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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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I’m writing this in 2017. Here in the United States, we’ve elected a president who has been recorded as saying because he is rich, he can “grab ‘em by the pussy.” We have congressmen who are wondering why men need to pay for prenatal care.1 A few months ago, I participated, along with millions of people around the world, in one of the many Women’s Marches. For the first time in my life, it seems that Roe v. Wade, the federal law legalizing abortion, has a real chance of being overturned. Feminism continues to be an offensive word and concept that is misunderstood and attacked. I’m not sure if the women who participated in what is now labeled as Third Wave Feminism over a quarter of a century ago believed that what they were doing would still need to be done today. Yet, the battle continues to be fought.

Why do we need a book dedicated to grassroots scenes grounded in punk and feminism? Why does documenting the history and narrative of riot grrrls matter? Sure, they are mentioned in articles, popular magazines, and music history, but why do they matter in literacy studies? There have already been books on riot grrrls as a music-based movement, most recently the work of Sara Marcus in Girls to the Front. I hope to make it clear that what the young women who were involved in riot grrrl did in the 1990s still matters. Their writings document feminist, activist,...

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