The 90’s were a time of new music with an undercurrent (and sometimes blatant current) of radical feminism. L7, Sleater-Kinney, Bratmobile, and, the leaders of feminist punk, Bikini Kill. Back then, I listened to the music, but I wasn’t fully in the scene. Living in Niagara Falls and attending school in Buffalo removed me from the angst-ridden, raw intensity of the scene in Portland, DC, and NYC. My life was pretty good and, as such, I didn’t have much to riot about.
I did create a ‘zine, but it was focused more on movie reviews with occasional pieces on homophobia. I was in touch with the sexism, racism, and homophobia of my hometown, but I didn’t quite yet know how to express my rage. Riot Grrrl culture would have saved me, had the internet existed. This, I suppose, is where the disconnect began. In the early 90’s, before the prolific nature of the internet could infect our homes, we had to get our music and cultural news from MTV and the radio. Living in Buffalo afforded me a wealth of great music, coming out of Toronto, Ontario, on CFNY, but not so much a wealth of female voices. I saw stories on MTV news about the Riot Grrrls movement, but that movement never really made it to Buffalo. Sure, we did “Take Back The Night” walks every year at school and we had speakers come in and talk about women’s issues, but we didn’t have anything on the level of Riot Grrrl. There was no Kathleen Hanna to scream for us in Buffalo and Ani Difranco was pale in comparison to that level of rage.
So, my path leads me back to Riot Grrrl. It always, inevitably, does. I may not have had a name for it in the 90’s, but radical feminism has always been a huge part of my existence. I’ve always been outspoken in my defense of women, myself and others, and have tried to convey my utter disgust for the lack of feminist sources in my hometown. The difference though, between Kathleen Hanna and myself, is that I am not as motivated as her. Although we share a birthday, (12 November, along with Neil Young, Grace Kelly, Charles Manson, and Ryan Gosling) she is way more fierce!
She got up on the stage and screamed out the reality of her own life and the lives of others. I could barely write a word about my life until the last few years. She yelled at the audience to bring the ‘girls to the front’. I kept my mouth shut, while growing up, through a lot of patriarchal bullshit. She stuck to her principles in the face of complete and total sexism. I let shit go. She always stayed true to herself and the cause of radical feminism. I let my desire to be liked get in the way of my activism for too long. Not any more! I am revitalized! After watching “The Punk Singer” documentary, I am reenergized and ready to move forward.
Since we moved into the 21st century, the riot grrrl movement seems to have fizzled. There are still pockets of the radical feminist scene, but the overall music and zine culture that was directly connected to riot grrrl has dwindled. My question then is, what happened? Was the scene not sustainable without big figures like Hanna? Was a change in music the death knell for grrrl punk? Or did the boys just retake their places at the top? Why do women need to continuously fight for their places in music?
Feminism is not dead, but the patriarchy wants it to be. The second wave feminists are still pushing ahead, but the ERA is still not ratified. The third wavers have taken the struggle online, but the social media spaces are crawling with misogynists waiting to pounce. Women are baited with articles about career women vs. stay at home moms, shifting our focus from feminist goals. We should be gathering together and fighting for our lives. There are too many attacks, in the United States (not to mention around the world), on our collective rights as women.
The powers that be, which often include other women, wish to take away our right to control our own bodies. They want to take away our agencies and our voices. They want to make us helpless and powerless as a group so they can continue to control us. The patriarchy will never quit fighting so neither should we. We have to push onward. Continue marching! Continue running for office and retaining feminist values while leading! Organizing as if our lives depend on it, because they do! And never believe the media when they say that feminism is dead. It is alive and kicking and we will continue in the riot grrrl path. Never compromise! Never concede! Never go back!
Peace and Happy Patriarchy Smashing!