Music, Pop Culture

We need the unapologetic Riot Grrrls

We need more upfront feminism

no. no you are not.

When I became aware last year of the publication “Rad American Women A-Z: A feminist alphabet book for the little riot grrrl in your life”, the mother of a young daughter in me leapt with hope. I’m so glad that feminism is so visible right now. The advent of blogging culture and YouTube celebdom has made it all the easier for young women (and men) to come across, access, and digest the tenets of feminism. They don’t need to go creeping through second-hand bookstores (though they definitely should be doing that!) to find the ‘zine section and dive into the world of fighting the patriarchy and its toxic norms.

[bctt tweet=”Radical feminism is not white feminism.”]

They don’t need to wait until high school or college for an introduction into the movement and its roots. It’s so great that pop artists like Beyonce are dominating the charts and expressing their agency, independence, and personal power in their music. It’s nice that we have shows like “Girls” and “Broad City” that exhibit real life problems that female-presenting people are dealing with on a daily basis in an intelligent and funny way. It’s wonderful that trans women are being cast in starring roles on the screen and in the spreads of fashion magazines.

[bctt tweet=”I’m so glad that feminism is so visible right now.”]

But I still long for in-your-face, aggressive proclamations of agency and humanity. I don’t have time for polite feminism – none of us do. I’m not here for eloquent and courteous pleas to men to take up allyship because they have mothers and sisters. Unflinchingly cerebral while simultaneously visceral and completely unapologetic – the Riot Grrrl movement was loud and lifesaving for me. And I think we need it now as much as we ever have – because I don’t want my daughter growing up in a world where she and her peers have learned that “feminism” is offensive and being a “feminist” is unappealing. I don’t want her to grow up in a world where Nichole Arbour and Co. are teaching women (and men) to abhor feminism because it’s gross and hysterical and it hurts men (??). None of us are here to smilingly apologize for existing as we are. None of us are here to ask permission to be treated like human beings.

yesssss, Demi

I want the Riot Grrrl movement to come back front and center, but I also want it to be different this time. One of the major flaws we saw out of it (and it was a huge swing and miss) was the failure to incorporate and represent an intersectional feminism. The Riot Grrrl movement was for all intents and purposes quite punk and (like many purportedly radical spaces) very, very white. It also, as far as I could tell, had some pretty significant TERF sentiments that it was operating under. None of this occurred to me until I was well into my late teens and early twenties.

[bctt tweet=”None of us are here to ask permission to be treated like human beings.”]

It wasn’t until I could look back on this movement with a little more reality and a little less gratitude for what it had done for my own life that I could see how it had failed women of color so, so badly. And that is such an unforgivable denial not only of the roots of the feminist movement but of the work that needs to be done in bringing about justice for POC, that there are times when all I can do is throw up my hands about it. Radical feminism is not white feminism. And should the Riot Grrrl movement make a comeback, which I’m obviously sort of desperately hoping it does, it has to be a transformed version. It cannot ignore the exorbitantly magnified obstacles and dangers that women of color face on any given day that their white counterparts do not and it cannot continue to deny the contributions and power of women of color and trans women to the feminist movement at large.

i love you, baby, but this is not gonna cut it

But we definitely could use something that’s packing a little more punch. These are just a few of the reasons I’m so grateful for organizations like Black Girl Dangerous.

Bad Girls Dangerous

And a quick Google search for queer feminist ‘zines will turn up lots of results showcasing the work and voices of radical women of color. The POC Zine Project is a fantastic place to start, if you’re not already familiar. These are the people that need to be front and center right now. I guess maybe we don’t need the Riot Grrrls after all.