I haven’t been posting as much lately because I am the kind of person that is not quiet but speaks only when I really have something to say. (And I’m really hoping this blog post isn’t a mess of ideas. Don’t expect this to be well-written, but I feel the need to speak up and get these thoughts out there.) Mindless chatter bothers me; I’m all about comfortable silences. So, I’ve been thinking a lot about self-expression and creation. And during my late night conversations with Ben, we’ve been discussing how in order to create art, one has to be vulnerable and brave.
Since the movement has been getting a lot of press/attention the last year or so—it’s been about 20 years since it all began—riot grrl has been on my mind. More specifically, the bands Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, two of my favorite bands and the source of a lot of inspiration.
My interest in feminism stems from the love I have for my sisters and my mother and the really talented/inspirational female friends I have. How can I ignore music that is explicit in its feminist ties? This music is in my bones. I never forget about it. It’s just that I’m not used to the attention it’s been receiving in the press. I’m not used to there being a dialogue about this during these times.
I had a conversation with someone recently about Bikini Kill. She said, “I can’t listen to that stuff anymore. I used to. But it’s funny to me now.” I replied, “Not me. I love it. I’ve been listening nonstop since high school.” And she replied, “That’s ’cause you’re obsessed!”
That stayed with me.
Is it obsession? Or is it that I just truly found a genre of music that suits me? I’m going with the latter. Riot grrl is informative, aware, fun, and punk. I can’t think of another type of music that speaks to me more. Musical expertise isn’t the point of riot grrl—who cares?—the point is self-expression. Punk rock with a feminist agenda in a male-dominated scene.
That is brave, and I only like brave music.
I think it’s brave for any woman to pick up an instrument and play music because, let’s face it, women still aren’t really encouraged to play/write music. It’s definitely brave for women to get on stage and play feminist punk music in an environment that might reject them, either verbally or sometimes physically. I will respect that forever. As long as I live.
When I discovered riot grrl in high school, I mainly responded to the lo-fi sound. The lyrics sank in later. It was more of an intuitive draw to the music. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. As a male that felt out of place in the many skins/roles high school students try on, something about the music spoke to me. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that the lyrical content (and feminism in general) became clear to me. And that sealed the deal.
Finally, it wasn’t until this year that this quote made any sense to me: “In seeking specific technical information, we discover that behind the hysteria of male expertise lies the magic world of our unmade art.”
(Used with permission. From Johanna Fateman’s Tumblr.)
This is why the music is inspiring: faced with the challenges imposed by know-it-all Guitar Center meatheads (and meathead dudes, in general) and having to learn as you go along, these women created some great music that will inspire forever. I’m grateful for it.
But I can’t help but wonder about all the other great music/art that will never be made…
And just to clarify: I know I included Le Tigre in this, which wasn’t actually part of the riot grrl movement. But the band members’ ties to the movement are strong enough to be mentioned here.