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 Everett True

Do I think Pussy Riot will provoke a new coming of Riot Grrrl? (my answer to a question from The Guardian)

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Pussy Riot trial in Moscow

Laura Snapes emailed me the above question a couple of days ago for an article she was writing for The Guardian.

Here’s my response in full:

Do I think Pussy Riot will provoke a new coming of Riot Grrrl? I don’t think Riot Grrrl ever went away: its influence and scope to provoke have been apparent in counter-culture (and sometimes the mainstream) since its origins in the late 80s – the phrase was only ever a way of articulating an attitude that already existed, after all – and if you look to relatively recent Riot Grrrl-inspired movements such as the Rock Camp For Girls that have been springing up across the States and in the U.K., and the female musician-centric Ladyfest, then it’s obvious it’s been Riot Grrrl as a force for change is still very potent since it first exploded into the public consciousness in 1992 (or thereabouts).

Will Pussy Riot provoke a new coming of Riot Grrrl? A few weeks ago, Kathleen Hanna purposefully stated something like “we are all Pussy Riot”, indicating an awareness that ‘Pussy Riot’ could well replace ‘Riot Grrrl’ as the phrase in the popular consciousness to describe a certain attitude when it comes to music, revolution and society (wonderfully, this attitude is also often called ‘feminist punk’) and certainly showing an awareness that this whole witch hunt (I choose my words carefully) is almost certainly going to galvanise and politicise an entire generation of females (and men) in a way not seen – certainly within music – since Riot Grrrl itself.

Young girls write me all the time asking “How do we revive Riot Grrrl” and finally I have an answer…What if people all over the world started their own performance groups, bands, art collectives, etc… and called them things like Pussy Riot Olympia. Pussy Riot, Athens Greece, Pussy Riot Paris, etc….And maybe if this trial turns out as the prosecutors want it to, with the women getting at least 3 years, we all play benefits and go to Russia en masse under the banner that we are all Pussy Riot, Yoko Ono could be in Pussy Riot, Patti Smith could be wearing a mask next to a troupe of girls from Tennesee storming the Cathedral of Christ the Savior screaming “We are all Pussy Riot!!!”

Who knows this could be the start of a whole new thing, a whole new motivating source for a globally connected unapologetic punk feminist art and music scene. A catalyst, no matter what it gets called. Anything is possible, if anything, this band has reminded us of that.

(excerpted from SERIOUSLY THEY ARE IN A FUCKING CAGE!!! by Kathleen Hanna)

So yes. I guess the answer is yes, inasmuch as this is one of those generation-changing events that only come along every few years. Interesting it should follow the Occupy movement. Interesting it should happen in Eastern Europe, where rock’n'roll (call it punk rock if you want) has long been a more vital political force than in the West. Interesting that Pussy Riot themselves are equal parts shock performance art and rock’n'roll. (You need to choose your battlefields carefully, as the ladies have proven.) Interesting the amount of hypocrites across the world supporting Pussy Riot’ “freedom of expression” when they wouldn’t for one second countenance such behaviour in their own back yard. (Hello, Occupy again.)

And it’s no coincidence that it’s taken women to effect any major change within the poisoned citadel that is rock’n’roll in 2012. Men are such a devalued currency… as Putin and his humourless, protectionist cronies and apologisists, and their hypocritical counterparts condemning them from the other side of the world, prove.

weareallpussyriot

Related posts:
Song of the day – 493: Pussy Riot (+ a mini-rant)
Song of the day – 492: the collected Pussy Riot Brisbane mixes
Pussy Riot and Four Other Bands That Lost the Battle with Authority But Won the War

7 Responses to Do I think Pussy Riot will provoke a new coming of Riot Grrrl? (my answer to a question from The Guardian)

  1. Lydia August 23, 2012 at 11:03 am

    I love the idea of calling is Pussy Riot, mainly because of the points that Michael has brought up above, that the bands that he is labelling Riot Grrl aren’t, as far as I can’t tell, Riot Grrl in more than the sense that they have loved the original sound, and now sound like a version of the artists that made that music….who themselves have far removed themselves from that, and grown, and made something exciting and new with new technology etc. You don’t want to create a mass homage to something we’ve all been through before, well, if you’re my age or older, we want inspirational clever women creating something new, and wonderful. Frankly, i’d rather Grimes be a forefront to that then any of those aforementioned bands. Not that she’s shouting an agenda, I think I recall that being on journalists (stupid) problem. It’s more then fact that her, on her own, is creating something incredible. Girls sounds like bands I liked when I was 12 but without the actual reason behind those sounds…whats the point in that?

  2. Lydia August 23, 2012 at 11:05 am

    I seem to have lost my point. Basically, Riot Grrl happened. Get over it. Stop making fanzines that look like stuff that your older sister liked. Go make something that kids in twenty years will look back and go ‘wow, we want to do stuff like that’. I’m sick of this fucking revivalism.

  3. Everett True August 23, 2012 at 11:39 am

    (from Facebook)

    Stephen Eastwood
    Really good point about Occupy. In terms of liberal press coverage (which is off-topic, but hey), I’d say it certainly helps that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is absurdly beautiful, and has a young daughter. She’s the Grauniad’s equivalent of Home Counties gels leaping in the air on A Level results day. If they were all shaven-headed, pierced to the hilt, and/or queer, I doubt the press would have been so on-side. More to the point: Kathleen Hanna is AMAZING.

    Lloyd Barrett
    With all due respect I think Pussy Riot is more than an MTV co-optable female empowerment movement. It’s part of an aggressively political, dare I say, anarchist movement with much broader goals.

    Everett True
    I never got the impression RG was ever co-optable, but i absolutely agree with your broader point

    Lloyd Barrett
    Well maybe not entirely co-optable ET but the business of making rock music is a predominantly capitalist venture. I doubt RG would have warranted a specific label were it not for saleable products and ideas. I also doubt we would have heard about Voina without Pussy Riot’s easily digestible presentation as a punk band. I’d be happy to see the influence spread though, especially given the conservative times we are heading towards. If a group of women did the same here in Australia I can’t imagine them being treated much better by the authorities.

    Lloyd Barrett
    I can’t help but think of Coum Transmissions and Throbbing Gristle. If you believe the story CT became a band to move out of the art world and have a greater influence with a simpler, slightly easier to digest premise. Difference is when Genesis says “Nothing short ov a total war” he is being poetic. Pussy Riot mean it.

  4. Erika August 24, 2012 at 3:33 am

    When riot grrrl was happening, I didn’t recognize it. In my tiny town of Arcata, California, I saw the posters and flyers my local chapter put up around campus to identify rapists and such, and I just recognized it as feminism… except this one flyer, which said “RIOT GRRRL” all over it… next to xeroxed photos of vaginas….

    In the 2000s I became involved w Portland’s Rock n’ Roll Camp For Girls and during that time, one of the other volunteers explained to me the concept of “third wave feminism” – a concept I liked, because I felt that much of feminism as I knew it was too restrictive for my world view (I found many feminists too rigid both culturally and ideologically without a lot of room given for alternate views).

    At Rock n’ Roll Camp For Girls I got to meet a lot of women who had come directly out of the Olympia scene, and some from Washington D.C. I got to participate in a lot of cool grassroots efforts to enhance my community locally and beyond. I never identified myself as “riot grrrl” but I believe that riot grrrl is behind so much of what I’ve been involved with in my community, at least music-wise. This is the specific effort to empower more females to form bands and develop and use their voices.

    I suspect that like the term “punk,” riot grrrl means something different in the UK and other places than it means in the US Pacific Northwest. I may be wrong but I feel that riot grrrl is a name given to an organic, ultimately leaderless movement which is a very 21st century type of movement. In the 1990s riot grrrls used zines and meetings and music – now you can use the internet too, and get an even bigger wider reach. Hello Pussy Riot!

    One thing I have learned about leaderless movements: they are very difficult to control (charisma can be a big factor, and Pussy Riot provides a rallying point for some) and they are almost impossible to kill off. When they are not necessary anymore, they fade away. Riot Grrrl, or the attitude and values behind it, is still necessary I think. And in my experience, it is very much alive – maybe not with all the early 90s trappings – maybe a bit more grown up – but if you think about it, the teenage riot grrls of the early 1990s are all in their early 30s now and most of them are still very much alive.

  5. tom_violence August 25, 2012 at 12:35 am

    Lydia said it all just about right- it would be amazing if this Russian reenactment of Salem did more to galvanise a proper reaction beyond a few t shirt designs on Zazzle and a minor spike in balaclava purchases but I wonder.
    Kathleen Hanna was bang on when she said its time to move on Riot Grrl wise- the ‘scene’ as it is now is nothing but a slavish recreation of past glories, trying to recapture some early nineties golden moment by sitting around photocopying purposefully shitty looing fanzines, arguing about Cindy Sherman and making pin badges. Its gone stale a long time ago and is just another sub culture fetish for people to get their rocks off with and increase their sense of outsiderdom. but shit- this wasnt the way it was supposed to end up was it? why look backwards as if the whole thing peaked with ‘Alien She’ so you have nothing better to do than listen to Slumberparty. Huggy Bear was great back in the day but doesnt mattr a joy anymore. Minaj’s verse on ‘Monster’ is probably where the spirit is now but then that shit gets dismissed as pop trash by the knitted jumper brigade in their home made Team Dresch shirts. a fucking let down. but i dont care. i have a cock. i am white. i am western. i rule the world baby!

  6. Erika August 25, 2012 at 3:53 am

    @tom_violence, some of us LIKE!!! the look of xeroxed zines. Zine making an art form, in my opinion. Zines incorporate visual elements with text. Zines can look really cool, and they can be cheap to publish (with full artistic control) and can be distributed in ways that web pages cannot. Zines are to me the continuation of the passion of artists like William Blake.

    and tom_violence I don’t recognize the picture you paint of the “scene”. I guess I’m lucky to be living in Portland, Oregon where we still have some vitality and activism in our art and music scene… and art in our activist scene – and not wherever you are. Though I suspect (or at least hope) you might be missing something about your own back yard.

  7. tom_violence August 25, 2012 at 4:25 am

    hey i am totally prepared to admit im just someone from the outside looking in and am no great oracle- but my take on it from being to a couple of UK ladyfests asnd fanzine coventions and people i know invovled is that its very insular and trapped in some 1993 vintage amber (or if you wanna be daring lets put on ‘Hot Topic’ and party like its 1997. even the sound of alot of the bands tries to phtocopy that same vintage sound. should be more a spirit and an attitude rather than slavish history revision. i find it more in some hip hop since then but girls with guitars was the greatest thing when i was growing up and looked like a future. courtney made one of the best records of all time (LTT) and then went on to make a glorious fuck you of apop record which took it where it was meant to go. then what? the futute never came. why? a htousand reasons no doubt but one of them is the reasons I stated. maybe. i dunno. thining out loud.

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