Punk Ass Bitches: 5 great tracks that capture Riot Grrrl.

Riot Grrrl was an underground punk-feminist movement that sprang out of Washington State and the Pacific North west in the early nineties.  I was around 14/15/16 when it exploded on the scene (to my shame, I never truly dived in) and remains one of the most exciting and explosive times in music for women.

Look at this manifesto. I mean holy hell!

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The last week or so I’ve been re-listening to some of the seminal tracks of the time, and on recommendation from a long-time friend and walking music encyclopedia have just finished The Punk Singer, a 2013 documentary on the life of Riot Grrrls best champion Kathleen Hanna. You should seek out a copy of this film asap.

Alongside urging woman to pick up guitars and make music it was an entire subculture encouraging a DIY Ethic, zine  making, art, political action, and activism. Incidentally, Zine making is having somewhat of a revival. (Rookie Mag, always on the pulse).

As it was jumped on and exploited by the music industry and the media, the Riot Grrrl ‘label’ was incorrectly applied to bands like No Doubt and the movement was eventually completely perverted in the mainstream. The result? Perhaps Girl Power & The Spice Girls?

The movement was at it’s best and most pure in those early days, but it’s spirit lives on, with events such as Boston’s Riot Grrrl Day, and there are around 10 regular Riot Grrrl meetings world wide. Also you can pick up this 2010 book from Sara Marcus: Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution.

And there are plenty of amazing artists today who have been inspired by those times: Kitten Forever, Skating Polly, The Shondes and The Ethical Debating Society to name a few. And there’s plenty of stuff to dig through in Hannah’s later work. (Le Tigra being a personal fave. Try to get this track out of your head!)

Riot Grrrls and those incredible woman created a safe space for other woman to shout, scream, make music, share, and just be.  The sound was loud and chaotic and the message blunt, angry, and celebratory.

Going back through this time makes me want to do better as a writer and a feminist and I want to see how I can help inspire young woman to find their voice.

I leave you with this great quote from Hanna:

“Not every girl is a Riot Grrrl. Not every girl has to be into it. They can hate it, and hate it so much that they create something else that’s great.”

1. Bikini Kill – Rebel Girl

2. Bratmobile – Love Thing

3. Babes in Toyland – He’s My Thing

4. L7 – Wargasm

5. Heavens to Betsy – Terrorist