Riot Grrrl FAQ

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Riot Grrrl FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Question 1: Who started the riot grrrl movement?

Answer: As far as I know, it started in Washington, DC in 1990 by a bunch of girls who started having meetings to talk about issues that were bothering them and to start bands and fanzines together. Molly, Erin, and Allison from Bratmobile were involved with this. In fact, Molly Neuman was the one who coined the term “riot grrrl” as a joke, but somehow the title caught on. There was never a set agenda made by these girls. Soon after, Washington State, most notably, Olympia. After a heavy circulation of riot grrrl oriented fanzines circulated the country, so did upstarting riot grrrl chapters.

Question 2: What exactly constitutes a “riot grrrl band”?

Answer: This is a question I’m going to have a hard time answering because I’ve never actually heard of what you may think of as “riot grrrl bands” (e.g. Bikini Kill, The Lunachicks, L7, Babes in Toyland, and so on…) call themselves such. In fact, I’ve heard a lot of those bands reprimand journalists for calling them “riot grrrl bands”. Members of Bikini Kill and Bratmobile did have ties to the movement. So did Lois Maffeo, Kim Gordon, and Courtney Love. But they never necessarily wanted their music to get dubbed as “riot grrrl”. It’s almost as though if you were in a female or predominantly female band in the early 90’s, especially, you’d get called a “riot grrrl band”. But it’s not a form of music, contrary to popular belief. It’s a feminist movement.

Question 3: Is Courtney Love a riot grrrl?

Answer: No. She was very interested in it when she first heard about it, and she spread the word to everyone. Many riot grrrls didn’t like the fact that she spread it to the mainstream media, which was seen as the enemy. At the end of 1991, she had told Melody Maker that the riot grrrls really made her year, in all seriousness. By 1992, she had written a couple songs with anti-riot grrrl lyrics since she had been ostrasized from the group. She no longer identifies or involves herself with riot grrrl at all.

Question 4: What is the definition of a riot grrrl?

Answer: There is no set definition. Every riot grrrl has a different definition for it, and that’s one thing that makes it so different than other social movements- the personal freedom that’s involved.

Question 5: How does one start a riot grrrl chapter?

Answer: If you already have a group of friends together who would be interested, simply find a time and place to have meetings, and go for it! If not, then make flyers about it. Make sure to include yr name and address, phone number, fax number, e-mail address, or some way to contact you. Post them anywhere you can in yr area. Run ads in fanzines or even the newspaper. And never underestimate word of mouth! When people contact you about it, make sure to take down their information, too so you know how to get ahold of them once you want to start having meetings.

Question 6: Are boys allowed in riot grrrl?

Answer: Yes! Equality can not be achieved unless effort is put forth by everyone! Therefore, boys are encouraged to get involved with riot grrrl.

Question 7: What do you have to do to be a riot grrrl?

Answer: All you have to do is simply proclaim yrself as one.

Question 8: What are the beliefs of riot grrrl?

Answer: We believe in girl love, not girl competition… supporting each other and sisterhood and all that sweet stuff. We believe in fighting against discrimination based on gender, race, class, sexual orientation, religion, and appearance at all costs. We believe in creating our own means of getting these messages across such as starting fanzines, bands, and making stickers rather than using the mainstream media as a tool.

Question 9: What does “grrrl” mean – why not “girl”?

Answer: “Grrrl” and “Grrl” sound more powerful when you say them and “Girl” does not. The terms “grrrl” and “grrl” were started in some of the first early riot grrrl zines ever started in the early 1990’s.

Question 10: Who are the original riot grrrls?

Answer: Even though none of the original riot grrrls consider themselves the “starters of riot grrrl”, there are some ladies that started the riot grrrl movement. Kathleen Hanna, Tobi Vail, Kathi Wilcox, Allison Wolfe, Molly Neuman, Erin Smith, and Carrie Brownstein are a few of them.

Question 11: What do riot grrrls want?

Answer: Riot grrrls want respect and equality. They want to be heard. They want to and they do encourage and empower others.

Question 12: Do you have to listen to Bikini Kill to be a riot grrrl?

Answer: You don’t have to listen to Bikini Kill to be a riot grrrl. You don’t have to listen to riot grrrl music to be a riot grrrl. As long as you agree with the riot grrrl philosophy, the music you listen to has nothing to do with being a riot grrrl.

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