With Women’s History Month coming up, I can bring up an endless list of feminist pioneers and common household names of women that actively fought for equality. In the music scene, there is a movement you might not hear about as often as you should, but its efforts permeated through the years and changed the way women were perceived in a male-dominated environment. The Riot Grrrl movement sprouted during the 90s in the state of Washington—the breeding ground of arguably the most impactful and striking artists. Aside from being the birthplace of the widely known band, Nirvana, female bands such as Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Heavens to Betsy began forming as a response to the male infested music scene and as a way of vocalizing subjects like sexual assault.
As rock became increasingly hard-core and bands consistently showed out with all-male members, it inevitably became a “boys only” space. Shows were a place for men to thrash their bodies against each other in mosh pits, while the female patrons were excluded from this scene and in more extreme instances, harassed and assaulted. That was until a group of women, tired of the sexist punk scene, started writing about these issues in fanzines (unofficial, homemade magazines) whilst all-female bands emerged. Local chapters organized to play gigs and fostered a safe space for women, constantly calling “all girls to the front” of the stage. And alas, a space where girls could listen to rock music, void of unwanted confrontations, was born.
The Riot Grrrl wave didn’t think twice about how they played on stage—they were angry with a lot to say. Their messages about sexual assault, violence, gender, and other rarely talked about topics were projected loud and clear through the venues. Overtime, one can say the wave might’ve dissipated, but Riot Grrrl left an impermeable effect on the future of music made by women. Traces of Riot Grrrl can be seen in Fiona Apple, Alanis Morissette, and even Spice Girls.