The anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death was this past week. Thinking about this grunge legend and 90’s music icon got me thinking about other influential alternative music from the same time period. While Nirvana was busy smelling like teen spirit a different set of rockers were preaching political and powerful messages to girls through punk rock. The Riot Grrl music scene emerged during the early 90s and was a disjointed movement of girl-centric bands playing loud music, acting tough and preaching girl love. The movement reclaimed a place for girls in punk rock and music in general, which have largely been male dominated throughout history. Even though this movement is nearly 20 years old, I still find the music and messages from this era inspiring. I’m even trying to learn guitar now too because I realized that if these girls could make a band, I can too. The Riot Grrl scene was all about believing in yourself, supporting other women and girls and recognizing that women are strong, powerful and capable.
I have always liked the band Bikini Kill, arguably the most recognized and influential Riot Grrl band. Recently I read a book called “Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrl Revolution,” which explained the music and politics of the movement. I was able to understand the movement and the music through the book. Additionally though the spirit of the Riot Grrl movement can still be felt today despite the fact that influential Riot Grrl bands such as Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and Heavens to Betsy are no longer active. Reading the history of the movement made me realize how hard it can be for women to find a place in a male-dominated realm. These women who made bands and preached equality were often scrutinized and belittled by men and women alike. Even though the Riot Grrl movement made some strides for equality in alternative music there still isn’t full equality in music and other areas of culture. If you don’t believe me just scroll through Pitchfork’s album reviews and count the number of featured female artists and the number of female writers and contributors on the Pitchfork page.
However there has been a resurgence of girl bands lately and it’s made me really excited. Groups like the International Girl Gang Underground have emerged as a networking and promotion platform for girl bands. I wish more girls would pick up instruments and learn to play because there needs to be more equality when it comes music and performers. On April 15-17 an event called “Ladyfest” will be taking place in Easthampton. The event will be featuring workshops focusing on women in music and media. There will also be performances by bands with girls in them. Be sure to check it out if you’re looking to channel some 90′s punk rock feminism and listen to some new bands.