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Writing a Riot

Riot Grrrl Zines and Feminist Rhetorics


Rebekah J. Buchanan

Riot grrrls, punk feminists best known for their girl power activism and message, used punk ideologies and the literacy practice of zine-ing to create radical feminist sites of resistance. In what ways did zines document feminism and activism of the 1990s? How did riot grrrls use punk ideologies to participate in DIY sites?

In Writing a Riot: Riot Grrl Zines and Feminist Rhetorics, Buchanan argues that zines are a form of literacy participation used to document personal, social, and political values within punk. She examines zine studies as an academic field, how riot grrrls used zines to promote punk feminism, and the ways riot grrrl zines dealt with social justice issues of rape and race. Writing a Riot is the first full-length book that examines riot grrrl zines and their role in documenting feminist history.

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Chapter 2. Putting the Riot Back Into Punk


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“Putting the punk back into feminism, and feminism into punk.”

—Liberty, Riot Grrrl New York City

Contextualizing the Riot

It’s been over twenty-five years since riot grrrl “officially” started. Since that time, there have been massive changes in both the music and publishing industries. Basement shows and bands being able to make it touring in a van, selling merch, and sleeping on couches is not as prevalent as it was in the 1980s and 1990s. Some of this has to do with the literal price of gas. Small town music scenes where bands would tour through to visit friends or share their music have become more regional. Bands don’t make cassette tapes with handwritten sleeves, print their own shirts, or create travel zines the way they used to. This is not to say that in any way these practices have become obsolete. In recent years, we have seen a growing return to records, the record store, and the community around records. But bands are releasing records out of nostalgia, and many bands just play locally because touring is not only time intensive, but not as cost effective as it was 30 years ago. Bands can be heard ← 25 | 26 → on the internet, through sites like Soundcloud and YouTube and don’t need to tour in order for people to know who they are. We promote music in different ways.

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