As my brain is somewhat sporadic this following post will not be about the Riot Grrrl movement. Instead, I’ve found myself re-exploring an artist who I had the privilege to study in my last semester of University: Kiki Smith. This woman is, what some may call, a true student. What really stuck out [for me] was that whenever she switched mediums or course within her work it was in light of her taking on a new class. She wanted to learn more about the autonomy of the human body: she took a paramedic class. Of course this brings up an issue that I’ve been battling my entire University career. This issue revolves around the vortex of class.
Looking at her background we know that she came from a very privileged background (her father was in fact Tony Smith). A background that most of my schoolmates could identify with since in fact we were all privileged. Privilege in the sense that we had taken a serious initiative when it came to our education, essentially our futures and where in fact acting out our rights to education. Our education was indeed our ticket to becoming part of the privileged. Students have always and will always be part of a group of people that shake things up, no matter how big or small. But what about class? Well, education, unfortunately, is not free which causes for only a select few to enter the walls of an institution of education. This few will decrease, as in my province of Alberta, the government has proposed fee and tuition hikes. The hikes have gone through to only four University of Alberta programs and two University of Calgary programs. Don’t belong to a wealthy background already? Well then, I guess you’re student loan just increased by 15%. The issue resides in small numbers, seeing the number of the privilege dwindle instead of grow.
Doug Horner, the Advanced Education Ministry, does not want this issue to come up again. He wants to put it at bay as he has been quoted in the Edmonton Journal but I’m tooting my horn. I believe in education. I believe in post-secondary education as not only being a necessity for entering the workforce but as a way to unravel yourself. Universities can challenge pre-existing conceptions that you had of the world. They can create new ideas. They are the driving force of society! And to see it close its doors to those hungry for an education but without the means, well that’s just backwards. Of course this is just six programs that have been increased in fees and tuition but I haven’t even mentioned the cut-offs to students loans that were announced in our provincial budget. Our ticket has been decreased to a Willy Wonka Contest where only five lucky contestants can enter. And to be honest, I don’t see why we can’t all feast our eyes on that chocolate waterfall in person. I want us all to be like Kiki Smith or at least have the opportunity.
Marginalization. What did this word mean to people living in the 1980s? This decade would spawn many of us readers today, but what of the teenagers and misfits of that time, what made them so angry?
When looking at Riot Grrrl history we know that they where angry for being pushed to the slide lines of the music scene. But what ignited this music scene? (Centuries of aggression, obviously). Well, if we take the time to put together the fragments of the leftover history that was the 80s we can start forming a picture. Since Riot Grrrl history is completely embedded in the Media, a look at what giant American publications were (still are) representing is crucial to the understanding of why. A brief look on the world wide web will tell you that there was a great deal of importance placed on Billionaires: Donald Trump. Canada and the United States where going though recession. And in other parts of the world there was civil war, some impacting the United States and others not so much.
The American public was focusing on things at home. Magazines like LIFE where going crazy with promoting American culture. American politics was being discussed among intellects while keeping the majority of the population out of the discussion. Here is where Riot Grrrl and compatriots had the most problems with. Riot Grrrl’s saw how democracy was not being put into fruition. If I may, this was the root of all the anger. The anger had everything to do with America, democracy and the self which has everything to do with popular media.
El Salvador, present time
This decade was completely obsessed with popular media. Let us start by looking at who the American “public” elected as their leader: Ronald Reagan. Oh, Reagan. This man, before becoming President of the United States, was a sports radio announcer, a Hollywood movie actor and a television host! He would gain favor amongst the American public since he reduced taxes and increased the defense budget. This American public gave him points for defending the American dream which had nothing to do with communities and everything to do with the individual family. By reducing taxes it allowed for the wealthy of America to keep most of their earnings; while the increase in the defense budget meant that America could continue fighting the Soviet, Nicaragua and Cuba. Now, the picture is forming.
Movies where becoming less of a political playing field and became completely saturated with entertainment. American audiences started craving popcorn flicks rather than endorsing a play in politics in their filmmaking. Music was being overtaken by Madonna and concerned parents such as Tipper Gore formed the Parents Music Resource Center. This was the America that a kid was being introduced to. Billionaires where everywhere, especially in the white house. They lived in your home but in the form of a digitized image that ate snakes in the Amazon forest (that was being used as shade for El Salvadorian Guerrillas). And personal satisfaction was on everyone’s mind. There was no room for community but in the underground. Reality became myth and only a handful resisted.
I’ve once again just introduced Riot Grrrl. But this time we’ve gotten behind (at least a smidgen) as to why anyone would be so angry. These kids had everything at their fingertips but felt suffocated. And the fact still stands that WOMEN in search of resistance where being pulled to the sidelines as spectators who weren’t invited to move. One can only contemplate that Weird Science had everything to do with it.
A while back I had made a post that just scratched the surface on the Riot Grrrl Movement. I basically just posted their manifesto and said cool, I want in! Since then I’ve taken the time to read up on what the hell happened in the 90s. But once I got to the 90s I needed to understand what happened before the conception of the Riot Grrl Movement. So it calls for an investigation on the history of Punk. Punk as we all know (hopefully) is completely tied to the Riot Grrl identity.
We all know the story, the myth, of Punk. That it started because everyone was sick of hearing ballads being sung by guys with no balls. That it started in either New York or London. The myth goes on to tell that the people involved in this particular genre of music where classified as outsiders. They didn’t want cookie cutter homes, didn’t want a nine to five prison camp and they did not accept that a human’s destiny was a wife/husband and 2.5 children. That of course lead to the ugly side: the marketing side. This “punk” was a great image to sell and those who had the talent to sell dreams made some bucks out of it. Needless to say, some really great bands came out all of this, including my favorite The X-Ray Spex. The Punk scene also allowed for woman (as showcased by the front woman of the X-Ray Spex) to explore different forms of identity which did not include being docile and prim. Just look at the woman exploring her creativity! (Don’t we all love her?)
As all good things must come to an end, punk and its mixture of men and woman ended. As all things do, it bleed into the mainstream. Some historians have pointed out that it turned into HARDCORE. But regardless of what happened, the important thing to note, is that music for those women that where interested in that DYI (Do it yourself) attitude, screaming, being angry but most importantly venturing to be your own ugly self ended. The scene became aggressive, pogo dancing turned into mosh pits where women where not invited (even now you only see two or three ladies in a mosh pit). Punk morphed into something that did not include women. It went through countless revivals through the 80s and in the 90s the time came for Riot Grrl.
And it is here where that the tale of why Riot Grrrl started that I will end this post. Next time we will get into the nitty gritty of things. I promise!