Riot Grrrl: A Return of the Revolution

by Lauren Tortolani ‘24

Source: Pure Nowhere

Published Dec. 1st 2021

On August 24th, 1991, the band Bratmobile took the stage for the first time. With Allison Wolfe on vocals, Molly Neuman on the drums, and Erin Smith on the guitar, their music was lighting up a new wave of feminism. 

Different from the past, this movement lacked signs and protests down the streets, and instead involved loud, revolutionizing music. 

With all-male rock bands like Nirvana dominating the rock scene in the pacific northwest, groups of female feminist rockers began forming to stand up against this gender domination. 

All-female punk rock groups started appearing across Washington state, with bands like Heavens to Betsy, Bratmobile, and Huggy Bear leading the way. The lyrics of their songs called for action against sexism, and called out biases made against women. 

By punching misogyny in the stomach with powerful riffs, these bands gained a name for themselves – riot grrrl. The lyrics of these songs embraced feminism and sexuality, and most of all called for revolution. The song Rebel Girl by Bikini Kill sings “When she walks, the revolution’s coming. In her kiss, I taste the revolution.”

A revolution is indeed what riot grrrl started, inspiring women across the country to pick up an instrument and get involved in what seemed a formidable male-dominated scene. Many now well known bands began to break the surface into mainstream media, such as Bikini Kill and Hole, whose front woman was the prominent Courtney Love. 

Riot grrrl bands began to break off, but feminism stayed well influenced by the movement of feminist punk rock. Today, this influence of rock on the movement itself caused riot grrrl to reawaken, with bands such as Destroy Boys taking the stage.

In the feminist group’s hit single “Vixen,” the lyrics highlight pressures and fears that many women find in relationships. Many of their other songs bring female sexuality and confidence to the stage, as well as promote a female revolution to all listeners. 
With Destroy Boys and other bands beginning to bring the ideas of riot grrrl into tours across the country once more, the drive for women to pick up both a guitar and the beliefs of feminism has been reawakened – the revolution has started once more.

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