Not so long ago, and even to some extent today, music was and still is believed to have a gender. It’s weird, isn’t it? This unwritten rule/idea that certain styles of music can only be performed by or listened to by a certain gender. In the 1990’s, punk was considered to be for the boys. It’s loud, it’s angry and it requires strength and fire in its delivery, and to be at the receiving end. These traits are considered as being masculine.
However, punk has always been political. Punk talks about current events and likes to get angry about it. Girls can do that too. It was ironic that in this case, punk that shouted about the injustices of the world then excluded females from doing the same‚giving us women even have more of a right to be angry!
In Washington, a group of teenage girls realized this, and arrived kicking and screaming. Known as the Riot Grrrls, they became a tight knit family who created a safe place for other girls to make music that was everything against what they were expected to be: quiet, innocent, naive and passive.
The Riot Grrrls wanted to challenge these dominant ideas. A dominant idea is something that is accepted as normal and therefore right. Like how the color blue is associated with boys, and pink with girls. This isn’t written down anywhere as a rule, but just accepted.
So the Riot Grrrls played their instruments loudly and sang with vengeance about their sexuality and desires. They created fanzines that featured content made by girls, for girls. They spoke about politics and womanhood and relationships openly in a way that taught and reassured. Wearing dark clothing that was often ripped and revealing of their bodies, or big boots with feminine delicate dresses, the girls played on contradiction and expectation. They made a statement that they wrote their own rules, and they had no limit.
Part of the third wave of feminism, the movement sees that equality still applies to women; even if they’re not acting or looking like others want them to. It states that people are people and every being, regardless of gender, should be treated with the same respect.
Also, when the Riot Grrrls played live shows, they’d follow a “women to the front” policy, so that females could enjoy the music at the barrier, let loose, have fun and not fear harassment. We still see this today from the activism group, Girls Against.
Although the Riot Grrrl movement didn’t manage to completely conquer the world and wave a wand and make everything equal, they did manage to challenge the way that people thought about music. It was that strength to know that negative press was going to come their way, it was the passion that flooded into their music, it was the community that pulled together and stood up for what they believed that still remains a legacy today. The values that they implanted in the music world have been graciously received by many other female artists that have followed their lead.
A common misconception when looking at the Riot Grrrls and feminists in general, is that they hate men. Many have scoffed “why not use the word equality instead of FEMinism, if that’s what it means?” These many forget that the whole of existence is umbrella termed under “MANkind.” So we thank you, Riot Grrrls, and forever will follow in your lead.