The 1980s were a time when the music scene was primarily dominated by a misogynistic and masculine aesthetic and sound, an issue that was merely the spark to the Feminist bonfire that would slowly start to consume the industry for the next couple decades. The short-lived, but forever inspirational “Riot Grrrl” scene was ground zero. Not everyone knows what Riot Grrrl is, not even all punk enthusiasts know, but I personally believe that Riot Grrrl was a major part of the influential decade that was the 90s. It was the most important Feminist movement in music history.
Punk and Hardcore dominated the 80’underground music scene. Bands like Black Flag, The Descendants, Minutemen, and Bad Brains just scratch the surface of the venue packing artists that consumed the alternative market of the decade. However, a very important hardcore band surfaced the scene in the early 80s, Minor Threat. Minor Threat was lead by Ian MacKaye, a visionary for the scene and one of the most important players towards the Creation of Riot Grrrl. He produced the band Bikini Kill’s first EP in 1991, which is considered to be a definitive start to the scene. Bikini Kill, Heavens To Betsy, and Bratmobile dominated the early start of the scene, while other bands started taking over, ultimately spreading the scene across the nation.
Zines were also a major key part to the spread of the Riot Grrrl scene and they are a major part of how we know so much about this scene because of the documentation it offers. “Jigsaw” was considered to be the first Zines to document the start up of feminist punk in 1988, the author being Tobi Vail, member of Bikini Kill. Zines became a major part of this newly found feminist scene because of its discussion relating to hard topics like Eating Disorders, Rape, Sexual Violence, etc. A lot of girls at the time took a lot of refuge and comfort in this environment because they felt like they were being heard, so much so that workshops and conventions were being formed for Riot Grrrls.
Decline and Impact
Unfortunately the Riot Grrrl scene started to fade away only several years into its reign. By 1996 all the major and original Riot Grrrl acts had broken up and most of the other acts started to die by 2000. However, some bands kicked on, Sleater Kinney making music all the way up to 2006. Although the actual movement of Riot Grrrl has been over for a good amount of the time, the impact of it still lasts to this day. There are many examples of amazing female artists in the underground and the surface of the music industry today, as well as a lot of politically charged music today. You could even say that we have more political and thought-provoking music today then we ever have. Riot Grrrl was also a big support in the foundation of Third-Wave Feminism which is the current state of Feminist culture we are in today.
Riot Grrrl is the most important Feminist movement in music history. Although short-lived, the bands and community started a revolution for women across the country and the globe, as well as establishing a new type of industry. There are even some modern Feminist-punk bands and they’re pretty great, I highly recommend looking into them as well as the bands from the past. I always believe that music is very important in life and this is some of the best music you can listen to. Riot Grrrl will always be important and will never be forgotten.