Female rights and equality between sexes have improved greatly since the era where women were not allowed to vote, own land, work a job, or hold a position of power. The efforts of female rights and gender equality activists and leaders have immensely helped to turn around this outdated mindset. Contemporary movements who fight for women's rights are often associated with feminism. But what many people do not understand is that being a feminist does not mean one believes that women should be given more respect and consideration than men.
Being a feminist means that you believe in equality between the sexes. This was the motivation and core belief of the 1990s movement called Riot Grrrl. The Riot Grrrl movement began in the early 1990s in Washington D.C. and the greater Pacific Northwest, noticeably in Olympia, Washington and fought for greater female participation and presence in the punk music scene. Participants of the Riot Grrrl movement, although short-lived, were able to make a vocal, visual and musical statement about increasing female presence in the punk music sphere through the leadership of Kathleen Hanna of the Riot Grrrl pioneer band, Bikini Kill and their homemade concert posters and fan zines. And although Riot Grrrl focused initially on increasing women's participation in punk music, the movement opened up doors for voices to address other issues related to sexual, racial and social equality.
The Riot Grrrl-zine became popular among young girls inspired by the Riot Grrrl movement. The original Riot Grrrl-zine was a free weekly mini-zine and was written and illustrated by Hanna, Smith, Wolfe and Molly Newman, also from Bratmobile.
In addition to the writing the first Riot Grrrl manifesto, Hanna wrote about what she hoped Riot Grrrl could be and encouraged other girls to do the same. Hanna and the other founders of the Riot Grrrl zine promoted the publication as an open forum where anyone could write and voice their opinions and feelings. Hanna's wish was fulfilled as the zine eventually became an open diary; a safe place for girls to say how they felt and what they believed. Her leadership and iconic status as the poster woman for Riot Grrrl was appointed by those whose were inspired by her efforts and bravery in voicing her opinions on feminism and gender equality.
Although Riot Grrrl was a movement, it was also in many important ways just a conglomeration of dissenting voices as demonstrated through the contents and voices of the Riot Grrrl-zines. Dissent-from-within is often seen, from a historical perspective, as the reason radical movements, especially from the left, fail. But dissent defined Riot Grrrl from the beginning and characterized both its growth and demise. Before long, Hanna's hope to see more participation of young women in writing zines flourished and the dissenting voices went from initially focusing solely on women's participation in punk music to a general voice for equality between the sexes. This demonstrates the greater, more broad impact Riot Grrrl imposed on not just gender equality but also social, racial and sexual equality.
Riot Grrrls were not advocates of females dominating males; they believed in equality between the two sexes. Even in the early stages of the movement, Riot Grrrls always believed in global equality but started off focusing on gender equality in the punk music scene, especially as the movement received press coverage in magazines.
What makes the Riot Grrrl movement particularly important is the fact that it did not shy away from sensitive, painful topics such as rape and domestic abuse. At a time when girls were taught to be silent, Riot Grrrl demanded that they scream to make a statement and demonstrate their seriousness. The movement changed the way girls thought and acted and how they saw themselves in their everyday lives and was an impetus for future waves of the ongoing feminist movement.
To learn more about Grrrl Riot, their cause and Kathleen Hanna, check out the documentary "The Punk Singer" available to stream on Netflix.