Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Riot grrrl (also frequently spelled riot grrl) is a form of hardcore punk rock music, known for its militant feminist stance. The genre first appeared in the early 1990s as an offshoot of alternative rock and punk music and as a response to prevalent attitudes of punk machismo, building also on a history of all-women bands.
With the rallying cry, "Revolution Girl Style Now!" bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile created a mini-movement to combat the male-dominance of the punk scene and, by extension, the rest of the world. Riot grrrl lyrics often address gender-related issues such as rape, domestic abuse, sexuality and female empowerment.
Riot grrl musicians were fiercely independent, and most shunned the major labels, sticking with indie labels like Kill Rock Stars. Like its contemporary, grunge music, riot grrrl arose in the fertile Seattle region and Olympia, Washington scene, though groups like Huggy Bear came from England, and others arose across the United States and United Kingdom, especially Washington D.C. The group Bikini Kill is widely considered the most representative of the sound and were the unofficial leaders of the genre.
Historically, the term stems from the all-female opening night of the International Pop Underground convention in Olympia, Washington on August 20, 1991. It was coined by Alison Wolfe (of Bratmobile) in response to a comment by Jean Smith (of Mecca Normal ) that, "We need to start a girl RIOT!"
Breaking out from the music, riot grrrl activities included national conventions in D.C., the Pussystock festival in New York City, and a slew of zines, notably Girl Germs , Satan Wears A Bra and Quit Whining , with the term quickly becaming a banner for action and ideas with a DIY empowerment ethic. Riot grrrl's momentum was supported by an explosion of self-published zines that covered a variety of feminist topics, frequently attempting to draw out the political implications of intensely personal experiences with sexism, mental illness, body image, sexual abuse, and homosexuality.
Much to their chagrin, the riot grrrls found themselves in the media spotlight during 1992, featured for dragging feminism into the mosh pit in magazines from Seventeen to Newsweek. This led to conflict within the riot grrrl community because many felt that "Riot grrrl" could not be defined; it meant too many things to too many people. Fallout from the media coverage led to resignations of people like Jessica Hopper, who was at the center of the Newsweek article. Riot grrrl leader Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill called that year for "a press block" and reporters from papers like the Seattle Times, Washington Post, and Houston Chronicle found themselves fleshing out riot grrrl articles by describing exactly the way in which various scenesters hung up on them.
Since most riot grrrl bands weren't very prolific, the movement's initial spark of enthusiasm faded after a few years, but it still continues to enjoy a lasting impact in indie culture. The movement's legacy lives on in bands such as Sleater-Kinney and in girl-positive independent music festivals such as Ladyfest .
Many of the women involved in Riot Grrrl are still active today. Kathleen Hannah is a member of Le Tigre, Kathie Wilcox is in the Casual Dots , and Bratmobile has recently released another album. Mainstream media outlets have been proclaiming the death of Riot Grrrl for the last ten years but the musicians and spirit of the movement endures today.
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