How to be a Riot Grrrl in 5 easy steps!

"Wake up each day and deal with the shit coz that shit is solid gold, baby!!  That's the stuff that will make you, YOU! and my grrrl, you will shine like a fuckin' diamond." 

Last year I sat and watched Moxie with my two adolescent daughters.  It sparked their interest in the riot grrrl movement as they watched Vivian and her friends fight the institutionalised sexism in their school.  Not long after, I caught my girls drawing hearts and stars on their hands, they started looking through my zine collection and added numerous riot grrrl tracks to their digital playlists.   They began to be more openly critical of the way the boys in their own schools treated or spoke to the girls.  They got really annoyed at anything that, in their eyes, was sexist.  It was amazing to watch as a mum!

In the same way that Moxie's character Vivian takes inspiration from her mum's riot grrrl past, I saw a similar thing happening with my own kids.  In the movie, Vivian finds an old suitcase of her mother's filled with her zine collection and other memorabilia from the 1990s.  I too had a similar box, which has now been leafed through by my kids and some of it has even gone up on the wall at home in the office.  

My own love of the riot grrrl movement has obviously inspired them and I wanted to take a light-hearted approach to what I would consider to be the essentials for anyone wanting to engage with the riot grrrl movement.  This isn't an exhaustive list, it's just some ideas that I had and talked through with my own kids.  I'd love you to comment and send me any other ways you think the people, who weren't there in the 1990s, could get a better understanding of riot grrrl and keep the ideology and movement going.  So counting down.... here are my top tips on how to bring some more riot grrrl into your life.  And just a note here.... Riot Grrrl isn't just for cis women.... ok??.... so you other genders can get on board with this too... we really don't care what anatomy you were born with, Riot Grrrl and the strive for equality is something we feel in our hearts!!! 


Not just a political or feminist movement, the key to riot grrrl was the music that went with it.  Most of the riot grrrls created some sort of alternative rock, from the hardcore punk of Bikini Kill to the more grungy sounds of Sleater-Kinney.  There are a whole host of bands to check out and I will blog about this some more.  As Vivian does in Moxie, start with Bikini Kill's Rebel Girl and consider the lyrics.  This brand of feminism has the intention of women supporting women.  Rebel Girl epitomises this notion, where we hear Kathleen Hanna's screams of "They say she's a slut but I know, she's my best friend" is backed by a militant beat, which feels like a call to arms and a march toward feminist victory through unity.  Check out a few more of my thoughts on Bikini Kill here.

Also, if you're looking for playlist inspiration, here's some tunes that I would consider to be riot grrrly... not all of these bands identify with the riot grrrl movement, but I think it makes a great playlist.


There is so much good literature out there surrounding the riot grrrl movement, but the pinnacle text which explores the herstory of riot grrrl is, without doubt, Sara Marcus' Girls to the Front.  Back in the day, the front of the stage used to be a space occupied by mainly men.  Physically it was harder for women to fight their way to the front and many experienced sexual abuse while working their way through the crowds.  It's happened to me plenty of times and it's fucking wrong.  (OK!!).  So, one of the greatest ideas of Riot Grrrl was to create a safe space for women at gigs, where they could enjoy the music, up close and not feel threatened.  At gigs, the men were often asked to step away from the front of the stage and allow the "Girls to the Front".  This became synonymous too with allowing women to take the lead in all areas of their lives.  Sara Marcus' text examines the way the Riot Grrrl movement helped pave the way for many women in music, not just those that identified as members of the movement.  It is a definitive history of what happened in the early 1990s.

Furthermore, zines were a major part of being a riot grrrl as, in an era before the explosion of the internet, it was the best way to get the message out there.  Kathleen Hanna's Riot Grrrl manifesto was first published in a zine, I got a great book The Riot Grrrl Collection edited by Lisa Darms with an essay by Johanna Fateman.  

The book reproduces a collection of zines from the 90s.  Not only is it great to read, but the book is also visually appealing and really inspiring for zine creators like myself.  But don't just look to the past, many of these zines are now blogs, like this one, and are instantly accessible.  Check out  Loud Women and Grrrls Like Us.

Lastly, if you're inspired by my kids loving the movie Moxie... read the original book by Jennifer Mathieu. (pictured above).  The book is always better than the film!


And while we are talking about zines and blog, why not start one of your own?  There are absolutely no rules to blogging or zine creation and the more off the wall you can be, the better.  There is always something to talk about.   You don't need to call it a riot grrrl blog or even make the main focus music.  Just talk about the things that interest you.  If you're doing some studies, write about what you learn.  If you go to gigs, write about them.  If you just sit at home reading really obscure literature, then write about it and share it on social media.  You don't even need to tell anyone you know that you are doing it.  Like Vivian, in Moxie, you could keep it to yourself, or set up an account under a different name.  I'm not Marina Red, my real name is Stephanie!  

Marina Red was the name of my band in the 90s and I just stuck with it for my blogging and zines.  The thing is, however obscure the thing you chose to write about, by being vocal you are going to find 'your people'.  Honestly, I've met some of my best friends by doing this.  Some I have met in person, others are across the world and I have a great 'pen pal' style relationship with them.  (Obviously, I don't need to tell you to remember what you have been told a thousand times about safety and meeting up with people you met on the internet... if you have no idea... read this).

2.  PLAY

As I've said, music is key to the riot grrrl movement, and do you want to know a big secret, ha, ha!!!  You don't have to be a 'good' musician to play in a band!!  Look at Sid Vicious.. he was really shit but that didn't stop the Sex Pistols from becoming the worldwide sensation that they did (and the MFs only made one album!).  So, pick up an instrument, maybe guitar or bass or whack some drums if you feel you've got rhythm.  Turn the volume up to 11 and the distortion up higher.  Here's a top tip for those who chose a 6 string, google how to down tune it to E and then you don't even have to get your fingers around real chords, you can just put one finger over the fret and play almost any chord you want. Try just playing them hard and fast and sing something over the top.  Legendary Riot Grrrl Kim Gordon, from Sonic Youth has actually created lyrics for whole songs by singing out adverts or slogans she has read in magazines.  Get together with your mates and have a laugh jamming out some tunes.  Then download garageband or bandlab (which are really easy to use and free DAWs) and get it recorded.  I recorded my first demo tape on a tascam 4 track, so whatever you do, it's gonna sound loads better quality than that!! 

Here's what I did over lockdown on garageband.


Ok, I'm not saying that you should just wander around Asda screaming your head off... you might get sectioned, but finding your inner voice is important.  Whether you scream it down a mic at a gig, or you scream it by writing a blog, or you voice your opinion in a political way or you just climb a mountain and scream at the top of your lungs, like performer Aja told me at Supersonic Festival back in 2019, "Screaming is like doing a poo.... it needs to come out!"  There is a lot of shit going on, you are always going to have to deal with shit in life, whether it be on a personal or professional level.  Decide which shit you want to deal with and focus every decision from there on to dealing with it.  Wake up each day and deal with the shit coz that shit is solid gold, baby!!  That's the stuff that will make you, YOU! and my grrrl, you will shine like a fuckin' diamond.  

Scream for equality.  Play for equality.  Write for equality.  Read for equality and listen to others' ideas on how to get equality.  However you decide to do it. I've just started my PhD which will look at feminism within the Spanish alternative hard rock music scene.  That's my scream.  What's yours???


Seeing I got all mumsy and teachery in this post, here's your homework for the weekend.  Watch the documentry "The Punk Singer" about the Riot Grrrl movement and write your first blog post about it!! ha, ha!!