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Zines and Riot Grrrls / Third wave feminism

Punk infused underground and youth culture with a high–energy, antiauthoritarian, do–it–yourself philosophy. In the early 1990s, groups of young feminists in Olympia, WA and in Washington DC merged this attitude with the tenets feminism, giving rise to the Riot Grrrl movement. Riot Grrrl grew out of both frustration at women’s marginalized role in subcultures such as punk and a desire to recognize women as active manufacturers of culture. Existing as a unique forum for self–expression, the Riot Grrrl movement did not have any central organization. The movement encouraged women to embrace their creativity by starting bands, organizing events, and publishing work that spoke to their own life experiences. Local chapters taught skills such as networking, zine making and activism strategies and organized art forums such as conventions, festivals and girl–positive concerts.

Riot Grrrl chapters were suspicious of mainstream media’s appropriation of their philosophy and art, and so zines became the primary means of communication. Because they offered women complete control over the content, art, and distribution of their individual works, zines were an ideal vehicle for the dissemination of Riot Grrrl enthusiasm and core principles. Typical Riot Grrrl zines included autobiographical writings often in a highly confessional style, tips on women’s health and self–defense, tips on feminist parenting, information on music and critiques of pop culture.

Figure 8 #3
Booklyn Artists Alliance collection of zines. 2000–200[9]

Women’s health and body image concerns were major subject areas explored within Riot Grrrl Zines. Figure 8, an excellent example of a body–positive Riot Grrrl zine, comes from a collection of zines within the library’s Special Collections department.

No Snow Here #11
Booklyn Artists Alliance collection of zines. 2000–200[9]

No Snow Here is an excellent example of a woman–produced zine. Small, simply made, this personal zine features a stream–of–consciousness collection of art, poetry, and personal reflections. This zine is contained within the library’s Special Collections department.

Mary Celeste Kearney

Girls Make Media. New York: Routledge, 2006.

The Riot Grrrls urged young women to become active producers of culture and art that spoke to their own experiences. This volume explores how girls who create media have reclaimed girlhood as a site for social, cultural and political agency. Central to this volume’s analysis is an exploration of the Riot Grrrl movement.

Trina Robbins

From Girls to Grrrlz. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1999.

In the 1960s, prior to the Riot Grrrl movement, Trina Robbins worked in underground comics producing Wimmen’s Comix, an anthology of comics created by women. Her book provides a history of comics produced for, and by, women, and includes a discussion of comics that began in Riot Grrrl zines.

Sara Marcus

Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution. New York: HarperPerennial, 2010.

The Riot Grrrl movement did not have a centrally organized structure; however, this book thoroughly chronicles the movement. Marcus tracks many of the significant leaders, events, and philosophies of the movement through rich biographical details.

Nadine Modem, (Ed.)

Riot Grrrl Revolution Girl Style Now!. London: Black Dog Pub., 2007.

Riot Grrrl was concerned with promoting women’s voices in arts and culture. This volume represents a cultural exploration of the movement and its legacy. Contributors include musicians, artists, zine producers and activists who were involved directly in the movement.

Karen Green and Tristan Taormino (Eds.)

Girl’s Guide to Taking Over the World: Writings from the Girl Zine Revolution. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1997.

This collection of women’s zine writings typifies the contents of most zines associated with the Riot Grrrl movement. This collection specifically highlights writings surrounding themes such as sex, body image, family relationships, autobiographical stories and information about bands and fandoms.

Kerri Kotch (Director)

Don’t Need You. [United States?]: Urban Cowgirl Productions, 2006.

This item, from the library’s Film and Video Collection department, documents the Riot Grrrl movement and includes interviews with many young women who were at the forefront of this underground cultural movement. The documentary includes footage of early Riot Grrrl music performances and excerpts from zines outlining the vision and manifesto of Riot Grrrls.

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