At this very moment, I have my favorite Babes in Toyland record playing with a flannel tied around my waist. However, I’ve noticed I’m not the only one feeling 90s nostalgia. These days more and more people are sporting all kinds of 90s fashion trends and listening to 90s alternative, grunge, and pop. I mean, Saved by the Bell even comes on MTV almost every weekend (and I happen to watch all three hours of it). All of this is great, but what 90s staple do I miss most? The Riot Grrrl movement.
The Riot Grrrl movement was the definition of punk rock feminism. It started in the early 90s around Olympia, Washington, and it quickly spread to the Seattle and Portland areas. Soon enough, it was a nationwide revolution for women’s rights. The faces of the revolution were women in music, particularly bands like Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, L7, Hole, and Babes in Toyland. The frontwomen of these bands, such as Kathleen Hanna, brought “girls to the front” both literally and politically.
These women confronted topics like slut-shaming, body-shaming, sexual harassment, and homophobia all while proving that women can rock out. Actually, they proved that women can do anything. They made some awesome girl power songs, they wore whatever they wanted on stage (Oh, Kathleen Hanna and her panties). They even wrote words like “slut” or “profit” on their skin with lipstick just to absorb the hate and prove a point that words wouldn’t stop them from fighting for their rights. These women didn’t care what hate they had to face or what people would think; all they cared about was getting out the message that women should be respected just as much as men.
The movement wasn’t artificial or for show. It wasn’t just about the babydoll dresses, crude posters, or the raspy punk vocalists who spread the word. The Riot Grrrl movement called for equality, independence, and freedom of creativity. Women set up chapters and had meetings, and feminism gained ground.
Girls were encouraged to make their own music as well as make their own zines instead of buying into the sexist propaganda of the big corporations. They wanted to have an entire medium of music and publications that was written by girls and for girls. The Riot Grrrl movement was a sisterhood where women were encouraged to come together and to stand up for one another. The goal was to start a revolution that would put an end to the patriarchy.
These days, the word feminism seems to leave a bitter taste in people’s mouths. That being said, it seems as though more women are watching what they say, or asking for less to avoid being a so-called “feminazi.” The Riot Grrrl approach was very in-your-face and upfront. There were no apologies for demanding or demonstrating equality. They wanted to push boundaries, they wanted to step on the toes of sexists, and they wanted to cause a scene.
Some say the movement fizzled out after the late 90s, and some could argue that bands like Hands off Gretel are still soaked in punk rock feminism. In any case, I think it’s about time for a girl power revival.