"We're not anti-boy. We're pro-girl." -Molly Neuman
Everyone can agree that the riot grrrl genre has its roots in the late '70s punk movement - although the punk scene was heavily male-dominated, there were a few bands who influenced riot grrrl (i.e. Patti Smith, the Slits, the Raincoats, the Runaways, X-Ray Spex, the Plastic Ono Band).
In Olympia, Washington, the early '90s, the foundation for the whole "riot grrrl revolution" was growing; a community was being formed through the distribution of self-published fanzines and the do-it-yourself approach to playing music ("Learn how to not play your instrument"). Among the bands formed at this time were Bratmobile and Bikini Kill.
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 also played briefly in Bratmobile. She was discussing the recent Mount Pleasant riots in Washington, D.C. following a racial shooting incident. Jen wrote, "This summer's going to be a girl riot." Eventually the words were flipped around to "riot grrrl."
In 1991, Olympia-based K Records held a music festival called the International Pop Underground Convention (IPU). It was held in Olympia over a span of five days (August 20-25). The first night of the convention was entitled "Love, Rock, Revolution Girl-Style Now" and featured all-girl bands (Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy, Lois Maffeo, Nikki McClure, 7 Year Bitch, Jean Smith of Mecca Normal, and Suture and the Wondertwins - both of which included Kathleen Hanna as a member).
The riot grrrl movement was decidedly underground, releasing music on independent record labels like Kill Rock Stars, K, and Chainsaw.
Soon enough, the media caught wind of the goings-on in Olympia and started to cover the movement. Ironically, riot grrrl was featured in mainstream magazines like Newsweek and Cosmopolitan, the big glossy magazines that the original zines were the very antithesis of. They 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 blatant misrepresentation and subjugation of the original riot grrrl message.
By the mid-1990s, riot grrrl had died down considerably. However, current bands like the Gossip cite various riot grrrl acts as inspiration.