Today, few topics raise the ire of so many (one way or another) than the topic of feminism. Whether for or against, moderate or extreme, proto or post-colonial, it’s a guaranteed hot topic, and like most hot topics, it has a place in the punk movement. Enter Riot Grrrl: feminism incarnate, applied directly to the six-string guitar.
Though not erupting until the early 1990s, the seeds of Riot Grrrl were sewn way back in the days of the leather jacket in the ’80s and late ’70s. All-girl troupe The Runaways were an early example, with tracks like Queens of Noise sporting enough power chords to make Slipknot cry. For lead of the band Joan Jett however, even that wasn’t enough: she stomped the same footsteps alone afterwards with such world-famous storm hits as Bad Reputation.
Fast-forward to the ’90s, later punk is in full swing. NOFX were making us laugh, Pennywise were making us cry, and Riot Grrrl stepped up to make us think about women – or at least enthusiastically fist-pump. Come 1993, Bikini Kill was one of the genre’s first heavy-hitters with such masterpieces as Rebel Girl, which I personally dare you to get out of your head in the next 12 hours, as well as such riot-stirrers as Double Dare Ya. As it happens, just last week Bikini Kill re-released their 1991 demo tape with a bunch of new, unreleased tracks thrown in.
the sad truth of Riot Grrl is that it was a rather short-lived movement. The genre simply didn’t work up enough momentum to carry on into today
Closely related to Riot Grrrl was the queercore movement – clue’s in the name. Just as Riot Grrrl revolved around feminism, so did queercore revolve around LGBT activism, and both genres had a lot of social crossover, as well as showing up around the same time. Such hardcore releases as Drag King from Sister George and All Women Are Bitches by Fifth Column did little to promote the genre’s mainstream popularity, but man, they sure were fun.
Beyond that, the sad truth of Riot Grrl is that it was a rather short-lived movement. The genre simply didn’t work up enough momentum to carry on into today, and many of the hits back then were only released on independent cassettes in small circulation. That said, there are still great tunes buried in the genre’s annals, and these echoes can be found if you look around enough – check out the gem below by Pussycat Trash.
Perhaps the message is more important than the music anyway – so said punk veterans Crass, after all – and nobody can say that feminism and Riot Grrrl’s message is not alive and well.