International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest, ed. Immanuel Ness, Blackwell Publishing, 2009, pp.


2844 Riot Grrl

Riot Grrl
Michael McKee
Originating in the Pacific Northwest and Washington, DC in the early 1990s, the Riot Grrl (or Riot Grrrl) movement centered around a radical feminism and do-it-yourself ethic, drawing on the cultural traditions of the punk rock and independent underground while challenging the sexism and homophobia entrenched within those subcultures. Despite a swift ascendance and distortion in the mainstream media, Riot Grrl embraced a multitude of varying, and sometimes conflicting, voices via bands such as Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Team Dresch, Heavens to Betsy, Excuse 17, and Huggybear, as well as fanzines like Girl Germs, Jigsaw, Gunk, and Chainsaw. The name Riot Grrl (or Grrrl) can be attributed to Red Rover zinester Jen Smith, who reacted to race riots in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, DC in 1991 by calling for a “girl riot” in the coming summer. Her wording was eventually fused with a phrase culled from Jigsaw fanzine (published out of Olympia, Washington, by Tobi Vail), “angry grrls,” to name the nascent movement. Uncensored and direct, Riot Grrl zine editors wrote about their own experiences with day-

the first night featured an intentional all-female bill. Koch. featuring vocalist Kathleen Hanna who would soon front one of the movement’s most prominent bands. Now” and “Encouragement in the Face of Insecurity” into a nonhierarchical. 7 Year Bitch. Bikini Kill. and Cold Cold Hearts. Lois Maffeo. Immanuel Ness. Girl Style. ed. By 1996. Berkeley: Seal Press. as in the case of Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein of Sleater Kinney. due in part to personal conflicts. Casual Dots. and sisterhood. attracting many women who would become active musicians in bands such as Slant 6. Riot Grrl concerts were at odds with the popular grunge fad of the early and mid-1990s. DC shortly thereafter. designed to challenge punk’s default norms. The city hosted one of the first Riot Grrl conventions in the summer of 1992. (Dir).International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest. (2004) Cinderella’s Big Score. Several high-profile participants of the movement have since gained notoriety as musicians and artists. Bikini Kill. Kathleen Hanna’s electro-punk band Le Tigre. Riot Grrl’s legacy directly informs the landscape of third-wave feminism as well as phenomena such as the Ladyfest musical festival and activist groups such as Bands Against Bush. and a shift toward new strategies in art and activism on the part of the early organizers. and the Spinanes performed at the festival. (2001) Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation’s Capital. (2005) Don’t Need You: The Herstory of Riot Grrl.” Some concert organizers insisted on an inflated admission price for males. Nation of Ulysses. with other regional conferences gathering in cities such as Philadelphia throughout the next two years. sexual abuse and assault. body image. José (1861–1896) 2845 to-day sexism. Punk Movement References and Suggested Readings Anderson. intimidation. often deliberately confrontational. 2009. consciousness-raising networking through these publications quickly crystallized calls for “Revolution. Although more established alternative groups such as Fugazi. Blackwell Publishing. K. SEE ALSO: Latin American Punk Rock and Protest. with bands and artists such as Bratmobile. & Jenkins. and Suture. regional chapter-based movement across the United States and Britain. Sympathetic bands frequently invited female members of the audience up to the front of the stage. the movement had lost steam. . Bikini Kill and Bratmobile served as two of the most prominent bands in the mainstream media’s coverage of the movement. Regular meetings of autonomous Riot Grrl chapters began in Washington. Helium. media misrepresentation. 2844–2845 Rizal. disrupting slamdancing and aggressive “moshing. and film director Miranda July. The International Pop Underground Festival held in Olympia. Washington. M. While many of Riot Grrl’s early communiqués came chiefly from a handful of women-produced zines from the Pacific Northwest and the nation’s capital. in the summer of 1991 served as a meeting ground for many early organizers. Heckling. gender dynamics. M. New York: Soft Skull Press. emphasizing their events as women-oriented spaces. pp. Although both groups vehemently deny any leadership status. L7. M. Raha. Nikki McClure. New York: Urban Cowgirl. and threats were common from some maledominated crowds. Quix*o*tic.

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