Why We Need Riot Grrrl

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I was first introduced to Kathleen Hanna via Rock Band. Rebel Girl by Bikini Kill was my go-to song long before I knew anything about feminism or the riot grrrl movement. I hate to admit it, but prior to college I assumed feminism was about hating men and I generally avoided it.

I was properly introduced to Kathleen Hanna via Netflix. I had heard of the singer a few times and mostly recognized her name as a part of a list of celebrities who shared my birthday. I decided to watch The Punk Singer after hearing its praises during the festival circuit. This was around the same time I began my Feminist Cultural Theory class. And all at once the girl who was laissez-faire about feminism turned into the biggest neo-riot grrrl.

In lieu of a talk Kathleen Hanna gave at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston last night, Mayor Marty Walsh claimed April 9th Riot Grrrl Day. A day to “commemorate, celebrate and actively promote the cultural significance of riot grrrl culture, and to inspire grrrls everywhere to shake up the status quo and create.” Hanna spoke about punk rock, feminism, and the riot grrrl movement, in addition to giving a small performance. For those unfamiliar, riot grrrl is a 90’s feminist movement mainly associated with punk rock music. Hanna even penned a manifesto stating the movement’s goals and demands. Ultimately, the movement was about girls being able to express themselves through their music, their clothing, and their fanzines.

Many will claim that riot grrrl is dead, having been stomped out by fractioning factions within the group and the arrival of the girl power movement – because heaven for bid we have more than one feminist movement occurring at the same time. And, semantically, when Hanna switched genres from the aggressive punk rock of Bikini Kill to the post-punk synth protest pop of Le Tigre, the movement molded into something that couldn’t exactly be defined as riot grrrl. However, this movement lives on to this day in the women it has inspired, as shown by Hanna’s speech last night.

But why do we still need riot grrrl? Easy. Because we still need feminism. And riot grrrl doesn’t only have to refer to music. Its elements can be applied to other battles we as women fight on a daily basis. It is a movement founded upon women creating their own content that portrays themselves and other women in a way that we feel women should be portrayed. It’s about creating the media we want to consume, whether it be an album, a film, or a video game. It’s about creating our own fandom and celebrating it in our own way. It’s about representation in a male dominated industry. It’s about reclaiming words that in the past have been used to hurt us. It’s about wearing what you want to wear and loving yourself for it. It’s about being comfortable in your own skin. It’s about feeling safe. It’s about all of these things and more.

As a media maker, the riot grrrl movement has encouraged me to make the things I want to make. It inspired my feminism and has caused me to be the young woman I am today.

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