In fact, most of the time I say that I am just not a feminist. Because, I’m not like these girls, I can’t even begin to imagine what sort of conversation would come after you brashly announce: I only fuck feminist! (Is that even good sex? Or do all the self imposed rules make you feel restricted?) However, I recently saw this article, Riot grrrl culture is back, but where’s the rage? The author, though apparently too young to have lived through the hard times that were the early nineties, reminisces about how much better it was when girls were super angry at everything and yelled and screamed and wore unflattering clothes. I beg to differ.
I am old enough to have actually lived through that. Been part of that. And I am super thankful that my teen years, really my childhood because back then, I think it was like being a child, took place in the nineties. I got to wear big baggy Jnco jeans and extra large black band t-shirts that hid all my body insecurities and still allowed me to be in style. I watched My-So-Called Life and got to debate about whether having sex in high school would be a good idea instead of having Gossip Girl tell me it would be awesome and glossy or bad and tabloid-y, but who cares because you bounce right back after one episode? I like that Angela was obsessed with the same boy for the entire length of the show and freaked out internally all the time. I’m glad that making zines was cool and that my friends and I wore hand printed t-shirts that declared, “I’m A Freak” and I went to summer art school and screamed and was loud and aggressive at punk rock shows and kicked ass in mosh pits and generally terrorized the establishment. While Kathleen Hannah screamed, Suck my Left One, I screamed, Eat Me Raw bitch! I even made that quote the cover of one of my zines. I like that I watched Doom Generation and had boyfriends with Mohawks and drank Mad Dog 20/20 in parking lots and smoked clove cigarettes and sat around my friend Beth’s house, watching slugs fuck while we talked about how cool Courtney Love was. Yeah, we were angry. Angry at our parents, at our school, at the government (only, not too much because we all really liked Clinton), at everything. But we were angry in the way teenagers were: blindly angry.
This other girl seems to be under the impression that girls my age all knew why we were angry. And I am sure a lot of girls knew why they were angry, the riot grrl scene was really political. And apparently a lot of them were angry at David Lynch and Twin Peaks. (I read the book, The Shape of Things to Come by Greil Marcus and he included a quotation from a riot grrrl zine: “Twin Peaks.” “FUCK TWIN PEAKS,” reads the zine, before excerpting a review: “Laura Palmer is hailed as this year’s breakthrough dead girl. ‘My father killed me,’ she says, but Cooper still gets the last word. With an end like that, there’s really no breakthrough.”) I’m not angry at David Lynch, so maybe, even as a 13 year old girl, I knew I was never going to cut it with the hardcore-feminists. My friends and I listened to Ani Difranco (we loved that she was from Buffalo and felt she really got our “upstate” pain) and yes, I did have friends who listened to Bikini Kill and L7. But I found myself more in the mopey cheering section, falling head over heels for Robert Smith, Morrissey, and Siouxsie. I still loved to scream and I don’t think I could have gotten through high school if I hadn’t been able to blast the Lunachicks and Hole at my parents, but I am sure that any real riot grrrl would have balked at the fact most of my rage came from man fronted bands, like the Dead Kennedys. I guess I never lived in a world that could not be shared by men; after all, didn’t men have as much right to be angry at their school, parents, and government as me?
Don’t get me wrong, there are still guys I went to high school with that tremble a little when they hear my name. I could be a straight up bitch that would scream, stab with a spork, or kick you in the nuts without warning. But we were all a little bit more scrappy then. Guys were more like Xavier Red, but now they are more like characters Michael Cera plays. Who is going to want to yell at Michael Cera? He’s more bumbling and sweet than I was at age 5 and he doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy to oppress women. So, we don’t really need to show him who’s boss: we already did.
Back when I was a teenager, yeah, we sort of had the internet, but not really. And we didn’t have cell phones. Watching Clueless was fun because there was a whole world that out in the sticks we just didn’t really grasp. MTV was all about indie music, when it simply meant independent, not whiney, emo, sad music specifically. So, there wasn’t an exposure to the hope that we might all have bright shiny futures one day. We were frustrated and angry because we didn’t really know that there were other people like us, that we could move away from our home towns and have new lives with new friends, that we didn’t have to take our SATs and go to college to have a life. We were pissed off because the country was in a recession and suddenly, nothing made any sense. Our parents weren’t used to the sudden poverty, there were no jobs for graduating kids, and all we could afford was that flannel from Kmart and the occasional CD. We made mixtapes because you couldn’t download music, so it had to pass from hand to hand to hand and get overplayed in your beat up car. We made poverty cool, we made frustration cool, we made hopelessness cool. We thought nothing was ever going to change, so we made nothingness our anthem. We purposefully did nothing, as a symbol of what was going on. We stole our idea from the British punks, although I doubt we knew it; we said fuck you capitalism, if you don’t have room for us, we won’t be productive. And we weren’t. We didn’t know any better, so we made our ignorance and rage a political statement in itself.
So, this little girl in her article, pretending to yearn for some sort of authenticity, asks: why aren’t people as angry today? I think it’s because suddenly people know. They know that things CAN change. Things ARE changing. It’s slow, but it’s happening. And we also now know that people who disagree with us aren’t going to change because you yell at them (well, okay, Rush Limbaugh doesn’t know that, but he takes a lot of pills), but instead, you have to woo people into changing their minds. We all have internal hope, even in the face of a recession and a depleted job market, that things are going to get better. We have the internet to give us instant information, so that we never feel out of touch or uninformed, trapped in our small towns or small offices, desperately alone. Even when I read about terrible things happening, I still have hope that together, we can collectively make a nicer world. I like the idea that the reason people aren’t shaving their heads and screaming into microphones right now isn’t because we have all turned into boring conservatives, but simply because we got tired of yelling and would rather talk it out.