Rooting for a Riot: Riot Grrrl, Zines, and Loud Voices

By Amanda Cartigiano

Although the mainstream may not have understood or related to the sociology of the Riot Grrrl Movement, it spurred a serious cultural shift in the way women presented and liberated themselves in society. It’s possible that this movement caused other bands to also promote feminism, in a very different way, yes, but it didn’t just stop at Riot Grrrl. The feminist framework involved in the punk scene worked hard to eliminate persistent misogyny and bigotry. The reason why Kathleen Hanna has the word ‘slut’ written across her stomach is because she is ‘preparing’ for the objectification before the objectification even happens. The utility of the reclamation strategy began in the Summer of 1991 in Washington D.C., exactly twenty years prior to the SlutWalk rallies. Unfortunately, it’s become normal for women to accept the fact that they can be labeled as ‘sluts’, especially by men, so many apply it to themselves beforehand as a subversion of power.

Riot Grrrl can be viewed as a “girl power” icon even before the 90’s, (and by the 90’s I mean the Spice Girls). Riot Grrrl was part of the start of Third-wave feminism, a term derived from Rebecca Walker’s 1992 article, “Becoming the Third Wave. Third-wave feminism opened doors for young girls and women to embrace their creativity, their voices, and most importantly, intersectionality. At a time when girls were taught to be silent, Riot Grrrl demanded they scream (the three r’s symbolize a growl, rage). They stood before stages and sought to question, reclaim, and redefine the messages about gender, sexuality, beauty, and equality. With the advent of social media platforms, women were able to reach out to the LGBTQ community and other feminists of color who had previously been excluded from the conversation. Inclusivity made it easier for everyone to belong, to feel welcome in a place we never knew existed.  

The introduction of music, art, and literature as ways of expressing feminist belief systems was new and liberating. We learned how to be less restricting with who we were. We did less covering up and less shutting up. We had to do something to fight issues like gender violence and rape culture. We sought equality and demanded answers. If a man can ride the bus at 2:30 in the morning without worry, you better believe I want to do the same.  The name Riot Grrrl speaks for itself: to be loud, to cause a scene, a riot, and all for political, social, & cultural change.

Now, girls are expressing creativity with who they are, but speaking just isn’t cutting it. The girls within this movement carry with them a toolkit for involvement and participation. The zine is one of the most powerful forms of not only communication, but identity. Different forms of media, (music, art, literature) can act as a combination of the zine, and it certainly incorporates solidarity.

The zine is an incredible way to stay connected to feminism and other feminists, but because this is 2018, we’ve become a digital community. Look at us here at Slutmouth, for example. We are a compilation of voices and ideas, where we write and express for social and cultural change. We may be virtual, but I promise we’re still growling. Thank you, Riot Grrrl!