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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 6. Race and Riot Grrrl Zines


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“To the racists who refuse to believe they’re racists since they know me.”

—Bianca Ortiz, Mamasita número five

Examining race and racism is difficult work. Institutionalized racism is so engrained in everyday American culture, politics and social structures that it is challenging to even start a discussion about how to make changes without the belief that we need to dismantle everything brick by brick and start over. Many riot grrrls seemed to want to start to engage in the discussion of what these changes might mean and how they would be realized. Yet, in writing and thinking about race much of what was written within riot grrrl zines showed the ways in which racism is so much a part of social structures that young people—especially those who identify as white—do not know how to talk about issues of race and racism effectively. The points of entry for a racial discourse are so disconnected that finding common starting points can be next to impossible. Instead, white riot grrrls focus on their point of entry as the starting point for race narrative. But, what impacts do discussions of race have on those who are part of historically disenfranchised groups when white grrrls choose the terms in which race is discussed? Due to the ways in which punk and zines are structured, how do they fail as sites for meaningful racial discussion...

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