The Riot Grrrl movement of the early 90s died out almost as soon as it began, and a new proposed film about those days – GRRRL 25 Years Of Riot Girl – featuring interviews with the key players, has so far failed to meet its Indiegogo target.
What is often dismissed as an ill-fated gimmick of angry girls with pretty instruments could also be seen as a well-meaning organisation that aimed to give females a voice through words and music.
In the current US political climate and the perceived Republican ‘war on women’, it is more important than ever for the fairer sex to stick together and to make themselves heard.
Riot Grrrl was relevant for several years as it became associated with third-wave feminism and the rising voice of female sexuality. Bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and Sleater Kinney became the face of young women everywhere who made themselves heard through fanzines and music, creating a DIY culture that soon became tagged onto the popularity of the grunge sound emerging from the Pacific North-West.
Fanzines such as Jigsaw and Girl Germs were a way of connecting with like-minded girls throughout the world, and often issues arrived with long accompanying letters laying out the ‘girl riot’ manifesto. Lyrics to songs titled Rebel Girl, Brat Girl and Bitch Theme were handed out at gigs where girls were often encouraged to move to the front to show solidarity to the performers. It was about empowerment and equality.
The commercial success of bands like L7 and Hole, although not directly involved with riot girl, gave the movement publicity and brought it closer to the mainstream.
In the mid-90s however, the screaming girl bands soon were drowned out by glossy pop groups who were more radio and magazine friendly with their watered-down view of ‘girl power’ and the backing of larger record labels. Riot Grrrl faded back into the sub-culture, but never entirely went away.
It is no coincidence that a new wave of female fronted bands are again embracing the influence of the Riot Grrrl movement. New music is appearing every day to counteract the negativity from certain political parties, and some of it is being produced specifically to create funds for the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.
Grrrl matriarch Kathleen Hanna is still performing with The Julie Ruin, and has become a role model for young feminist musicians, and new artists like The Gossip’s Beth Ditto, St Vincent’s Annie Clark and Lauren Tate from Hands Off Gretel are quietly bringing their rioting roots back to the masses.
Over twenty years after its initial incarnation, the time is right for another ‘revolution girl style’. With the internet at their disposal, using social media and You Tube to connect and distribute their thoughts, it is easier than ever for young girls to find a voice and, more importantly, to find the confidence to use it.
The punk goddesses of 1990 are the feminist grandmothers of today, and young girls everywhere are picking up guitars and looking to them for guidance.