COMM 4602 Chapter Notes - Chapter n/a: Riot Grrrl, Diy Ethic, Alternative Media

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July 28 th
Reading #1 – “We Are The Revolution”: Riot GrrL Press, Girl Empowerment, and
DIY Self-Publishing
Punk rock emerged in the late 20th century as a major disruptive force within both
the established music scene and the larger capitalist societies of the industrial
Punk was generally characterized by its anti-status quo disposition, a
pronounced DIY ethos, and a desire for dis-alienation (resistance to the multiple
forms of alienation in modern society)
A significant avenue for DIY intervention was self-publishing, particularly with
“zines” – independently created publications, usually handcrafted and
This essay explores the development of DIY self-publication as it related to Riot
Grrrl, a movement that developed in the early 1990s by young women
challenging the sexism of North American punk scenes
By focusing on Riot Grrrl Press, this article offers a corrective to mainstream
media misrepresentations of the movement, as well as scholarly works on Riot
Grrrl that focus almost exclusively on its musical production
The article argues that the Riot Grrrl punk bands were only one aspect of Riot
Grrrl’s overall purpose and goal
Riot Grrrl was committed to girl empowerment and self-representation
Central to these goals was the creation of alternative media and DIY self-
Punk and Riot Grrrl
The term “punk” first emerged regularly in accepted terminology in the late 1970s
with regards to the music scene in NYC’s lower east side, which included bands
such as the Ramones, Television, Blondie, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and
Punk music and style gained international attention largely through the
emergence of a scene in the UK, particularly in London, specifically around the
well-publicized antics of the Sex Pistols
The UK punk style also drew from subcultures, from skinheads, mods, rude boys,
glam rockers, as well as reggae and rockabilly
The punk scene that emerged out of Britain and New York quickly spread and
evolved, and major punk scenes were created in Washington, L.A, as well as in
cities and small towns across the globe
Punk provided a surge of new voices unprecedented in the geopolitics of popular
culture – a surge of voices that, for a time, made a weird phrase like the
geopolitics of popular culture seem like a natural fact
Punk, like all musical genres, has mutated and fragmented
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Within the punk community, attempts to define the term often invite scorn and
Over time, punk began to assume a conspicuously masculine identity
The initial punk scene was extremely diverse, drawing in males, females,
transgendered individuals, straights, and homosexuals
Numerous bands contained female members and all-female bands abounded
After several years, punk became less hospitable to women as the scene
reflected some of larger society’s patriarchal tendencies
While the initial punk movement of the late-1970s reflected a disruption of the
male/masculine culture of traditional rock and roll, the scene by the late 1980s
was largely male-dominated and marked by pronounced sexism in some cases
Many women in the American punk community found themselves pushed to the
margins of their own scene
By the late 80s, early 90s, a female-led backlash to the male appropriation of the
punk scene was underway
This move of female empowerment aimed at reclaiming the multi-gendered
spaces of the initial punk movement was most clearly manifested in what
became known as the Riot Grrrl movement
Riot Grrrl came into existence in 1991 – a feminist zine
Female-only Riot Grrrl meetings included zine makers, activists, artists,
musicians, and members of the punk community in their teens and early twenties
From July 31st to August 2nd in 1992 Riot Grrrl (DC) held a national convention,
which brought girls from all over the country together to discuss issues central to
the movement at the time: sexual identity, self-preservation, racism awareness,
surviving sexual abuse, and whether Riot Grrrls “fit or don’t fit into the punk
Many of the convention participants went on to create new Riot Grrrl chapters in
their home cities
By 1993, weekly Riot Grrrl meetings were being held in a dozen cities across the
By this time the movement had also extended to Europe
“We’re not trying to make money or get famous; we’re trying to do something
important, to network with grrrls all over, to make changes in our lives and the
lives of other grrrls”
Riot Grrrl’s main contribution to feminist change was its persistent opposition to
the mainstream media and its call for women and girls to publicly express
Riot Grrrl Olympia created a radio show and a television program in addition to
their music and zines
Individual “riot grrrls” created spoken word performances, art projects, and short
Riot grrrls could often be seen writing provocative messages on their bodies in
permanent marker
Spray-painting feminist slogans on public property was another common Riot
Grrrl tactic
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“Instead of tirelessly insisting on the right to be called ‘women’, as mainstream
feminism has long been advocating, riot grrrls foreground girl identity in its
simultaneous audacity and awkwardness – and not just girl, but a defiant ‘grrrl’
identity that roars back at the dominant culture”
Many felt that the mainstream media was misrepresenting, if not outright
subverting, the message of the movement
Punk and DIY Self-Publishing:
In the spring of 1993, the zine distribution network Riot Grrrl Press was formed
Members of Riot Grrrl Press worked outside jobs while also running the press in
their spare time
While the founders of Riot Grrrl Press lacked the funds for copy machines and
computers, they maintained a connection with a Riot Grrrl employed by the
photocopy chain Kinko’s Copies – this provided them with the access to state-of-
the-art copy machines and computers at reduced prices and sometimes for free
The creating of Riot Grrrl Press was part of an established tradition of DIY self-
publishing within punk
From its conception, punk seeks to challenge and reject the world as it is
“The whole concept of punk was something that was against whatever seemed
normal or whatever seemed kind of handed down. There was no set of rules, no
set of expectations, and that it always challenges the status quo”
Punk was also dedicated to the process of dis-alienation
For many youth, politics and economics appeared as distant, uncontrolled, alien
Punk offered an attractive response to the dominant culture, just as punk was an
attractive vehicle for feminist-minded women in the Riot Grrrl movement
For many, punk had offered resources for participation and access
The two elements of dis-alienation and anti-establishment thought have resulted
in the embrace of a DIY ethos, which reflects an intentional transformation of
punks from consumers of the mass media to agents of cultural production
An example of a DIY ethos would be zines, as they carried similar messages,
informing readers how to play chords, make a record, distribute that record, and
book their own shows
While the Riot Grrrl movement inspired countless girls and boys to pick up
instruments and to sing about their lives, the movement was also heavily
engaged in DIY self-publishing zines
Zines first emerged in the 20th century among fans of science fiction
As an underground vehicle, fanzines immediately provided opportunities for
females to participate in ways they couldn’t in the traditional, masculine world of
professional publishing
The unprofessional natures allowed for a great deal of flexibility in interpreting
approaches to authorship, craft-honing, and audience: the high rate of
participation by women, when compared to professional participation in comics
and sci-fi publishing
When punk emerged in the 70s, zines were quickly embraces as part of the DIY
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