• THE SHIELD

RIOT GRRRLS: "The Feminist Movement That Defined an Era "By: Mikyla Bethune



When talking about feminism or empowerment of women many look towards figures like Kurt Cobain, Lady Gaga, and others. However, their attitudes weren’t necessarily new, but were instead a much more popularized version of a movement that has its roots in the 1970s. Riot Grrrls started out as a very small movement as the offset of punk rock, early in the seventies. Riot Grrrls rose in part from the discrimination and the intolerance faced by many women in punk circles. At first they were a very small minority. However, by the end of the 1990s, women who subscribed to the movement became a major factor in music genres both in and outside of the United States.



Akin to many other grassroots movements, Riot Grrrls has its own foundation. Many have traced the formation of Riot Grrls to the early 1970s when punk began as a mainstream genre. The disenfranchised women that were left out of this cultural movement started a movement of their own. While it was a microscopic group, it was spearheaded by the likes of acts like Siouxsie Sioux, The Slits, The Pink Slips, and many others. Many brought attention to very uncomfortable social and political subjects such as sexism, workplace discrimination, and sexual assault, just to name a few. Although they never gained an extensive following, they broke the mold for acts that were to follow.



The eighties proved to be an empowering decade for women. While they were still objectified and discriminated against they still were considered a prominent part of the decade. This was aided and facilitated by MTV who gave them screentime during their programming. Bands and groups that advertised themselves as being just as capable as men would go on to dominate a lot of the decade. Acts such as Wendy O’Williams, Girlschool, Joan Jett, Lita Ford, and many others promoted this persona of being just as aggressive and assertive as many of the other popular hard rock and metal bands of the time.



In the nineties while metal music wasn’t as popular as it was in the previous decade, the Riot Grrrl Movement did not die. Instead with the rise of grunge and alternative music many riot grrrl bands adopted the sound and became well-known and valued in their respective genres. Bands and acts such as Hole, Courtney Love, L7, Sonic Youth, Bikini Kill, Alanis Morissette, along with many others promoted the idea of sexual liberation with female dominance and empowerment. Acts like these were popularized so much that they eventually earned the name Foxcore as a joke towards the female fronted bands that were rather domineering and ‘foxy’ in nature. This is exemplified in songs such as Miss World, Rebel Girl, You Oughta Know, along with many others.


In the early 2000s Riot Grrrl was on a decline. While bands like t.A.T.u. tried to keep to spirit of the movement alive with songs like All the Things She Said and All About Us it was for the most part in vain. While, both songs were massive hits in their own rights and promoted equal rights for lesbian and other LGBTQ peoples, no other musicians really took this stance since. Despite this decline in many feminist based bands the movement still lives on in spirit. Pussy Riot for example is a Russian band that gladly explores themes similar to their predecessors. Despite being falsely imprisoned by Russian-State officials they still make music to this day protesting the horrid lack of human rights in their home country.




The feminist movement in music led to a seismic shift in music for a few decades. Not only were music consumers gifted with a plethora of good music to choose from, but also noted a shift in points of view for females around the globe. Despite the Riot Grrrl era being long gone, it still leaves a legacy behind of great perspectives, talented artists, and female empowerment. When they talk, I hear the revolution. These rebel girls are the queens of my world.

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