"We're not anti-boy. We're pro-girl." —Molly Neuman, Bratmobile
Everyone can probably agree that the riot grrrl genre has its musical roots in '70s punk rock. Although the punk scene was heavily male-dominated, there were a few bands who influenced the sound that would later be known as "riot grrrl": the Patti Smith Group, Yoko Ono/the Plastic Ono Band, the Slits, the Raincoats, the Runaways, and X-Ray Spex.
In the early '90s in Olympia, Washington, the foundation for the "riot grrrl revolution" was growing; a community was forming through the distribution of self-published fanzines ("zines") and a do-it-yourself approach to playing and creating music. Among the bands formed at this time were Bratmobile and Bikini Kill. (It is important to note that many bandmembers did not refer to themselves as "riot grrrl," or label their bands as such.)
The term "riot grrrl" came from two sources. Tobi Vail had already been writing about "angry grrrls" in her zine, Jigsaw. The word "riot" came from a letter that was written to Allison Wolfe by Jen Smith, who had played briefly in Bratmobile. She was discussing the recent Mount Pleasant riot in Washington DC that followed after the shooting of a Salvadorean man at a Cinco de Mayo celebration. Jen wrote, "This summer's going to be a girl riot," and these words eventually were transposed as "riot grrrl."
In 1991, Olympia-based K Records held a five-day music festival called the International Pop Underground Convention (IPU). The first night of the festival was entitled "Love Rock Revolution Girl Style Now" and featured performances from bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy, 7 Year Bitch, and Mecca Normal. This legendary lineup came to be known as "Girl Night."
Before long, the media caught wind of the goings-on in Olympia and started to cover the movement. Now riot grrrl was being featured in magazines like Newsweek and Cosmopolitan, glossy mainstream magazines that the original zines were the very antithesis of. The media began attaching the "riot grrrl" moniker to female-fronted acts like the Breeders and Veruca Salt, who, in actuality, had nothing to do with the Olympia scene. This led to various riot grrrls calling for a "press block" in 1992-1993 due to the media's misrepresentation of the original riot grrrl message.
Although most of the bands attached to riot grrrl had broken up by the mid-1990s, the music they created still resonates today. Current bands like the Gossip and Kitten Forever cite riot grrrl as inspiration.
Kathleen Hanna offers these words of wisdom to girls who ask her how they can resurrect the riot grrrl movement: "Don't revive it - make something better." [source]
||If you wanna learn more about riot grrrl and its origins, check out Girls to the Front by Sara Marcus.