B and I recently watched the documentary The Punk Singer about Kathleen Hanna and Riot Grrrl. I really enjoyed all the performance footage, which definitely makes it worth watching. As usual, I'm annoyed that a film that spends some time reflecting on the problem of stars within social movements would choose to feature random quasi-celebrities who had nothing to do with Riot Grrrl reflecting on Riot Grrrl, rather than some of the rank-and-file. I also don't like it when RG retrospectives present the '90s as a vast wasteland for young feminists. RG was something new and exciting, but existed within and alongside a variety of other feminist politics (in my humble opinion).
B's critique of the film was that the filmmakers could have make a much more explicit connection between "trashing" and other negative forms of internal policing within feminist groups in the 1970s and disputes about stars and media coverage within RG. B wrote her senior thesis in college on RG, and she wrote this paper about the Chicago Women's Liberation Rock Band, which you should read. And then you should listen to the CWLRB singing "Papa Don't Lay that Shit on Me" here.
After we watched The Punk Singer, B and I were inspired to bust out some of our old records, and reminisce. It was really fun. I am eight years older than B, which is at least a generation in music time. B grew up in the Pacific Northwest listening to gansta rap, while I grew up in the Northeast listening to punk.
B listened to Dr Dre, Ice Cube, and The Coup, and then branched out to Ani DiFranco and Elliott Smith. The first album I ever bought was Roxanne by The Police and the first show I ever went to was The Ramones (at the UNH student union).
At some point our music histories intersect. I bought the Bikini Kill/Huggy Bear album, I think, while I was living in Seattle in 1993. I loved that album, but I don't think I realized that it was a thing? I don't know, my memory is so bad. I think I probably found out about RG by reading an article in the New York Times-clearly I had my finger on the pulse. B started listening to RG bands and going to shows while in college in the late 1990s, and then got really into Sleater-Kinney (and couldn't tell me precisely how many times she saw them-because I fact check these posts like crazy).
I realize I don't know exactly what was so appealing about this music for B. For me, it was years putting up with jackasses at shows, being expected to hold the coats, and the casual and not-so-casual misogyny of the punk/hardcore/ska scenes. And it was also never seeing women on stage for those shows. It was so great to see and hear women making loud, aggressive music.
Videos I've watched while writing this post:
Hole's "Pretty on the Inside" on college radio late in 1991 blew me away when I heard it on college radio in 1991. I had never heard a woman make music that so represented the roiling and seething that I felt on the inside (which is not to say anything about the people who made that album).
Lone Justice, "Ways to Be Wicked," I've always like country music, but I was embarrassed to admit it in the 80s.
I had roommate who was super into SubPop, and I liked this song by a band I'd never heard of called Nirvana. Nirvana, "Negative Creep."
My other roommates were super into Throwing Muses, and I haven't heard this song in twenty and some years. It bringing back some memory that I can't quite retrieve.