The Origins of the Riot Grrrl Ethos

Interview with Punk Writer, Molly Tie!

Molly Tie got in touch with me on Facebook.  She's from Portsmouth, UK and is writing a book about female punk fans. The book will document the experiences of female punk fans from 1970s- today, looking at their experience of going to gigs, finding role models, starting their own bands, getting politically active/aware. There are several chapters including one on Riot Grrrl.



Molly and I chatted for a while about her project and this is what happened

Marina is Red: Tell me about the project... What lead you to want to write the book?

Molly: I got the idea from having a discussion with someone (a man) a few years ago about whether punk music was empowering for women. The argument he was making is that punk by its definition is empowering because it is anti-sexist; anti-racist etc and that the movement doesn't need to make any special effort to address women's issues, women should just feel liberated by the fact punk exists. I took exception to this- I've worked in the violence against women sector for many years and I feel that punk is still very male dominated and that if patriarchy exists outside the movement, then it can exist inside it as well. I think representation matters and unless there are more women in the scene; more songs that women can relate to, then it can't be assumed that all punk is liberating. So I decided to go out and find out what other women think! And that's what started the idea!

Marina is Red: Brilliant!! So how did you go about researching the book?

Molly: Well, I have had a blog for a few years and have written articles for some other publications which normally involves researching in one way or another as I love writing about the history of music and I'm a bit of a music geek in that respect. So a lot of the book is looking at the socio-economic context that different subgenres of punk were operating in and how the punk scene addressed certain issues. So for example, in the chapter about the 1970s punk I will look at violence against women as it was at that time and whether this issue was addressed by that particular wave of punk. The other strand of the book is interviewing female punk fans about their experiences/views/opinions/observations and to do this I have put various shout outs on social media encouraging people to contact me and then I interview them either face to face (pre-Corona); over the phone/Skype or send them written questions. This is the part that goes in waves and there are some real gaps in certain genres of punk. So far I have interviewed about 50 people but I would love to interview more!

Marina is Red: What conclusions have you drawn from your research?

Molly: So far, my conclusions are a mixed bag! Certainly, every person I have spoken to has found punk in general to be a really positive influence on their life and many found it absolutely integral to their identity. Punk has had a really profound effect on people's politics and world view and many talk about being very politicised by punk in a good way and that ethos of solidarity and DIY spirit is very strong. Where there does tend to be a disconnect is looking at whether punk is specifically empowering to women and addresses their lives. Outside of Riot Grrl, many people I have spoken to acknowledge that most bands and most gig audiences are male-dominated; that harassment and objectification does still happen at punk gigs and that 'female punk' is still considered a bit of a niche. The other interesting thing is that this differs very much depending on what era/genre we are talking about. The original 1970s cohort of punk fans have a very different experience to those who like more modern pop-punk for example (as is to be expected)!


Marina is Red: When will the book be published?


Molly: I'm not sure when it will be published, it depends whether I can speak to enough people to make sure all chapters are well-rounded and well represented. At the moment, certain eras are better represented than others. I write alongside my full-time job so this is a labour of love but I'm hoping this will be finished in draft by Autumn and then we'll see what happens. At the moment, it's all independent and freelance!

Marina is Red: Do you still need people to interview and if so how can Marina is Red readers get in touch?

Molly: I definitely still want to interview people! I'm particularly interested in those who listen to American hardcore punk; Riot Grrl; Queercore and pop punk. Any one into straight edge would also be great! I'm totally flexible about how people want to share their experiences- some people just want to contribute a particular observation/ anecdote and others I have interviewed for hours- however someone wants to participate is fine! You can find me on Twitter @molly_tie or e-mail me on tierneyred@hotmail.co.uk

Marina is Red: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Molly: Just that, after taking a bit of a hiatus on this project for a while, I decided to get it going again this year and I have been overwhelmed by how generous people have been with their time; their experiences; their support and suggestions. It has been pretty overwhelming (in a good way) and I have had some brilliant conversations with some amazing people and I am truly grateful. That being said, I can't wait to have some more!

Oh also, if people are interested in blogs on music history, particularly women in music then my blog Molly Tie Reckons may interest them!

Marina is Red: Brilliant.... Thanks so much!!! Hope you're safe and well!!! Have a great Sunday!!! xxxx

Molly: Thank you, I really appreciate your support.  Enjoy the rest of the weekend.