Leonard, Marion. Gender in the Music Industry: Rock, Discourse and Girl Power. Hampshire: Ashgate, 2007.
In this book, Marion Leonard discusses in detail the Riot Grrrl movement and its aftermath. She writes extensively on the legacy of Riot Grrrl – from the zines, to the music, to the use of the phrase “Girl Power”. Leonard argues that this message was utilised by groups like the Spice Girls to capitalize on Riot Grrrl’s success and message in a less-controversial, more marketable way. Leonard also discusses the transition of Grrrl zines to online communities, leading to the spread of the movement around the world, and an enduring group of followers for many years after. This book is very useful as it provides more detail and critical analysis that previous introductiory sources. Leonard traces the movement of “third-wave feminism” through the 1990s, and discusses in great detail the role that Riot Grrrl had to play. She debates about whether or not Riot Grrrl can be considered a true subculture. The argument Leonard arrives at is that the Riot Grrrl movement challenged the traditional idea of a subculture, and aimed to be a new, more inclusive version of one.
Gottlieb, Joanne, and Gayle Wald. “Smells Like Teen Spirit: Riot Grrrls, Revolution and Women in Independent Rock.” Critical Matrix 7.2 (1993) p.11-43
This article discusses in great detail the role of women in rock music, both leading up to and including the Riot Grrrl movement of the 1990s. It also discusses the nature of subcultures, and subculture theory, and reflects on work by both Simon Frith and Angela McRobbie. The authors of this article suggest that women and girls have been excluded from the major subcultures of the 20th century. They argue that this is due to their roles as “youth” being focused around staying inside and being prepared for marriage rather than hanging out in the street and in clubs, where most subcultural movements were focused. The suggestion is that girls hanging out in the street were, historically, thought to be prostitutes. Understanding this concept sheds light on, possibly, why Riot Grrrls were so focussed on demystifying female sexual experience, and taking their place in clubs and in the street, as well as reclaiming derogatory terms such as
“slut” and “whore” for their own empowerment. It also highlights why Riot Grrrl, as a subculture, has been so historically significant.
Belzer, Hillary. “Words + Guitar: The Riot Grrrl Movement and Third-Wave Feminism.” M.A. Diss. Georgetown University, 2004.
Belzer’s thesis “Words + Guitar: The Riot Grrrl Movement and Third-Wave Feminism” discusses how Riot Grrrl and its place in subcultural theory. She references Hebdige as the comprehensive resource for defining subcultures. Belzer claims that punk was the first subculture to take an “oppositional” stance to mainstream societal norms. She suggests that the original punk movement of the 1970s was appealing to women, because it allowed them to “break free” of ideals of femininity. Belzer mentions the DIY aspect of both traditional punk subculture and the Riot Grrrl movement. She cites the creation of both zines and music within Riot Grrrl as “forms of resistance”, allowing girls to challenge mainstream media’s ideas about femininity. Belzer discusses the nature of music as a feature of subculture. She cites James Lull, and his theory that music allows for communication and spreading of ideas, both through lyrical content and musical atmosphere. Belzer’s argument provides a broad introduction to the motives behind Riot Grrrl, as well as its place within subcultural theory as a whole.
For this assignment, I will be researching the Riot Grrrl subculture, founded in the early 1990s by musicians, activists and feminists in the USA. Although Riot Grrrl is most easily described by its associated music – all-girl punk bands such as Bikini Kill and Bratmobile – it also involves communities of women distributing zines, holding meetings, organising festivals, and working together to spread a feminist message. As a subculture, Riot Grrrl is focused on identity, particularly the identity of women in rock music.
I want to look at how Riot Grrrl subculture grew from its birthplace in Olympia, Washington to many locations across the US and around the world. I also want to examine, roughly twenty years on, if the subculture still exists, and if women still identify as “riot grrrls”. The internet appear to have played a huge role in spreading the ideas of Riot Grrrl, and allowing women from all over the world to get inspired and start their own bands, zines and festivals.
My research will look at primary sources (zines, video footage, reports) from the original Riot Grrrl era, as well as scholarly articles analysing the movement and its effects on society and music.
Riot Grrrl Manifesto, as published in the original Riot Grrrl zine.