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Where Have All The Riot Grrrls Gone?

Teri Bildstein Published On: 18-03-2015
Where Have All The Riot Grrrls Gone?

In the 90s, it was hard to escape the sight of young women in Riot Grrrl gear. They were influencing style, music, and other areas of popular culture.  But where are they now?

What is a Riot Grrrl?

In short, they were feminists. Feminism in America has led to many opportunities, as well as many controversies. It is easiest to explain when examining the movement as having three waves -

The first wave could be described as a fight for freedom for opportunity. Beginning in the 1800’s, this wave emerged to expand women’s roles outside of the home. Women wanted the same opportunities to work and vote as men.

The second wave of feminism could be explained as a fight for freedom from oppression. In the 60’s, along with other minority groups, women began demanding equal rights in all aspects of their lives. The fight for social equality opened debates regarding sexual and reproductive rights and gender oppression.       


BECAUSE I believe with my wholemindbody that girls constitute a revolutionary soul force that can, and will change the world for real.  

~The Riot Grrrl Manifesto

Kathleen Hanna and the rest of Bikini Kill were part of what has been defined as the third-wave of feminism. They declared themselves Riot Grrrls and joined the fight against the objectification of women.

The Riot Grrrl movement began as a feminist revolution designed to alter the way women viewed themselves in the world. They wanted women to stop asking for change and start demanding equal rights; not just for themselves, but for everyone.  

Unlike the first two waves, Riot Grrrls and other third-wave feminists have faced additional challenges from within their own ranks. This battle is not as clearly defined as the first two waves and even self identified participants bicker over the details of their mission.  


Photo courtesy of The Feminist eZine

Riot Grrrl Tactics

Following the example of the bands they admired, Riot Grrrls used art and literature to become informed and share knowledge with others.   Since the main mission was to remove stigmas attached to stereotypes; conversation was their ultimate weapon.  Whether or not solutions were found, they felt that having their issues acknowledged and discussed was progress for the greater good.

Much to the dismay of the first two waves, Riot Grrrls were known for using vulgarities and displaying their bodies in a manner that many consider provocative.  Their stated purpose is to reclaim the words that have been used to shame them and to show that women’s bodies are not the reason for crimes against women.  Nothing worn or said should be considered an invitation to harassment or crime.

Where did they go?

As the 90s faded, music trends changed, and bands like Bikini Kill became a memory. Grunge was now seen through the pastel lenses of soft grunge and the Riot Grrrls grew up.   

But did they give up?

Though the uniform has changed, the Riot Grrrl movement is alive and well in the hearts of a new generation. Despite a reduction in press, the original Riot Grrrls are still making music and speaking out at public engagement. Blogs and sites like Jezebel are able to reach more readers than their zine predecessors.

Slut Walk

Slut Walk Photo Courtesy of The Daily Pennsylvanian

And a new crop of celebrity feminists have arrived to fill the combat boots of those who started the current wave they are riding.   

Miley Cyrus Free The Nipple

Miley Cyrus Photo courtesy of Flavorwire

Pussy Riot

Pussy Riot Photo courtesy of Human Rights First

What many see as one of the most tempestuous times in American history is actually the ideal time for change. Solutions can not be found until problems are acknowledged. This generation has seen some of the most controversial discussions on sexual harassment and crimes against women, and equality for all is now a debate at the highest levels of our national government.   

The Riot Grrrls have not gone anywhere. They are still here. They are still fighting. And they are winning.

Have you ever considered yourself a Riot Grrrl?   Do you think the entire idea of modern feminism is rubbish? We would love to here your comments!

Headline photo courtesy of ToM