Riot Grrrl was a young feminist movement mainly within the punk rock and alternative music scenes beginning in the early 1990s in Olympia, WA and Washington DC that spread around the world. When corporate media scrutiny and exploitation in the mid-1990s reached a peak, prominent women within the movement called for a media blackout and refused to talk to the press. Denied access to many of the women important to the movement, the press coverage slowly faded and Riot Grrrl continued as an underground culture. Riot Grrrl was influential in the punk rock and alternative music scenes, as well as in other independent media and allowed young women to assert themselves in the male dominated arenas of both music and zines.
Bikini Kill zine published this short history of the beginnings of the movement in issue two:
'Once upon a time...' last spring ('91), Molly and Allison (Girl Germs, Bratmobile) went to Washington D.C., shook things up and got shook up, and connected with this radsoulsister Jen Smith who wanted to start this girl network and fanzine called Girl Riot. (This was also inspired by the Cinco de Mayo riots occurring in her neighbourhood at the time.) So that summer a bunch of us Olympia kids (Bratmobile and Bikini Kill) lived in D.C. to make something happen with our friends there. Tobi (Bikini Kill, Jigsaw) had been talking about doing zines in the spirit of angry grrrl zine-scene, and then one restless night, Molly made this little fanzine stating events in the girl lives of the Oly-D.C. scene connection -- and Riot Grrrl was born.
The music-oriented part of the movement that is well-covered in books and other media is commonly linked with the bands Bikini Kill, Heavens to Betsy, Excuse 17, Team Dresch, Cheesecake, Tattle Tale and Bratmobile in the U.S.; Huggy Bear, Voodoo Queens, Hissyfits, and Sister George in the U.K,, and Fifth Column in Canada. Most of those bands had members who put out zines. The influence of Riot Grrrl is still felt in bands today. As well, as stated in Media Whore # 5 (published in 2005), the riot grrrl spirit exists...in zines made by young women today.
Most Riot Grrrl zines or zines from the Riot Grrrl era were of the personal-political variety, meaning writing about political issues from a personal perspective. This style of writing still exists today and can be found in zines such as Quantify, No Snow Here, No Better Voice, Muse, Not Sorry, Sisu, and You Live for the Fight When That's All That You've Got. The layouts of most Riot Grrrl zines in the 1990s relied heavily on cut and paste, collages, the occasional completely handwritten articles and were at times deliberately messy, uncommercial, and confrontational, especially by today's zine standards.
The large amount of Riot Grrrl zines and zines created by young women in the early 1990s caused the creation of Riot Grrrl Press, a distro that started in 1992 existed throughout much of the decade; Action Girl Guide, a zine that only reviewed zines by women, created and written by Sarah Dyer; and in 1995, Riot Grrrl Review, a review zine by Kristy Chan that also only reviewed zines by women. Some of the zines from this era were collected into the book A Girl's Guide to Taking over the World: Writings from the Girl Zine Revolution by Karen Green and Tristan Taormino in 1997.
Zines by Riot Grrrl Chapters
- Flapper Gathering (Riot Grrrl Belgium)
- Psychobitch (Riot Grrrl Indiana, no date)
- Riot Grrrl!!! (Riot Grrrl Bradford/Leeds UK, n.d.)
- Riot Grrrl DC (1992)
- Riot Grrrl Eureka/Arcata (California, n.d.)
- Riot Grrrl Montreal (Canada, n.d.)
- Riot Grrrl NYC (n.d.)
- Riottemptresses (Riot Grrrl Kentucky, n.d.)
- Riot Grrrl Vancouver (Canada, n.d.)
- Slambook (Riot Grrrl NYC, n.d.)
- Varlas passed out again (Riot Grrrl Essex UK)
- What Is Riot Grrrl? (Riot Grrrl DC, 1992)
Zines by members of commonly noted Riot Grrrl bands
- April Fools Day (Kathleen Hanna, 1995)
- Another Lo-Fi Xtravaganza (Jen Smith)
- Bikini Kill (Kathleen Hanna, Tobi Vail, 1992)
- Chainsaw (Donna Dresch, 1988)
- Channel Seven (Corin Tucker)
- Girl Germs (Molly Neuman and Allison Wolfe)
- Jigsaw (Tobi Vail, 1989-1993)
- Red Rover (Jen Smith)
- riot grrrl (Molly Neuman)