Arts & Culture

Sounds of my Life | Riot Grrrl & Me


Originally posted at Serious as part of the ‘Sounds of my Life’ series.

Stephanie Phillips runs Don’t Dance Her Down Boys – a blog-shaped manifestation of her one woman mission to share a love of female musicians and female fronted bands with the world. She also contributes to various blogs we’ve previously featured here such as Black Feminists and The Girls Are, and below let’s us in on her life-defining discovery of Riot Grrrl.

I’ve always felt music hit me in a way that was different to other people. Certain songs can send chills along my spine and make me feel unsafe and uneasy. Others, from the first note, energise me and make me want to change the world before the song’s even ended. Even with my weird wiring for music, nothing has hit me as hard as when I first heard Bikini Kill way back when I was a chubby, unassuming teenager.

I am of the first generation that grew up with the internet and downloadable music so like most teenagers I spent most of my time searching for new music, desperately clicking on link after link hoping this song would be the one. That it would be the one to change my life. The song always comes around, you just never know when, fate’s not going to let you know in advance.

That song was I Like Fucking by Bikini Kill, an awesome title and even more awesome song. The song is a perfect, straight-to-the-point, two minute punk song that sees lead singer, Kathleen Hanna, sing about sex-positivity and how her love of pleasure does not make her less of a feminist. It’s fair to say that I was a tad taken aback by this. I wanted to know everything about this Bikini Kill, who they were, what they did and where they came from. This led me to Riot Grrrl.

Riot Grrrl is a feminist punk movement that started in the early nineties in the punk/indie scenes in Washington, DC in the US, moving to Portland and then very quickly to the rest of the states and various countries around the world. Bands such as Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy, Huggy Bear and Bikini Kill were at the heart of Riot Grrrl. The movement started in reaction to the male-dominated punk scene as a way for the girls to create their own culture, call out sexism when they see it and express themselves. Mostly it gave young girls a voice. Not the timid, quiet one they were used to but a loud, strong, confident voice that told anyone that could hear, ’they were in control of their own lives’. As a teenager that had the same timid, quiet voice I was completely drawn into the idea that you could have this voice, that you could create your own culture, look however you wanted and, most importantly, be a feminist.

If I didn’t learn what feminism was through Riot Grrrl I would have never realised that I had actually been a feminist for years, I just didn’t know there was a name for it.  Feminism has influenced me my entire life and has led me to work on Ladyfest, the Riot Grrrl inspired grassroots music and arts festival, set up my own music blog about female musicians and start my own band.

I throw myself into the DIY ethos of ‘create not consume’ because I’ve grown beyond tired of the limp, stale offerings mainstream culture attempts to shove down our throats. If their culture doesn’t fit, throw it off and make a new one, that’s the Riot Grrrl way.

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