Saturday, 19 November 2011

Read: Not Every Girl Is A Riot Grrrl

"Women should be heroes for everybody, not just for other women." - Amy Klein

Riot Grrrl has always been a tricky term to get to grips with, as it covers so much and yet is also an extremely precise movement in time, the timeline of which is slightly blurred. During its peak I was still playing Barbies and obsessing over Top Of The Pops, so I'm by no means in any position to provide a full history, but in my view, Riot Grrrl gave permission to women to be themselves, to eradicate dated attitudes of a woman's place in society and encourage women to speak out about their experiences and problems, and to support each other.

It was a movement that took place in gig venues, in social spaces and out on the streets, discussed in meetings and talked about in zines. It was the coming together of a group of people fed up with being sidelined because of their gender, especially in the so-called open minded punk community. It was the reclaiming of an individual's identity and a proactive, supportive outlook that empowered women and was another sharp attack on the sexism that still reared its head everyday, subtly or otherwise.

It's difficult to discuss briefly as there are so many elements to Riot Grrrl, and books such as Sarah Marcus's 'Girls To The Front' and 'Riot Grrrl: Revolution Girl Style Now!' do a brilliant job of detailing the views, events and people involved.

But as word of Riot Grrrl spreads further and further over time, the true meaning of the title can become skewed and altered, resulting in almost a caricature of its former self. Riot Grrrl is Bikini Kill and Heavens To Betsy, but it isn't a specific genre of music. In fact, it isn't solely a musical movement at all, but one that brings together the topics of art, music, politics, gender, sexuality, abuse and a host of other issues. And yet, female musicians are finding it harder and harder to shake off the tag.

By creating this 'other' woman, who doesn't fit the traditional stereotype, Riot Grrrl has become the badge placed upon them. And with it comes a stereotype all of its own. In my own experience, even the most liberal and open-minded of people have presumed that I'm a lesbian, just because a lot of my music collection is taken up with records made by women. This strange viewpoint also worryingly suggests that straight girls only listen to music made by men, which when you think about it, must mean that girls enjoy music only because they are attracted to the person making it... Don't get me wrong, I love The Pixies, but I don't feel the urge to jump Frank Black's bones, or to see Mark E. Smith in his birthday suit, thanks very much.

It's been on my mind for quite a while now, so I was pleased to read the 'Not Every Girl Is A Riot Grrrl' article by Lindsay Zoladz, published on Pitchfork a few days ago. In it, Lindsay discusses how nowadays, the comparison to Riot Grrrl can be detrimental to women, especially in music, because once again female musicians are labelled before they've even struck a chord.

Obviously being typecast as a Riot Grrrl isn't exactly the worst insult, but it's still lazily lumping an entire gender together rather than listening to the music being produced, and shows how limited our vocabulary for talking about women in music is. It was great to hear many women (including Grass Widow!) discussing their experiences with the term, and Amy Klein got it spot on, noting, "It shouldn't be sacrilege to say that a guitar player who happens to be female sounds like, say, J Mascis... And people should feel comfortable complimenting a 15-year-old guy, saying, 'Your playing sounds like Marnie Stern.' Women should be heroes for everybody, not just for other women."

Read the article in full here.

Kim Gordon reading the original Riot Grrrl manifesto:

No comments:

Post a Comment