Feminism and the Rrriot Girl Movement

fem_momby Angel SunlightGrowing up in a single-parent household, I always knew that women could do almost anything and everything a man could do. But it wasn’t until the 8th grade, when my English teacher assigned Maya Angelou’s memoir, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” that I became a feminist. As a writer, I connected with Angelou and her writing, not to mention obsessed over her poetry, especially the incredibly inspiring “Phenomenal Woman.” Angelou, as my mother does, empowered me as a girl. I became a feminist, but I still did not know a lot about it. Nobody was talking about it. People seemed to ignore it. I always thought it was an important topic, but I didn’t know where to go from there. I knew that I believed in equal rights of the sexes, but I didn’t know what else to do about it. I was a teenage feminist when I discovered Bikini Kill and the Riot Grrrl movement. That’s where it all clicked.

Riot Grrrl, which champions feminist beliefs rooted in punk rock, became my ultimate answer. In Riot Grrrl I had found punk beats set to feminist poetry. I found Kathleen Hanna screaming about incest; I found Kat Bjelland shouting about rape. I found Jennifer Finch and Patty Schemel and Suzi Gardner and Alison Wolfe and Tobi Vail. These strong women were who I wished to become. They weren’t cookie cutters, didn’t fit into the mainstream, didn’t belong in the realms of fakeness that our society has created. They asked the same questions that I often wondered, thought the same things I thought about, discussed the same topics that feminists from the 70’s were discussing...but with a twist. I knew I had finally found my place.

Something changed - or rather awakened - inside of me. I suddenly felt powerful. This music that contained lyrics with incredibly righteous messages and raised important questions was a gateway of sorts. It brought me to the core of third wave feminism. It made me question the mainstream’s idea of how a women should be- how she should look and talk and think. Riot Grrrl helps one see the way media (whether it be through television, the film, music or fashion industries) portrays women and why we should be upset by it.

We are taught from a young age that if we are not conventionally beautiful or fall into the skinny, blonde haired, tan category, we can buy things that makes us this way. Fake hair and Spanx and limitless amounts of makeup to make ourselves pretty in the eyes of our materialistic world. But what if we don’t want to be “pretty?” Is it wrong? And what if we do? Is that wrong? What if we wish to be smart or fun or sexual? Can we be these things with or without lipstick, in or out of heels? Can we still kick ass in a dress?

Why don’t we tell little girls that they are smart or kind instead of an empty adjective like “pretty?” Why don’t we buy them books instead of a Barbie? But then again, what’s wrong with Barbie? As long as we let our youth know that she’s unrealistic and merely a toy...isn’t that okay?

And why is it that a man who has it all and knows what he wants is often described as “accomplished” while a woman in the same position is considered a “bitch?” And a man who sleeps around is cool but a woman that enjoys sex is a “whore?” And what’s wrong with being a whore anyways? How come these issues are still not being solved after all these years, and why isn’t anyone trying to solve them?

That’s where Riot Grrrl came in. It got women talking. And more than that, Riot Grrrl provided me with what I needed: the strength to become a woman who will always stand up for her herself and for what she believes in. And for that, I owe Riot Grrrl a lot.

Angel's Favorite Cause: http://nomore.org/ Connect on Instagram: @angelsunlight

Your StoriesErin Bagwell