As you probably already know, the Riot Grrrl movement was, in its beginning, a reaction to the sexism of the DIY punk rock scene of the late ’80s/early ’90s. Women were traditionally absent from the stage of most hardcore shows, and were pushed into the sidelines by the violence of the mosh pit, but not for their lack of dedication to the scene. Early ladypunks were laughed off stage by their male counterparts for a lack of technical mastery, which forced them to funnel their energies primarily into the development of fanzines instead.

A few short years later, it was zines that brought the forerunners of the Riot Grrrl movement together. In those pre-Internet days, most young punks traded news of bands and record distros and even ideologies through writing and trading zines. Zines are how Bratmobile and Bikini Kill founders found out about the youth-centric, do-it-yourself (DIY) philosophies of DC punks Minor Threat and Nation of Ulysses, and they are how those young women fleshed out their own philosophies of feminist living and art before they were put to music.

These young punks quickly inspired others to pick up instruments and start bands of their own. Seeing their friends on stage spewing forth breathless feminist rhetoric and confronting dudes of the scene with all their bullshit sexism was a revelation for many. News of these ladypunks–now called “Riot Grrrls”–spread across the world relatively quickly through zines, and a movement was born. Women and men all over the world were now part of a “boy-girl revolution,” and all it took to do so was to get together with some friends, borrow some instruments, learn how to play a few notes, and put on a show in your parents’ basement.

Punk was finally liberated from the dudes who insisted on conformity to a particular sound or set of abilities, and it was politicized in a way that feminists could identify with. Which brings me to my next point…

skThe next step is realizing that Carrie Brownstein, Allison Wolfe, etc are not rockstars. They really aren’t any different from you or me. I know that we all have a tendency to put people we admire up on a pedestal and think that there’s no way we could do what they do. Without minimizing the Riot Grrls’ collective genius, I have to call bullshit.

Literally: I could have done that. And so could you.

Besides, do you really think that our Elders even go for this reverence that we have for them? Do you think they would really want us to defer to them on what makes for good Riot Grrrl? I don’t think they would…

Further, it needs to be pointed out that one doesn’t have to be a guitar virtuoso to create a song like “This is Not a Test”:

You just have to have something to say and enough confidence to get onstage.

So, while it’s valid to wish for a Bikini Kill reunion (I’d personally give my left tit for one), it is truly more “riot” to start a Bikini Kill cover band. Or, better yet, start a band that plays your music.

All it takes is an idea, some free time, friends with instruments (or your own), and some dedication. That’s it. You don’t even have to know how to play, you just have to have something to say. You’re thinking, “What could I possibly have to say?” and the answer is this: have you ever thought, “Why isn’t anyone singing about ________? It’s a really important issue.” Whatever you fill in that blank with is what you have to say/sing about. So fuckin’ do it already!

Photo by Cristina http://crustina.blogspot.com

Zombie Dogs. Photo by Cristina http://crustina.blogspot.com

I mean, other people are already doing it, they’re just not called “Riot Grrrls.” Look at Des-Ark, Cheeky, Zombie Dogs, Condenada, Bromance, etc. They’re playing their own instruments, writing their own songs, organizing their own tours, distributing their own records, and making their own merch. They’re overtly DIY, feminist, and are finding a good home in the punk houses and non-profit spaces that have been around for years. You can do the same!

Realize that we are the nu-Riot Grrrls. The sooner we start jamming with our friends and blogging about our tours and making our own shirts and living outside this stupid slacktivist system we’ve all bought into, we will really be Riot. We need to make friends with ladypunks (and duderpunks) who are into feminism and social justice and anti-racism causes the same as we are, we need to support their shows and buy their records, and we need to be just as committed as they are to documenting our beliefs in our music. That is, quite simply, how you build a scene or stage a revival.

Face it, we NEED a revival. No less than Carrie Fuckin’ Brownstein herself was on her own soapbox in November (we shop at the same ‘box boutique), decrying the marshmallow beard-rock that shies away from engaging in the uncomfortable or confrontational. And Pitchfork celebrates, even elevates, apolitical musicians above the rest, leaving us all to think that there’s no place for politics in our scene.

I say, “Fuck that.” And, while we’re at it, “Fuck Pitchfork” and “fuck co-opting of the female experience” (how many all-dude bands out there are called Girls or Religous Girls or Women??). We need confrontational, feminist music now more than ever, what with the continuous assault on reproductive rights, equal rights for lgbtq individuals and immigrants, the erosion of workers’ rights, and many, many other human rights issues. What better way to spread word and awaken consciousness than through some catchy friggin’ jams?

So, in the Age of Information, why don’t we stage a rebellion? Let’s use all these great tools we have at our disposal–Facebook, Ning, Twitter, etc.–to look for possible bandmates, record our songs, write about our records, create our own art, distribute our CDs.

LET’S DO THIS, PEOPLE.

Let’s get organized. So, what is it that you can offer? Do you want to start a zine or contribute to a blog? Are you aching to start a band? Do you have the means to start a collective to put out records and hold art shows? Do you have a garage that could serve as practice space for yours and other bands? Can you organize a consciousness-raising night for ladypunks in your city? Will you teach other women how to use Photoshop (or, better yet, the open-source alternative, Gimp) so they can make their own show flyers and CD covers?

The possibilities are endless. Let’s “stop bitching,” as they say, and START A REVOLUTION.

Leave it in the comments or hash it out on Twitter w/ the tag #riotrevival, if you’re down.

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25 Responses to Why 2010 will be the year of the Riot Grrrl revival (if we want it to be)

  1. Mandy Melson says:

    I’M FUCKING IN! I’ve been talking about this for AGES! Most especially in the past week.. I’m tired of the internet, I want to DO things. Let’s go!

    • Sissy says:

      HELLS TO THE YES, MANDY! You’re in SF, right? (I just creeped on you via yr blog.) How can we get some kind of collective started out here? I want to put together some kind of Bay Area revivalist org. I’m guessing we’d have good support from scene stalwarts MRR, since the lead singer of Condenada is now their Editor in Chief (I think, anyway). And we obviously have heaps of feminists and queer punks at out disposal. Thoughts??!!?

  2. Mandy Melson says:

    Whoa! I didn’t even notice you were in San Francisco.. MEANT TO BE. YES! I’m super pumped about this for so many reasons. Most of all the fact that everyone has become to lethargic in this world has really been getting me down for far too long (and apparently bringing me down with it, nooo!) and I’m ready to get back out and DO something besides staring at glowing boxes all fucking day long. I’m tired of being anonymous on the internet with words pouring onto blogs that no one reads more than likely. No. I’m ready to DO ANYTHING again.

    “So, what is it that you can offer? Do you want to start a zine or contribute to a blog? Are you aching to start a band? ”

    I want to answer all these questions

    1. fuck yes I want to start a zine about it. I write zines already (although its been a pretty long time since the last one.. but I’ve had one brewing in my brain for a lonnng time) and blog, YES. I do it already but working in pairs, or more, is even better!

    2. My girlfriend is some awesome amazing drummer and also CRAZY into riot grrrl. I will TEACH myself ANYTHING, it would be so fun!

    I’ve been trying to meet people on meetup.com for feminist and queer activism – but it just seems so fucking dead. NOT ACCEPTABLE ANYMORE. I’m so tired of everyone just letting everything go.. we need a fucking revolution, like, for reals. Your idea for a revivalist organization is AWESOME. There’s SO many ways to go about it. meet-ups, brainstorms, workshops, etc. Holy crap, I’m excited! Riot grrrl needs to come back so badly for so many reasons.

    I’m in this really funny life situation right now and it is the PERFECT time to get shit started (I’ll tell you more about this in an email or if we meet up sometime.)

    Explode Into Colors, so good right?!

  3. Mandy Melson says:

    p,s. our band could be your life is SO GOOD

  4. Pingback: 2010 Riot Grrrl Revival? « Soul Drift

  5. Emily says:

    I have been saying this for a while too! It is our time! Revolution Grrrl style now!!!! We need it, and rock music I think is ready for it. Come on, that state of music right now is horrible. We need some bands to bring back the rebel cause. Do it!

  6. Pingback: Why 2010 will revive Riot Grrrl « Jukebox Heroines – A Women in Music Blog

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  8. Stephanie says:

    I’m going to go with the general flow of previous comments and say FUCK YES THIS IS AWESOME. I’m in love with the idea of bringing the riot grrrl movement back to life and better than ever. I run a blog at wordpress called RebelGrrrl (yes, I am that inspired by the Riot Grrrl movement. Wonder why..? ) and would love to see this happen and expand my abilities through whatever way possible to SEE this Happen. Lilith Fair is this year, so this is the fucking year for women in music. I wish Salt Lake City had a ladyfest group. I need some more punks out this way.

    time to locate the anarchist bookstore that I’m pretty sure is out here somewhere….

    Thanks for this entry! I’m in!

    • Sissy says:

      @stephanie:

      LADY! YOU should start the SLC ladyfest group! (that is, if you have the means to do so.) you’d be surprised how many people come out of the woodwork when they see a flyer or read about stuff on the internet.

      thanks for the love!

  9. karina says:

    FUCK YES !We Riot grrrrrl revival 😀 Me and my friends have an all girl band. But we are currently looking for a drummer so we can get shit started and play music !
    here’s our band: myspace.com/thetamponsareheretostay

  10. Pingback: Show me some revolution « New Escapologist

  11. kerry says:

    Thanks so much for this inspiring post! I’ve been thinking the same thing lately and am already publishing my own riot grrrl-inspired zine which you can peep over at my blog, girltalkzine.blogspot.com!!

  12. melanie says:

    great article. very motivational! i’d love to see the Radical Cheerleaders reform and take over red carpet events and blast all the a-listers who signed the Roman Polanski petition.

  13. manuela says:

    …Plans are being made for a Revival Memorial in Amsterdam! …stay tuned!

  14. Pingback: Music, Fear and the Riot Grrrl Revival « Here. In My Head.

  15. Rebel Elle says:

    We started a riot grrrl band in Dallas last year. We do everything ourselves, recording, merch, flyers, promotion. We also recently just started a riot grrrl meet-up where female musicians in the area get together and help each other with flyers, merch and also to toss ideas around of how to get our music out. If you’re in a band, and want to toss around some ideas or need help with distribution or want to do a DIY split EP with my band… get in touch with me…

  16. Christa says:

    I am presenting my thesis on riot grrrl at the plenary panel of the Sarah Lawrence Conference. I hope lots of people will come!

  17. Jenn says:

    YES YES YES

    I feel like I’ve been meeting ladies from all over the country who feel like something’s afoot. maybe it’s neo riot grrl, maybe it’s the birth of the 4th wave, maybe it’s something new + different entirely- but shit’s on the move. there is a crazy thriving beautiful lady community happening in Bellingham (WA) right now that we are so proud of- we’ve been doing 2nd-wave style consciousness raising for a few years, mega community building, Ladyfest, lady-only spaces, radical action … it’s so exciting to know that other folks are working on stuff, too. and that we will fucking TAKE OVER.

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