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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 3. What Is Riot Grrrl Anyway?


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“Riot Grrrl is subversive activity. I came to make new friends and to find a type of activism that would have tangible results for me.”

—Sandra, Riot Grrrl New York City Issue #5

One of the struggles with where to situate riot grrrl is the difficulty in defining it. As riot grrrl became a soundbite, something that mainstream media wanted to have a simple narrative arch and to easily define, riot grrrl participants spent more and more time in their zines defining what riot grrrl meant for them as well as critiquing definitions placed on them by others. At times, their definitions are contradictory, but these writers give a glimpse into how participants navigated their positions and identities for various readers. The complexity in the ways zine creators respond to critiques and questions about riot grrrl is a theme throughout their zines. In examining these changing and varied definitions of riot grrrl, I ask the following questions: How do riot grrrls negotiate identity in zines when others attempt to define or identify it for them? In what ways do riot grrrls change the ways in which they define their scenes and identify with them, as mainstream and popular media popularize riot grrrl? What happens when they do not want to be labeled as part of a scene even though they share similar values and move in similar circles? In this chapter, I...

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