But What of Us? UK Riot Grrrl – Part 4
Cazz Blase updates her classic UK Riot Grrrl history by looking at developments from 2000 up to the present day. Covering an oft ignored but vital chapter in the story of UK feminism, she asks: Where to now for Ladyfest? Has the internet crushed print zines? How has riot grrrl influenced teenage fiction? And, is Riot Grrrl dead or has it just evolved?
Epilogue: Ladyfest, or how Riot Grrrl came of age
By the year 2000, the past/present debate surrounding Riot Grrrl was growing more and more acute. As had happened in the 1980’s and 1990’s with punk, the next wave of would-be riot grrrls were beginning to question the usefulness of the phrase. They liked riot grrrl as a concept, had some sympathy with its concerns, and liked a lot of the music, but it was something that they had heard about second hand. At the beginning of the twenty first century, the main two routes into riot grrrl were through fanzines and websites, or through more scholarly accounts of riot grrrl in books, often read for college or university courses. Unlike the earlier riot grrrls, consciousness of the phrase via the music press was practically non existent. Because of all of this, to the average fifteen year old in 2000, Riot Grrrl felt like so much history. It was considered curious and remote, and they wanted something that was their own.
As Kirsty from Wilmslow wrote in her fanzine ‘Rebel Grrrl Punk’ in 2001:
Being labeled a riot grrrl zine makes me feel sort of fake. I love bikini kill and other riot grrl originators, but at the same time, I was like 10 at the start of it, and although there is still a riot grrrl scene, I feel fake in saying I’m a riot grrl because to most people, it sort of all happened a long time ago and I wasn’t a part of it then. So its weird being a part of it now. I just feel like the scene has changed a lot and that hasn’t been acknowledged and sort of adapted I don’t feel it can grow too much and I don’t feel particularly a part of it.
Kirsty had some hope though, and wrote of Susan from the band Pillbox as being, not a riot grrrl, but “Part of a new breed of riot grrrls that could emerge.” (2)
This distinction is important because as the late nineties became the early zeroes, the new zines and bands that were emerging in Britain, in Europe, and especially in America, could be seen to be re-engaging with gender issues and experimenting with content and style in a way that was very new. Fresh interrogations of riot grrrl, of what it was, what it meant, and what kind of a future – if any – the phrase and movement had were an integral part of this.
Jane Collins from Llandudno echoed Kirsty’s estrangement from the term riot grrrl when she wrote in her fanzine ‘Electra’ in 2001:
More than ever we need to make young girls feel empowered. We need to make ourselves feel good about our views, about our feminism. The rise in misogynist rock exemplifies this need for change. A need for the new. And so this is why I make the statement that riot grrrl is dead. It’s a dated term, a movement from the early nineties. It is still a term of relevance as an inspiration, of course, but that is what it is – inspiration. I wasn’t old enough for riot grrrl first time round. I’ve loved the music for a number of years but now I want to create my own revolution. (3)
Marion Dawson from Wigan, in the first issue of her fanzine ‘Who’s That Bitch?’ echoed Jane’s sentiments:
It [riot grrrl] served a very important purpose in its time, has provided masses of inspiration and is still relevant today, but we need new heroes. We need new rhetoric. We need new voices that talk about OUR lives, OUR futures. We need a movement that does not cling to the icons and rhetoric of the past, but becomes an icon in itself. Kill those rockstars. Become your own heroes. Revolutions don’t happen by themselves goddamnit. Who else is going to do it but YOU? (4)
As well as these fresh interrogations of riot grrrl, and of feminism, Jane and Marion, and the writers of many other British zines – such as ‘Twinkle Eye Fizzy’, ‘Varla’s Passed Out Again’, and ‘Starlette’ were keen to put their money where their mouths were, and were not content to simply rant about inequality. Like all the best radical, revolutionary elements, they wanted to actively change things. Their fanzines were creative, intelligent, and inspiring, whilst being fresh and accessible in content.
Alongside the band and zine reviews were guides to making films using old CCTV cameras (‘Varla’s Passed Out Again’ issue 2), Culture jamming (‘Twinkle Eye Fizzy’ issue 2), How to build and launch your own website (‘Riot Grrrl’ issue 1) and more. These fanzines, and their writers, were/are often involved with organizations like The Fawcett Society and the The Womens Library. Many of these writers had attended anti tuition fees demos, had marched against the war in Iraq, were involved with, or supported, anti-capitalist groups and events such as May Day, and had concerns about Afganistan and Israel. They didn’t like George Bush, nor did they trust the Labour party, but they understood the importance of voting from a feminist, historical, perspective. They were worried about the prominence of the British National Party and the U.K Independence Party, had read ‘No Logo’, seen ‘Bowling For Columbine’, and liked ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ and ‘Ghost World’.
This is important because the fanzine writers, ezine writers, and bloggers of today can be seen to be as influenced by ‘No Logo’ and the anti capitalist movement, by the anti war movement, and by direct action movements, as by feminism and riot grrrl. They also, frequently, have a strong desire to engage with and subvert mainstream mediums and media, as well as desires to stay outside such mainstream mediums and media.
The activities of a group of zine writers, artists, musicians, and activists from the Riot Grrrl Essex chapter particularly represent this desire. In 2001, a group of girls from this group began the task of recruiting potential staff for a magazine they intended to launch later in the year.
We want to create a new magazine. We want a magazine that has the personal, non-pretentious friendly feel of a fanzine but has the glossy off-the-shelf appeal of a magazine. We want this magazine to be for teenage girls because, basically, the magazines that they have are not too great. So a magazine for girls by girls would be a good idea we feel; one that features girl-positive stuff, fun friendly things, a teeny bit of politics but not too much (i.e the occasional bit on riot grrrl, animal rights etc) – because we don’t want to put rookies off… it will feature music, truth, happiness and cool things. We basically want to make a magazine that is pro-girl and not anti-girl – a teen girl magazine without any articles on how to please yr boyfriend or how to do yr hair or how to lose weight. (5)
At the heart of this desire to produce a commercial magazine was a desire to reach out to girls beyond the riot grrrl networks and the underground music scene. As Bec wrote in ‘Starlette’ issue 2 in 2001: “I adore fem-zines and wouldn’t be without them nowadays because they really do help and inspire me, but, in a sense, it is preaching to the converted”. She added, “I love writing. Writing is what I always wanted to do. I always kind of assumed I’d write for the music press. But it occurred to me the other day why should I do that? It makes so much sense that I/We should create our own magazine.”(6)
Three years on, and the new girls magazine has yet to appear. Possibly it has been hindered by a lack of publishing experience, and by the educational and non-educational workload of many of its advocates, but the idea hasn’t gone away, and the desire to reach out to girls beyond the established networks and scenes remains. Give them time…
we hope to create a huge network of girl-positive resources
Riot Grrrl Essex is just one example of the many late nineties/early zeroes Riot Grrrl chapters to have sprung up across Britain and throughout Europe. It has close links with Riot Grrrl London, and the two groups remain separate yet often share information and resources. “We hope that by linking together in discussion groups, bands, zines and other projects we can form a huge network of girl-positive resources and therefore begin to change men’s and women’s views” said the Riot Grrrl London manifesto, adding later “We’re talking REAL Girl Power, not insipid Spice Girl shit” (7)
The Riot Grrrl London group meet once a month, unlike the more haphazard and short lived Riot Grrrl Central England chapter, who met less regularly and who were scattered across a wider geographical area (Manchester and Nottingham, for example). New chapters continue to start up, because of or despite of estrangement from the phrase riot grrrl, as Rachael, a comic book artist living in Manchester demonstrates: “I’m starting the Manchester chapter with a girl I met about 5 years ago at a Sleater Kinney gig.” She wrote in November 2004 “We both feel the same way about how the whole riot girl scene has turned out in Manchester, and we want to change it.” (8)
Both Riot Grrrl Essex and Riot Grrrl London have links with the Riot Grrrl Europe chapter, a web based group who also produce a print fanzine from Rotterdam, which is made up of individuals and groups from a number of chapters throughout Europe: Riot Grrrl chapter Austria, Riot Grrrl Holland, and Emancypunx (Riot Grrrls in Poland). There are also links with individual writers, artists, groups, and activists in Italy, Denmark, and Spain. Links between riot grrrls in Britain and Europe have undeniably been helped along by the increased accessibility of the internet, making it easier for grrrls to connect with girls in their own towns, and countries, but also with grrrls overseas.
the internet made it easier for grrrls to connect with girls in their own town oand overseas
By mid 2000, free internet access was established across Britain through schools, colleges, universities, and public libraries, meaning it was cheaper and easier than ever for the public to go online: Many libraries and leisure or community centres often hold free taster sessions for those unused to or wary of computers. Mobile phone technology has also assisted riot grrrl chapters, just as it has assisted protest groups, the Riot Grrrl Central England chapter, for instance, planned all their meetings through email contact and, especially, by text messaging.
The increased use of new technology, such as the internet and mobile phones, along with this new questioning and interrogation of Riot Grrrl, and the new fanzines, websites, chapters, and new geographical links can be seen to have led up to, and run parallel to, what some in the mainstream media have perceived to be the re-birth of Riot Grrrl, namely the Ladyfest festivals.
The first Ladyfest festival took place in Olympia, Washington, U.S.A between the first and sixth of August 2000. It was created by women, for women, in order to showcase the varied talents of women in alternative culture, and was compared by many to the Girl Day at the International Pop Underground Festival in Olympia in 1992. Anna Bombshell, a British fanzine writer who attended Ladyfest 2000, wrote:
I guess most people were attracted to Ladyfest 2000 by the line-up of rad bands such as Bratmobile, Sleater-Kinney, Bangs, Lois, the Need, Sarah Dougher to name a few and the fact that it was happening in the legendary town of Olympia. However I think one of the best things about Ladyfest was that it wasn’t just a music festival – there was so much inspiring, productive, creative, activist things going on by girls for girls from movies, movie talks, performance, art shows, crafts. As well as all this there was the all important element of interactivity in the workshops that were held on tons and tons of important issues like self-defence, feminism, queer rights, women of colour and learning new skills. (9)
Anna clearly enjoyed Ladyfest but in the spirit of those zine girls questioning/interrogating riot grrrl, she was skeptical of the fact that “the place was just packed with middle class white girls. These kind of events should be accessible to everyone since everyone benefits from a more diverse crowd and we need to be aware of how our ‘scene’ is exclusive to many.” She also explained that she, and others, had felt uncomfortable, for various reasons, but that “overall though, I got a lot from being a part of Ladyfest.” (10)
we need to be aware of how our ‘scene’ is exclusive to many
Anna was not the only British person to attend Ladyfest 2000, and as a consequence, a Ladyfest committee was set up in Glasgow in 2000, and Ladyfest Scotland, the first British Ladyfest festival, took place between August 12th and 14th 2001. It was the first Ladyfest festival to take place outside of the U.S.A.
Some of those who attended were at first skeptical. “Now although I support the feminist movement” wrote Milly in her fanzine ‘Fake It And Go Home’, “and I quite like riot grrrl music I went as a bit of a sceptic, I did have fears of a load of angry out of touch women talking about how evil men were. And I was so wrong, and I was so glad.” She added later “I don’t like to gush, but it was so inspiring and positive, with no cooler-than-thou attitudes at all, which was great.” (11)
Although many write ups of Ladyfest concentrated on the bands, Marion Dawson wrote of attending the “Don’t Fuck With Me: How to get on in the music business” workshop, an experience she found rather intimidating. “I just felt very scared” she wrote in a review for Jane Collins’ ‘Electra’ fanzine “and I think everyone else was too because they didn’t ask many questions, and that’s what made it seem like a lecture, but it was the first event of the festival so hopefully people developed confidence as they went along.” Marion freely admitted in her review that she saw more bands than workshops, partly because her friends were keener to see bands than workshops, partly because she and her friends were incapable of getting up early, but she managed to see a mixture of bands, spoken word, and performance artists. Whilst she didn’t enjoy everything, she felt sufficiently moved to write “Watch out pop stars, we got you covered. Go ladies go” (12)
It’s about making your own culture and organizing your own fun when no one else will do it for you
2002 saw more U.S Ladyfests, the first two European Ladyfests (in Belgium and Amsterdam) and the second British Ladyfest – Ladyfest London, which took place between the 1st and 4th of August.
“It wasn’t really an option whether or not to respond” wrote Flamingo and Bill of ‘Pamzine’ after attending Ladyfest Scotland. “We had to. Ladyfest seems like the logical conclusion of being a feminist and a music/film/art fan. It’s about making your own culture and organizing your own fun when no one else will do it for you.” (13)
“The atmosphere at Ladyfest was quite unique; there were girls everywhere, along with some cool boys and everyone seemed pretty open and happy to be themselves.” Wrote Bec Dyer, reviewing Ladyfest London in her fanzine ‘Spilt Milkshake’. (14)
Both Vicki of Riot Grrrl Essex and Firefly Fanzine, and the Ladyfest London group themselves, were quick to point to the need for Ladyfest. “Bored and frustrated by the lack of female artists at this summers festivals?” wrote Vicki in a review of Ladyfest London for issue 3 of ‘Spilt Milkshake’ “Sick of being squished by big sweaty bald men in moshpits?” (15)
Sick of being squished by big sweaty bald men in moshpits?
“Perusing the reviews in that weekly inky-finger music rag I so love to hate” began Ilona Jasiewicz in a piece re-printed in the Ladyfest London programme “I note that Glastonbury, after a drawn-out on/off/on/who-gives-a-shit-saga, went ahead… and let’s just say it didn’t look like they needed to install tampon machines in the backstage area.” She added later “maybe Slumber Party and Peaches were busy that weekend…” (16)
2003 saw almost as many Ladyfests take place throughout the world than took place in 2001 and 2002 put together. Evidently the rash was spreading. Ladyfests took place in Melbourne, Auckland, Nantes, Liege, Hamburg, Leipzig, Berlin, Nova Scotia, and Jakarta as well as in six U.S states. For the first time, three Ladyfests took place in Britain. Ladyfest Devon took place between April 25th and 27th, Ladyfest Bristol took place between August 11th and 17th, and Ladyfest Manchester took place between the 4th and 7th of September.
2003 saw a change not only in the number of Ladyfests taking place in Britain, but also in terms of how the events were reported and discussed, both in the mainstream media, and within zines and on the internet. Prior to Ladyfest Bristol, the mainstream media in Britain tended to ignore Ladyfest entirely or to run sympathetic pieces. This sympathetic reporting peaked with Ladyfest London, which received a fair amount of coverage in broadsheet newspapers, in Diva, and in innumerable fanzines. But by August 2003, the broadsheets were weary. On the 27th August, the Independent ran a piece by Clare Rudebeck, entitled “Are You Ranting? No, I’m Dancing” which criticized some of the more frivolous antics of those attending Ladyfest Bristol. It also condemned the Ladyfest Bristol organizers, in the time old fashion, for not being “proper” feminists. This article represented a falling off of interest by the national press in Ladyfest, rather than an actual backlash, and it’s argument was, ironically, deployed a mere week later in an article by Sarah Hughes for the Manchester Evening News, entitled “Putting the fun back into feminism”, in order to argue the case for Ladyfest Manchester. Nothing could be worse, Hughes article seemed to suggest, than a women’s festival that wasn’t enjoyable and (whisper it) fun.
The lessening of press interest has continued throughout 2003 and 2004
This falling off of interest on the part of the British national media has continued throughout 2003 and 2004. Ladyfest Manchester, for example, like Ladyfest Devon, received no national press at all, but it did receive a lot of very positive local press from the Manchester Evening News and the listings magazine City Life, which seemed to bode well for community based events in the future. Similarly, in 2004, BBC Wales gave positive coverage to Ladyfest Cardiff, the first Welsh Ladyfest, and the only British Ladyfest of 2004, but the festival went unnoticed beyond Wales.
At both the Cardiff and Manchester festivals, local bands and local performers were given priority, therefore the positive local press and non existent national press is probably to be expected. It takes a big name, after all, to draw London journalists to an event outside London. This attitude, unfortunately, appears to have permeated coverage online and in zines, with the Hertfordshire fanzine ‘Slam Shut’ dismissing Ladyfest Manchester (which it’s writers hadn’t attended) for being too local and too political in focus, and for, unlike Ladyfest Scotland and Ladyfest London, not pulling in well know U.S bands.
Ladyfest can be seen to be undergoing an evolutionary process, with each festival reacting to previous events. For example, Ladyfest Manchester’s organizers had liked the fact that Ladyfest Scotland was held entirely at one venue – The 13th Note in Glasgow, which made it easy for those out of towners who attended to find their way around the festival. They had found navigating their way around the various venues used by Ladyfest London to be a bit of a headache and, as such, Ladyfest Manchester was held entirely at the Zion Centre in Hulme. Ladyfest Manchester’s band committee also deliberately mixed signed and unsigned bands up on the bill because they hadn’t liked the way that Ladyfest London had divided bands into signed and unsigned, putting the signed bands on at night, and the unsigned bands on during the day. The preference for single venue events appears to have continued with Ladyfest Cardiff, which was held entirely at Clwb Ifor Bach in February 2004. It, in turn, has inspired talk of a Ladyfest Swansea in 2005. It will be interesting to see if the first Irish Ladyfest, Ladyfest Dublin, which took place in November 2004, will inspire further Irish Ladyfests.
Since 2001, community based events such as “Frock On!” have grown
Rachael, a comic book artist living in Manchester, hasn’t attended any Ladyfests, but was excited and inspired by the idea of Ladyfest when she first heard about it. “I was inspired by the fact that there were still so many women in this country that were still into riot girl” she wrote “but I don’t think Ladyfest in Britain has headed the way I would personally want. I’ve heard from people who were involved in Ladyfest that it’s pretty bitchy behind the scenes. I think the whole scene has distanced itself from politics.” (17)
Despite what Rachael perceives to be a de-politicised and bitchy element, Ladyfest can be seen to have had some positive effect in the long term, particularly in Glasgow, which held the first British Ladyfest in 2001. Since 2001, community based events, such as Frock On!, have grown in the city, and have actively sought to be varied, regular, and inclusive. The Cailleach Collective, who organize the Frock On! Events, are “Scottish, Irish, Canadian, Portuguese, New Zealand, Australian, American, straight, gay, transgender and aged 12-50.” After the first two events, Marie told Red Chidgey that they hoped to continue “The positive vibe. The diversity of the workshops and bands and different women. I would like to keep us slightly uncool – the way we are, because too cool is inaccessible. I don’t ever want to appear cliquey – anyone can come along to a meeting.” (18)
If Ladyfest in Britain becomes smaller, more localized, more community based, it is possible that these communities may benefit more. If links are made between previously isolated groups and organizations, and if they continue to work together in a way that can benefit the whole community, then this can only be a good thing.
Ladyfest is one big development in the history of Riot Grrrl, post 2000, but there are two other, equally significant, developments. Of equal significance has been the impact of the internet, something I alluded to earlier. Whilst it has helped Riot Grrrl chapters around the world to connect with each other, it has had other benefits.
For example, in the midst of the fuss over Napster and other (then) illegal download sites, rarely was the massive benefit of download technology to small, unsigned bands and their fanbases discussed. Bands can now, via their own websites, take their music to the audience direct. Many bands have their own website these days, they can use it to create mailing lists as well as providing downloads, and as such can keep fans more easily up to date with up coming gigs and so on. One of the most internet savvy bands I have come across would be the Manchester band Red Vinyl Fur, who give out cards with their mailing list details on after every live show they do, and who have seen their fanbase steadily grow as a direct result.
there is still an electronic underclass in Britain
Distributors have also benefited from the internet, with girl zine distributors such as fingerbang going online. But the big advantage, and the biggest area of growth as regards riot grrrl output, has been the sheer volume of grrrl related ezines and blogs. On the 15th November, 2004, I used a search engine to search for sites using the words “Riot Grrrl”, “Feminism” and “Ladyfest” in turn. To keep it fair, I did them one after another and used the same search engine each time. It is confirmation of the high level of internet interest in these areas if I tell you that there are approximately 29,700 sites listed under Ladyfest, 44,300 approximately listed under Riot Grrrl, and 1,560,000 approximately listed under Feminism.
Whilst the growth in the use of the internet is beneficial in many ways, it is not a medium that can exist on its own. Despite frequent lack of recognition, there is still an electronic underclass in Britain, who either have no access to computers, or have only public access, which is rather limited. Just as there are many countries around the world where internet access is of low priority, there are parts of Britain that have had to wait a long time for full internet access, including a certain Scottish island that, up until recently, had an old fashioned style exchange with only one line. As revealed on a BBC current affairs programme at the time, this meant that, whilst the internet could be accessed, only one person on the island could use it at a time and, whilst they were doing so, no one on the island could use the phone. The island did, eventually, receive a new telephone exchange however. This situation may be rare, but, on a more day to day basis, it is hard to build and maintain a website on a public access computer, particularly given the increasing popularity of public access computers.
Despite such pitfalls, ezines and blogs have increased in quantity, resulting in a visible, marked decline of print fanzines.
ezines and blogs have increased resulting in a marked decline of print zines
“Actually, I was thinking about this the other day.” Wrote Rachael, a comic book artist living in Manchester, “When I got back into riot girl this year, I really wanted to do a zine. I got really excited about it, because my opinions and the way I express myself in the zine I used to write [Rachael is referring here to ‘Kitten Scratches’, which is mentioned in earlier chapters] (about 7 years ago) have changed a lot. So I started writing one the night I saw Patti Smith play, and I did a LOT of writing. But then the next day I was reading back through it all, and I knew I could do better. But writing a zine is so time consuming, and I have a lot of projects on at the moment (like writing a comic, working two jobs, looking for a good job, designing the website for the riot girl Manchester chapter, decorating my house…) Also, I don’t think I would have started listening to riot girl music again if it wasn’t for the internet (downloading songs). I’ve found a bunch of all-female bands that I really love now, which I’m really glad about. I do still like holding a zine in my hand, but it’s a pretty long process reading all the good zines out there. You have to write around a lot, and not everyone answers. I think my preference would be websites!” (19)
Despite the wider possibilities for connecting with like minded people, the internet hasn’t cured that sense of isolation that helped give birth to riot grrrl in the first place. As Emily from Devon wrote “it is quite hard to be part of anything as I live in quite a remote area”. Emily heard, vaguely, of Ladyfest Devon in 2003, but didn’t go, possibly because “I didn’t hear much about it.” She is interested in riot grrrl, but because of her geographical isolation, doesn’t feel very involved. Similarly, she would “really love to be involved in a riot grrrl chapter, but as I said there isn’t one around here.” (20)
She would be willing to attach herself to a chapter outside of Devon however, in which case Riot Grrrl Essex or London would probably be her nearest port of call, but whether this would solve her sense of isolation is another matter. The interest is clearly there, and perhaps Emily will be the one to start a Riot Grrrl Devon chapter. Surely the organizers of Ladyfest Devon would have some interest, and could perhaps be of assistance. Emily is online, but the falling away of geographical boundaries hasn’t helped her to feel less isolated.
The third big development in the history of riot grrrl, post 2000, may at first seem an amusing, and slightly irrelevant, one. Yet it may prove, over time, to be equally as crucial as the growth of internet access and the birth of Ladyfest. In a sense, the recent glut of teenage novels concerned with girls in bands, or with girls engaging with the music industry in other ways, owes more to the Spice Girls and their influence on the music industry, particularly as regards the growth of put-together-on-t.v bands, and general production line, style over substance pop music. Why stop at selling bands and records, t-shirts, Pepsi and deodorant, when you can sell books?
From a publishing point of view though, teenage fiction is at a very interesting point at the moment. It is receiving more interest and investment than ever before thanks to various schemes and promotions to get teenagers (who research has shown typically don’t read books) to read books, also thanks to the success of a number of teenage or crossover novels, such as Phillip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’, Mark Haran’s ‘The Strange Incident Of The Dog At Night Time’ and authors such as Meg Cabot (‘The Princess Diaries’), Louise Rennison (the Georgia Nicholson books) and Jacqueline Wilson. (‘Tracy Beaker’, ‘Girls In Love’, ‘The Illustrated Mum’) Because of, or despite this, teenage novels are becoming increasingly knowing and subversive in tone, and in content.
teenage novels are becoming knowing and subversive in tone and content
Girls in band books represent the growing/continuous obsession with celebrity, and with programmes such as Pop Idol, Popstars, and Fame Academy. Being a popstar is portrayed as easy, as instant, purely because there is a glut of how-to-be-a-popstar shows on T.V. Two of these girls in bands books, Rachel Cohn’s ‘Pop Princess’ from 2004, (the film rights to which have already been sold) and Sarra Manning’s ‘Guitar Girl’ from 2003, tap into this perception, and thoroughly exploit and subvert it. Cohn’s heroine, Wonder Blake, only gets her shot at sub Britney stardom because another pop princess in waiting thoroughly destroys the sexy but innocent little girl package she is being groomed for by her label, by getting pregnant.
Wonder therefore begins her pop career singing someone else’s songs, wearing someone else’s clothes, performing someone else’s dance routines in someone else’s video because, really, pop princesses are interchangeable and, hey, at least she gets to leave school (where she is being bullied) and earns money that her family are in sore need of. Manning meanwhile alludes, through her narrator, Molly, to a “girl revolution” in music that hints towards a knowledge of riot grrrl, yet ultimately shies away from naming it as such. Molly’s band The Hormones are, unfortunately, hijacked twice: once by an egotistical male guitarist, and twice by a manipulative male manager, who probably likes the sound of the word “svengali”. The overall message of Manning’s book appears to be that the music industry destroys women, which, whilst being at least partially accurate, is depressing nonetheless.
What is interesting about these two books is that Cohn’s heroine, Wonder, is as manipulated as Manning’s heroine yet her story comes across as being more positive in the main, perhaps because Wonder has a number of strong, supportive women around her, whereas Molly’s chief hope is her distant, musical, idol Ruby X, who like all idols, proves to be oh so human. Wonder’s (male) manager also appears to have a normal working relationship with her, not a purely mercenary one, and Wonder is a less naive character than Molly, and is more assertive. Both ‘Pop Princess’ and ‘Guitar Girl’, along with Jonny Zucker’s ‘One Girl, Two Decks, Three Degrees Of Love’ (which is about a girl D.J) can be seen to engage with a number of the issues at the heart of riot grrrl, particularly as regards how the music industry treats women, and they may only be the start.
passing references have been made to riot grrrl in mainstream teenage narratives
As Riot Grrrl Essex have demonstrated, there is a need to reach teenage girls and, if a magazine is not the way after all, teenage fiction could be seen to be a valuable alternative. There have been passing references made to riot grrrl in other mainstream teenage narratives, notably in the 1999 film ’10 Things I Hate About You’, and, more recently, in ‘Give Me Five!’ by Meg Cabot, the fifth book in her Princess Diaries series, which would suggest that authors are not afraid of using the phrase, and that publishers are relatively willing to go along with it if it sells.
Really, riot grrrl has experienced four key developments, not three, since 2000. The growth of internet access, the birth of Ladyfest, the recent glut of girls in bands teenage novels, and the fresh interrogation of riot grrrl from within. This last is perhaps the most interesting, because it holds so much potential for further development. Perhaps a new girl media will develop. Perhaps the teenage novel will be a part of that, just as Ladyfest has been, and ezines have been. Perhaps, as the Cailleach Collective believe, the Riot Grrrl movement has transformed into the Ladyfest movement, and we are all Ladyfesters now. Perhaps a new name is needed entirely, or no name is needed at all.
Thirteen years after the phrase was first used, riot grrrl is still being used, increasingly as a shorthand for young feminists with an interest in music, renaissance girls, or la femme avec choices. What will happen next should prove interesting, and may even overshadow what has gone before.
- Kirsty, “Riot grrrl and the future… (as I see it)” in Rebel Grrrl Punk, issue 6, Wilmslow, 2001.
- As above
- Collins, Jane “Riot Girl is Dead – Viva Le Ladies!”, in Electra, issue 3, Llandudno, October 2001.
- Dawson, Marion “Riot Grrl Is Dead – Long Live Feminism!”, in Who’s That Bitch?, issue 1, Bradford, August 2001.
- Dyer, Bec “Project” in Firefly, issue 3, Essex, 2001.
- Starlette, issue 2, Essex, 2001.
- “Riot Grrrl London Manifesto” in Riot Grrrl London issue 1, London, 2001.
- Email interview, 12/11/2004.
- Bombshell, Anna, review of Ladyfest 2000, in Twinkle Eye Fizzy, issue 2, Essex, 2001.
- As above
- Fake It And Go Home, issue 5, Durham, 2001.
- Dawson, Marion “Ladyfest Scotland… the review that turned into a monster” in Electra, issue 3, Llandudno, October 2001.
- Flamingo and Bill, “We survived Ladyfest London 2002″ in Pamzine, issue 6, London 2003.
- Dyer, Bec “Ladyfest London 2002″ in Spilt Milkshake, issue 2, Summer 2002.
- Vicky, “Ladyfest London 2002 Saturday” in Spilt Milkshake, issue 3, Spring-Summer 2003.
- Jasiewicz, Ilana “Why we (still) need ladyfest” in the Ladyfest London 2002 Festival Programme.
- Email interview, 12/11/2004.
- Chidgey, Red “Get Your Frock On: An Insight into organizing a womens’ community event” in The F-Word, September 2003.
- Email interview, 12/11/2004
- Email interview, 12/11/2004