In 1989, Time
magazine pronounced “Feminism is dead.” It seemed to mainstream culture that the conservative era, marked by Regan and Thatcher, had killed the lingering energy that began with the rise of second-wave feminism in the 1960s. And yet, as Rebekah J. Buchanan
notes in her new book, Writing a Riot: Riot Grrrl Zines and Feminist Rhetorics
(Peter Lang, 2018), a group of girls and young women were about to start making their own waves. We now call them “the riot grrls,” after one of the zines that they created of the same name. In 1991 Molly Neuman and Allison Wolfe were members of the punk band Bratmobile, and Wolfe explained why they chose this name: “we had thought about Girl Riot
and then we changed it to Riot Grrl
with the three ‘r’s’ as in growling. It was a cool play on words, and also a kind of expression about how there should be some kind of vehicle where your anger is validated.” That growl started a movement—of youth culture, of music and print culture, of political activism, and of a new punk feminism—that thrived in the 90s and has remained a lasting influence on how we think about women, music, and culture. Buchanan takes us into world of the riot grrls through their own creations, the zines that they wrote, published, and circulated to understand who they were, what they were about, and why magazines like Time
were so wrong.
Eric LeMay is on the creative writing faculty at Ohio University. His work ranges from food writing to electronic literature. He is the author of three books, most recently
In Praise of Nothing: Essay, Memoir, and Experiments (Emergency Press, 2014). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.