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Revolution Girl-Style Now!

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1816 words
Social Issues

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Riot Grrrls were originally born out of the 'Punk' scene where rebellion
was expressed in attitude, appearance, style, and music. Defining Riot Grrrl is
much like defining Punk. There is no central organization, no authoritive
definition, just an attitude concerned with pointing out social hypocrisy and
empowering people to 'do it yourself', creating a culture of their own when they
see that the mainstream media does not reflect their concerns or provide outlets
for their efforts. Riot Grrrl is a supportive environment for girls and young
women which is concerned with feminist issues such as rape, abortion rights,
bulimia/anorexia, sexism, sexuality, double standards, self-defense, fat
oppression, classism, and racism. Riot Grrrl is a network of fanzines that are
produced by the angry 'girl revolutionaries' who identify with the music that is
associated with Riot Grrrl. The fanzines, self-designed and self-written,
uncensored and uninhibited photocopied publications, are often intensely
personal. That personal outlet is translated to larger political action when the
fanzines are available to the public, bringing people together for conventions
and other consciousness-raising activities. The ethos is about supporting each
other and empowering each other. In actuality, Riot Grrrl is a frame of mind.
It's a way for them to come together in a common cause: 'Revolution Girl-Style
Now!'. Since no specific person or people claim they created it, Riot Grrrl has
meant many things to many people. Most girls do not attempt to define it anymore.
'EVERY GRRRL IS A RIOT GRRRL. All you need is a healthy dose of pissed-of-ness
at the treatment of womyn in our society. We are NOT all punk, all white, all
lesbians, all musicians, all fanzine editors, all vegetarians, all victims of
abuse, all straight edge. There is no 'stereotypical' Riot Grrrl.' (Knight 9)
The early Riot Grrrl scene was a 'loose-knit' affiliation of feminist Punks,
formed circa 1991 in Olympia, Washington and Washington D.C. The philosophy of '
do it yourself' and 'you can do anything' seemed to apply mostly to boys, who
were the ones making the music and dictating the styles. By the early '90s, more
and more girl bands started springing up, but ironically they found themselves
battling sexism and discrimination within a movement originally based in a
consciousness about youth and oppression. With the rallying cry, 'Revolution
Girl-Style Now!' bands like Bikini Kill formed a small movement to combat the
male dominance of the Punk Scene and, by extension, the rest of the world.
Inevitably, Riot Grrrl was born:

So there's this revolution happening all across the country and
all across other countries and it's the revolution girl style
and as a girl revolutionary I want to say something about it...

...This revolution is so real and so deep for me, it is something I
have been waiting for my whole life, something that I think is
imperative to my survival, or at least my sanity. this revolution
is in my heart and my soul, and it's in the heart and souls of other
girls/women I know, and fuck you it's valid, and fuck you it's for
real...(Carlip 33)

Over the past few years, magazines, newspapers, and news shows have begun
to pay a great deal of attention to Riot Grrrls. At first, most Riot Grrrls were
open to use the media as a way to spread the word to other girls. Soon, though,
feeling that they had been misinterpreted, commercialized, and made into a new
fad and trend, Riot Grrrls changed their minds:

...I'm sick to death of defending riot grrrl every time I turn
around, I don't even know why it should have to be defended.
Riot grrrl is not what Seventeen, Newsweek or the LA Weekly
make it out to be or any other media thing. The media attention
has taken riot grrrl and twisted it distorted the name to mean
little if anything of importance. No person can speak for all riot
grrrls, they can only simply give their opinion (like I am) and it
should be taken as such...(34)

After the height of mainstream media coverage, many of the more productive
and popular chapters such as Olympia and D.C. decided to 'close' down. Refusing
to answer most of their mail, rejecting interview requests, changing meeting
locations or canceling them all together seemed like the only way to stop
further exploitation, misquoting, and such. 'If a barrette wearing, magic marked,
thirteen year old looking 20 year old was what the words 'Riot Grrrl' would be
translated as they didn't want it' (Spirit 1). The mainstream media-what seemed
like the best medium for communication, and the best way to spread 'girl-love'-
had failed. While lots of girls had been inspired by the idea of Riot Grrrl
after having heard about it through a magazine or a television show, they began
to question, challenge, create, demand...Others have learned nothing more than a
hot, new, cute way to dress.
Riot Grrrl activities includes the annual Pussystock festival in New York
City, National Riot Grrrl conventions all over the country, and the distribution
of fanzines. Riot Grrrl conventions hold gatherings of over 100 young women from
all over the country who come together to empower themselves and each other.
During these conventions, girls have the opportunity to meet other girls, share
fanzines, perform in their all-girl bands, perform spoken-word pieces, talk,
scream, cry, laugh, complain, enlighten, and educate though workshops that focus
on several issues, including rape, racism, sexuality, and animal rights (many
Riot Grrrls are vegan-strict vegetarians).
Fanzines are filled with girlish drawings and cartoons; poems and dreams;
music, book, and other fanzine reviews, and vegetarian recipes. Fanzines are an
opportunity to express fully without fear of judgement. They are also a way to

Lately, I've been getting quite a few great zines...An
explosion, if you will. And what I've got to say about them
is that they all are incredible. Everyone's got something to
say, everyone is motivated to make change, everyone is excited,
ready to get involved, make a difference. And they have.
Just by going out and doing a zine says something-it means
that this thing called 'empowerment' is in effect. Time to make
a statement. And it ain't no feeble attempt. These zines scream
'I AM MAKING A DIFFERENCE.' How much more rad can it get? I'm
excited to find out...(38)

Through meetings and fanzines, Riot Grrrls have created their own support
system, who are there for each other's survival and well-being.
Due to class and race, although somewhat mixed, the majority of Riot Grrrls
are White and recognize that they are 'privileged'. Through the advantage of
education, Riot Grrrls are aware of a vital survival tool: expression. By
getting out their frustrations, shame, hopelessness, and rage, through singing,
drawing, performing 'spoken word' and especially writing can be a catharsis
(healing process). '...Our rage is our power don't let it fade don't let it die
feed it to your daughters kill all confusion but teach her don't hate too easily
because hate cancels out the power rage supplies.' (Wilson 3). Rage can be
defined as a feeling of intense anger. Anger can be defined as a feeling of
great annoyance as the result of rage. One may ask what do girls under twenty
have to be angry about? There are a lot of girls who feel like outcasts, with no
one to relate to. These young women see hate around them and are angry about it.
They want to end rape, violence, prejudism, homophobia, and sexism. With Riot
Grrrl, they are finding out something vital: that it's okay to be angry (hence
the grrr in Grrrls). One girl says that she doesn't need to prove herself worthy
of respect:

Okay I've had it and the keys of my typewriter will feel
the anger and rage that you should be receiving right now.
But you have no clue. You probably never will-but that
won't stop me. I can scream on paper when you brush me off,
when you bind my tongue... I won't shut up. I won't be
intimidated. I WILL tell you when you are hurting ME, when
you hurt ALL girls with what you say and do. I WILL tell
you NOT to use words like slutwhorebitch. I WILL NOT shut
my mouth just so you can be nice and secure in your opinion,
an opinion which includes sexist jokes, racist remarks,
homophobic comments, gender pride, oppressive ideology,
and blind hate blind hate blind hate. You know who you are
you because when you read this you are thinking that this
WHAT SHE IS TALKING ABOUT ANYWAYS. Yeah, you know exactly who
you are. You aren't all of mankind, or one person alone,
but you make up a big and power-hold-ing part of society...
It's about respect. And no I won't shut up. (Carlip 40)

In addition to rage, it is clear that a lot of girls continually feel
disrespected, especially by acts of violation and humiliation. These acts come
in all forms, mental, physical, and verbal abuse, and rape. One out of three
women will be raped in her lifetime and four out of five victims know their
attacker. These are the facts Riot Grrrls are painfully aware of:

listen up, daddy, and listen good. you broke my heart,
daddy. you ruined my life. you keep us women under
control and you think your male power will keep you outta
trouble. i hate you. if i thought i could get away with
killing you, i would. not just for me, for mom and for
all the other women you mindfuck daily. you better watch<...

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