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Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

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    Rebel girls

    ‘Riot grrrl’ movement of 1990’s influences female bands of today

    Singer

    The women who coined the term ‘riot grrrl’ said they wanted to start a “girl riot,” and that’s just what they did — a riot that is still going on today.

    Their ‘riot grrrl’ movement began in the early 1990’s. The term came out of a meeting held by a group of women held in Olympia, Wash. They came together to come up with solutions for dealing with the rampant sexism taking place in the punk scene at the time.

    Of course, there have been women in punk bands since punk began.

    These groups had women that sang or played a major part in creating what the bands were about. The Runaways, Slits, Cocteau Twins, Avengers, X, Siouxie and the Banshees, Sonic Youth, L7 and Frightwig were just some of the early pioneers of women underground music artists.

    Over the next few years other bands like Bikini Kill, Team Dresch, Tribe 8, Sleater Kinney, Bratmobile and Gina Young built a scene of women, queer women, and others that felt left out in the punk music scene.

    “I think riot grrrl carved out a space in the music scene that’s not centered by men,” Anna, a Laney College student. (Anna declined to provide her last name.)

    These bands toured the nation inspiring people and building a fan base that’s lasted to the present day.

    ‘REBEL GIRL’

    The lyrics of Bikini Kill and other riot grrrl bands are often references to what it’s like growing up as a woman in a male-dominated society: how a woman’s experiences and opinions are ignored or aren’t considered important.

    Bikini Kill’s Rebel Girl is their most known song, and is on their first full length record called Pussy Whipped.

    It’s a mid-tempo punk song that has a fun energy to it. “That girl thinks she’s the queen of the neighborhood,” Kathleen Hanna sings. “I got news for you, she is!”

    It’s about looking up to the rebellious girls in life and wanting to be just like them. “When she talks, I hear the revolution,” Hanna sings.

    The majority of Bikini Kill’s songs are fast punk. There are exceptions though, like a song from their first EP called Feels Blind. That song has a slow clean beat, and the bass guitar solidly accompanies while the distorted dirty guitar comes in at the crescendo. The vocals are beautifully sung, yet have an extreme anger to them. It’s a song about the experience of growing up and being told that your opinions aren’t important: that good girls keep their mouths shut and smile for daddy, because anger isn’t ladylike.

    “All the doves fly through my eyes, have a stickyness to their wings,” Hanna sings. “In the doorway of my demise I stand, encased in the whisper you taught me.”

    It’s an angry and beautiful song. Hanna has an amazing voice. She has a vocal range to her singing that surpasses most singers in the punk scene. Corin Tucker of Sleater Kinney, an all women indie punk band influenced by the riot girl movement, says the song brings tears to her eyes every time she hears it.

    If readers want to find out more about Kathleen Hanna and the riot grrrl movement, watch a movie that came out in 2013 called ‘The Punk Singer.’

    The film has many women that were involved in the riot grrrl movement, some of whom currently live in Oakland.

    TODAY’S RIOT GRRRLS

    Singer

    Summer Cannibals is part of the new breed of riot grrrl music that’s being released now. The band is a trio made up of two front women guitar players that sing, and a guy that rocks the drums; they’re on the Kill Rock Stars record label, Bikini Kill’s label. They’re a solid sounding mid-tempo band.

    More locally, Quaaludes are a four-piece women garage rock band that live in Oakland. They just released a new record.

    Another Oakland band made up of young women is The Falsies. They said they were “into girl power” and didn’t like being treated differently than boys that were in bands.

    “People don’t really care if we’re any good or not,” said April Villanueva, the band’s bass player. “They just act different to us because we’re chicks in a band.”

    Lynn Perko, a Bay Area drummer, had been in bands since she was a teenager, and currently drums for the band Imperial Teen.

    “[Riot grrrls] were promoting feminism and independence,” Perko said, “which was right on.” Lynn had already been in bands for a decade by the 1990’s.

    “I thrived on proving myself. All the a-hole bouncers that thought I was a groupie were my inspiration to get better and better,” she said, “to shut them up and change their attitude for the next female in a band that came to play.”

    SOFT TUG

    Soft Tug is an Oakland band that plays artsy garage punk.

    They played at San Francisco’s Hemlock Tavern on May 16. Bonni Suval is the singer, who also plays drums; she’s been into riot grrrl since she was 11 years old.

    At 13, she was already in a riot grrrl band called The Miss Fits. Suval started off listening to L7 and Sonic Youth; she said L7 was “my kind of feminism, which is just rad chick’s that play awesome rock n roll music.”

    Suval has strong feelings and opinions about the issues riot grrrls dealt with.

    “I believe if you’re a girl and you’re not a feminist,” she said, “then you are weak. Women are treated as second class citizens in every society around the world, and if you are a woman and you don’t stand up for yourself and other women then you’re weak and you need to figure yourself out.”

    The other three male band members grew up listening to punk and said they listened to and appreciated riot grrrl since it began. One of the guitar players was in several different riot girl bands before he was 21 years old.

    Singer

    This local band is a perfect example of people that grew up living by the positive ethics that the riot grrrl scene encompasses, namely how to view and treat women as equal human beings.

    G.L.O.S.S.

    Elisa, a Laney student, said she is a feminist and thinks that the original riot girl movement was important. (Elisa also declined to give her last name.)

    “The punk scene has been very male dominated since it began,” she said. “I think that there are bands like Mens, who JD Sampson from Le Tigre is in, that are addressing issues like police brutality, racism and prejudice against transgender people.”

    Many people see transgender musicians that are making music about their experience as an extension of riot grrrl. A current band called G.L.O.S.S., made up of four trans women. They’re from Olympia Washington, the birthplace of riot grrrl. Their name stands for Girls Living Outside of Societies Shit. They’re a fast hardcore thrash band with short songs under two minutes.
    The G.L.O.S.S song, Lined Lips and Spiked Bats has a lyric that says, “Straight America, you will ruin me.” The singer sounds serious and addresses her dilemma with urgency.

    It’s different to hear trans women at the forefront of hardcore punk, and the band is getting the attention many new bands crave. Three different record store workers at three separate stores in the Bay Area have been promoting this band.

    On another song from G.L.O.S.S’s tape the singer bellows “the freaks are coming.” Then, after a drum roll and quick halt he invites the listener to “do the outcast stomp,” which is the name of the song. In the fall, it’s rumored that the band might play in Oakland, so maybe it’s time for the punks to get out their Doc Martens.

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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