Jessica’s Guide to Riot Grrrl

OK, I don’t know if any of you pick up my weekly leaflet, ‘What’s cool today by Jessica Wakefield’, but you might have noticed that that last week I said it was all right to like music, as long as the people making it were good looking. I also said that Dana Larson, singer in school rock outfit ‘The Droids’, was officially cool now, after she visited her cousin in New York and became the first person in school to get a ‘Rachel cut’.

Anyway, while she was still semi-important I decided to let her be my most visible friend, and then I told my parents that she was tutoring me for Chemistry and we were going to have a sleepover, and then I went with the Droids all the way up past San Francisco and we went to a ROCK CLUB that was not even owned by Lila’s parents! It was really small, and it wasn’t even in Spain or Monaco!

I’d already decided that before Dana’s hair grows out, or some hairdresser from Sweet Valley learns the intricate system of layering needed to achieve the Rachel look, I was going to do everything exactly the same as her, but better, so she knows that I’m still number 1 in Sweet Valley. My first move was that I was going to front a band. I went up to one of the bands at the rock club and asked if they need a new singer who eventually hopes to break free of the group and pursue a solo pop career, but they were busy playing and singing. Then I went round a corner into this backroom where I found this nice lady with tattoos who unfortunately had black hair. I told her my story, and how if she would get me into a band then I would try my best to include her in ‘What’s cool today’. She asked me if it was a fanzine, and I said, what’s a fanzine, and she said something that you self-publish to get across your passions and beliefs, and I said yes, it is absolutely about what I believe (like when I strongly believed that we should all start a whisper campaign against Robin Wilson because she’s too overweight to be cheerleader), and she said is it Do-it-yourself and I said yes, even though I actually get the Korean Language Club to do it on their weird new computers by telling them that it’s an American high school tradition. And then she said I was right on, and I said, “Right on what?” and she laughed and said I was funny, and that she respected me for choosing to look how I want to. She said that people like me who look like mall girls or ‘floozies’ are changing the rules because we’re proving that anyone can be a feminist. I told her I was flattered but I had a boyfriend and she laughed again. And then she gave me her CD, which had a really cheap looking cover, and one of her ‘fanzines’, which turned out to be like a magazine but without Jenny Garth on the cover, and she told me I was an honorouary rioting girl and that I could hang out with her band Bikini Kill any time. I told her I look great in a bikini and she said I was hilarious.

Then Dana got back from making out with the barman with the acne, and she was so mad because I’d spent the night talking to this woman, who is called Kathsomething and Hannah, which I guess is like me and Liz but one person, about my favourite conversation in the world – BEACH FASHION!

So the band Bikini Kill were going to Washington the next day, and if you watch this video you can totally see how she talks about me at the beginning! She even mentions my brand of clothes! But I think she’s wrong because she’s saying ‘Just because you look like a mall girl doesn’t mean you can’t be a feminist,’ and I’d put it more like, ‘Hanging out at the mall is the best way to exercise your femininity’!

Here’s some things that hanging out with a rioter girl taught me. You can find these things in my leaflet on Monday, which is available from the nurse’s office, the cafeteria, and Korean Club rec room.

1. You can wear what you want

this is my friend Kathsomething in her infamous 'insect' photo shoot

Kath said she was on the cover of a magazine one time looking really cute but with the word ‘incest’ written in lipstick on her chest. I hate insects so I wouldn’t have chosen that word but what a lot of Kath’s friends the riot act girls did was write rude words on themselves like ‘slut’ to change people’s opinions about how they perceived women. And sometimes they went on stage wearing just a bra, or no bra, with a skirt, and sometimes they dressed cute in a skimpy nightdress (like what I wanted to wear to prom but my mom said no), or like a librarian in the 50’s with a headband, but they knew that no matter what they wore they still shared the same belief that women should have freedom and choice and this extends to every aspect of their lives, not just what they choose to wear. Which is exactly what I’m going to tell mom when she inevitably freaks out about my next prom dress selection.

2. You can talk about the issues that matter you

a cool series of concerts started by L7 but such an unflattering cut

This is something that applies to me because I always keep my feelings bottled up and don’t let enough people know how I am feeling and how they could act to make me feel better. Rioter girls write or sing about issues that are important to them, especially the ones that affect them as women. For me, these would be things like ‘my boyfriend is also my twin’s boyfriend and my other boyfriend died in a jeep’, or ‘I’m at war with Bruce Patman and I think he’s winning’. Inexplicably, hardly any riot girl songs are about this – they’re more about things like being pro-choice and being supportive of other girls. I don’t really agree with being supportive of girls if they’re tacky or unfashionable, but I am pro-choice, as long as that choice is never to leave California for longer than a month.

3. You can do it yourself

there's not enough fashion in this magazine

Kath says that I don’t have to wait around to get a modeling deal, I can just do it myself. She says even when her band get really big she’s not going to sign to a big label but she’s going to stick to her community of friends like K records and Kill Rock Stars. And she told me about writers like Jessica Hopper who edited their own fanzines and articles and got their opinions and politics across quickly, which, yes, you’ve got it – is exactly what I’m achieving in my leaflet. Meanwhile Liz and her boring friends keep ploughing the mainstream with their ‘newspaper’ full of old gossip and capitalist propaganda.


4. Girls look out for each other

Bikini Kill have a song called Rebel Girl, and it has this lyric called ‘That girl thinks she’s the queen of this neighbourhood…she is!” which is turning the idea of girls being jealous of each other on its head. I think this is great because everyone is jealous of me. I also think it’s great that girls at the moment are getting attention and being empowered just because they’re standing up for each other, just like my minions in the Korean Language Club.

By the way, if you’re a guy, and you’re worried this means I won’t be occasionally talking to you about cheating on a test for me, don’t worry! Kath’s friend Molly Neuman puts it best. She said, ‘We’re not anti-boy, we’re pro-girl!”

Of course, if you happen to be a boy without a car, then I am anti-you.                    


5. Anyone can make music

you don't have to be technical geniuses like these guys to start a band

This is definitely not true because I’ve heard my sister sing when she started that folk protest band with Enid to protest about the e-coli in the cafeteria meat, but anyway all these girls in bands like Bikini Kill, and their friends Huggy Bear and Heavens to Betsy, are paving the way for future generations of female musicians to think that they can make music too, and letting them know that making music is not exclusive to people who are really famous or technical geniuses. There was already a wave of bands that did this in the 70’s (just after my mom almost married Bruce’s dad, fact fans!), who were called punk, but the rioter girls are rewriting punk to suit them and making it about inclusiveness and positive action, and young women, which is better because that means me!!

Here’s what 14 year old Annie Clark, from Dallas, Texas, says about riot gllls: “I didn’t know there was a big world out there, or what it looked like. It is very exciting to me, to know there is this pocket of culture happening, and it is super-subversive…Seeing that empowerment makes me really want to escape Dallas.”

I hope Annie Clark grows up to do something really cool like sell Tofu-glo cosmetics or live in Sweet Valley.

this is the show i went to with dana, such a cheap looking poster!

One Response to “Jessica’s Guide to Riot Grrrl”
  1. sankles says:

    Jess you said you liked my Capitalist Propaganda

    Feel so alone

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