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Not Every Girl Is A Riot Grrrl

I love riot grrrl. To think that women fused the history of feminism and punk rock music as well as created multiple safe spaces for women in american underground music scenes makes me so happy. However, not “every girl is a riot grrrl”, there were many faults with the movement. Fortunately due to the DIY culture being heavily documented by zines, we, as fourth wave feminists can recognise the faults and adapt riot grrrl to what it always should’ve been; inclusive.

By the word inclusive, I mean that everyone is welcome to enjoy the music, facilities and spaces created by and for riot grrrls. Whilst the grrrls used in-your-face politics and raised awareness to serious issues of third wave feminism such as rape and domestic violence, the movement was predominantly made up of middle class white women, which in 2016 is objectionable. Many women of colour have spoken about how they did not feel welcome within riot grrrl, but when the issue was brought up in conversation at one of the riot grrrl conventions in Olympia, Washington, the (white) girls dismissed it, saying it wasn’t their fault that riot grrrl wasn’t for women of colour. The white grrrls had created a movement and environment that only they could relate to. That of which ignores race and many individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community.

There were few lesbians and bisexuals in riot grrrl, but mostly bicurious women wanting to experiment in a safe space, and there were no documented trans people involved with the movement that we know of. This does not mean that riot grrrls were outrightly transphobic, or even that the movement itself was built upon transphobic views. But some post-riot grrrl bands (who are connected to the movement because of band members who were involved with riot grrrl years before) such as the Butchies and Le Tigre have performed at a trans-exclusive music festival called “Michfest”. The “womyn-born-womyn” rule that the creators abide by means that transgender people may not attend. When trans activists asked bands to boycott the festival because of it’s notorious transphobia, the bands refused and played anyway. Thus giving the members of Le Tigre and the Butchies a bad reputation, in which no members of either bands have addressed or apologised for.

Riot grrrl music was somewhat vocal about gay rights, for example a personally empowering lyric is that of Bikini Kill’s Suck My Left One, frontwoman Kathleen Hanna (who is bisexual) yells “we’ve got to show them we’re worse than queer”. Riot grrrl half-heartedly welcomed gay people, but the majority of the girls were cisgender and unaware of trans issues.
So no, not every girl is a riot grrrl, and not every riot grrrl is a girl. With diversity of race, gender and sexual orientation comes different music, different opinions and perspectives, different art. There is quite literally no downfall to making a movement inclusive and easily accessible to people of all intersections.

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