Rebel Girl You Are The Queen of Boston
April 9, 2015 7:53 AM   Subscribe

Boston's Mayor Walsh has proclaimed today Riot Grrrl Day , in honor of Kathleen Hanna's speech to take place in Boston tonight. Joyce Linehan, the city's Chief of Policy, used to work as an arts promoter and has a long-standing friendship with Kathleen Hanna. Marty Walsh: Coolest Mayor of Boston ever? Next month Bostonians can celebrate the second annual Eugene Mirman Day.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork (38 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Marty Walsh: Coolest Mayor of Boston ever?

It's a promotion from Coolest Massachusetts State Rep ever, which title Walsh gained by virtue of his campaign to make "Roadrunner" the state song.
posted by escabeche at 7:58 AM on April 9, 2015 [7 favorites]

(Which is to say, can this thread just be swapping old skool grrl band songs about Boston? Because that would pretty much be the BEST THREAD EVER for me.)
posted by maryr at 8:01 AM on April 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Serious: can someone tell me if this is going to be annually celebrated in Boston, so I can put it on my Google Calendar and request the day off every year?
posted by Poppa Bear at 8:01 AM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

So good. I found out about this yesterday from someone who used to work with Linehan -- who apparently has been kicking some ass in Mass, like she was one of the early people who promoted Elizabeth Warren (?).
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:01 AM on April 9, 2015

....nope, just for today, looks like. Well, now I have to figure out how to celebrate...
posted by Poppa Bear at 8:05 AM on April 9, 2015

> Coolest Mayor of Boston ever?

Paul Ryan wanks on about how he's a big Rage Against The Machine fan. David Cameron's faves include The Jam. Etc, etc, etc.

This particular thing that's happening is cool, but please don't get all starry eyed about some politician liking the same music you do. Trust me, if you can listen to Wagner and not swell with German nationalist pride, your representatives can enjoy Sleater Kinney and screw over the weak.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:06 AM on April 9, 2015 [15 favorites]

Coolest Mayor of Boston ever?
Well, lets hear from all my local friends who are intimately familiar with the #‎NoBoston2024‬ hashtag, because they see a crooked, duplicitous crony.
posted by k5.user at 8:07 AM on April 9, 2015 [12 favorites]

maryr, your Youtube link didn't work for me. Did you mean this?
posted by benito.strauss at 8:10 AM on April 9, 2015

It's kind of diappointing in all the hubbub about this that no one is talking about how the riot grrl movement was racist as hell. This is from Mimi Thi Nguyen's 2012 essay Riot Grrrl, Race, and Revival:

It is as such that race as a reminder of hard histories – within feminisms too –
operated as an obstacle to hoped-for collectivity, knocking the promise of girl love
and punk rock revolution askew. In her report for radical feminist newspaper off
your backs from the first riot grrrl convention, held in Washington DC in 1992,
Melissa Klein recounts the racism workshop (run by an older, African American
woman from outside riot grrrl, she notes) as troubled by the young white women’s
clear discomforture with the prospect of their complicity. In her history of riot grrrl
called Girls to the Front, Sara Marcus describes the scene in retrospect:
This conversation called for a serious switching of gears. The girls had just spent the morning talking about and connecting based on the shared ways they were disadvantaged and put down. Now the white girls –which meant a majority of the people there – were being told that they were oppressors as well.
The antiracism workshop at the 1997 Bay Area Girls Convention was similarly
disturbing, but the reverberations echoed also throughout the event. As detailed in
Bianca Ortiz’s Mamasita, the Mexican girls found themselves in the kitchen cooking
for the other participants during the vegan workshop:
They were busy with the revolution while we fried tortillas until the grease from the pans stuck to the grease on our faces, while our backs stiffened up and the hours passed, while we were so confused and disturbed with what was happening that the only thing we could do was laugh and try not to think about it.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:12 AM on April 9, 2015 [13 favorites]

David Cameron's faves include The Jam. Etc, etc, etc.

Paul Weller did basically tell him to fuck right off, though.

I was around for - but peripheral to - riot grrrl. I didn't go to any gatherings and only got to a few shows, so I can't speak to actual enacted racism, but it sure was true that there was nothing about race in any riot grrrl material that I saw, and nothing that was loosely associated with riot grrrl (like certain comics) really seemed to feature any characters of color. I feel like riot grrrl was no worse - though no better - than other majority-white punk/grunge/radical scenes of the time (and honestly, if you grew up in a white suburb as I did, Before The Internet meant that there was a huge information void about race and racism and activists of color*, and you look back on some of what you did and thought and are appalled by how ignorant you were), but what has really disturbed me as time has gone on is how major, important white women from those scenes haven't wanted to talk about it, but instead have preferred to write a hagiography.

I really distrust the way riot grrrl has been historicized - it's been so totally absorbed into girl power and contemporary fashion (which is why it can be officially honored) and any radical power it had has been totally eviscerated. I think this points to several things:

1. The holes in the movement. If it had been radically anti-racist, it wouldn't be commercializable in the same way. It illustrates the way that a certain kind of feminism - especially once it's safely in the past - can be safely assimilated to capitalism, and to art-capitalism.

2. A trend within cultural movements where people use their radical cred to build careers outside the movement - so there's a lot of incentive for people who were important to tell a happy, empowerful story so that they can turn it into dissertations, documentaries, etc. This isn't totally people's fault - in a right-wing country where it's so hard to survive as an artist, it's really the devil's choice.

3. I'm not sure how to put this one: people in movements, especially subcultural/punk ones, not only don't have nearly as many resources to write and preserve history but aren't interested in it in the same way. Fine-grained subcultural histories appear as fanzines or very small-scale documentaries or tiny-run publications that stay in-house, as it were. Which I think is in many ways best, because it just depresses me, the inevitable "I spent my early twenties in a band, then I went to grad school, then I wrote my dissertation about being in a band, then I got a tenure-track gig, then I donated my "papers" to the Alternative Stuff Collection at Big Name University, then I made a documentary about my early twenties and went on NPR to promote it". It seems to make the whole thing not mean much - like, the point of riot grrrl was not supposed to be to provide a career ladder for middle class young women.

But it's a cautionary tale, young people of today!

*Famous people and things I never heard of until late in or after college include: Angela Davis, James Baldwin, systemic police brutality, This Bridge Called My Back (name-checked in Dorothy Allison, that's how I heard about it and through it a lot of other stuff), divisions within feminism about race; bell hooks (read her column for the Utne Reader); Bayard Rustin; Samuel Delany (!!!!)....I add that by the time I was fifteen I was trying to read everything our local library had about race and racism, but that wasn't much. My main education about racism in America came from Stephen King (the parts in It about the white citizens' organization) and Harlan Ellison (his essays about civil rights marches).

I think that to evaluate riot grrrl's actual culture, it's really important to understand just how Before The Internet this all was, and just how post-Reagan/active-war-on-civil-rights it all was. That's not to excuse white women who had more resources who should have known better and who should have produced better events and media, but there was a huge critical mass of white people like me who had grown up in intensely segregated places after the huge pushback against, basically, the sixties and seventies and who were just literally absolutely ignorant, even about the questions to start asking.
posted by Frowner at 8:45 AM on April 9, 2015 [24 favorites]

Although honestly the "and you can just cook all the tortillas" thing doesn't even come close to being excused by ignorance. "I am uncomfortable about being confronted by my own whiteness" - honestly, if you've grown up in a segregated and ignorant place, it's not an attractive fact but it's true that you'll probably find that conversation uncomfortable and say some dumb shit, at least at first; but that's not the same as literally leaving other women to do the cooking. "Who is doing the cooking and at what personal cost" is a pretty basic feminist question and it's a bit sketchy when just by coincidence no one is asking it when women of color are doing the cooking.
posted by Frowner at 9:09 AM on April 9, 2015 [10 favorites]

Marty Walsh: Coolest Mayor of Boston ever?


From the article, “The mayor is a big fan of the arts as a catalyst for social change.”

Hizzhonor is a career union wonk in an east coast area that considers any politician not currently under an indictment some degree of good guy. Marty does seem to be a reasonably good guy but pretty much the antithesis of "cool".
posted by sammyo at 9:16 AM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Weaponry Listens to Aerosmith
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:27 AM on April 9, 2015

Pahhhtymouth by Braaahtmobile
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:28 AM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

I saw Mayor Menino hand-jive once. That was pretty cool.

Mayor White sprung the Stones out of jail, which was sort of 'practicool' since he wanted to avoid a riot.

Mayor Prince was a snow golem. 100% cool.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:56 AM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

The organizers of the touring Riot Grrrl art show Alien She, currently on exhibit in Orange County (free on Fridays!), then touring in the fall to Portland, have an online Riot Grrrl Census which has documented Riot Grrrl chapters around the world (map).

Also from the exhibit, eight regional music playlists curated by various people associated with Riot Grrrl.
posted by larrybob at 10:12 AM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

As someone who has a certain sense of nostalgia for the riot grrrl movement, I totally understand the problems inherent with the movement and yet still think this is cool as hell.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:14 AM on April 9, 2015 [6 favorites]

Walsh really needs some good PR right now after the disaster that was this winter. I've been saying how extraordinarily lucky he is that this winter wasn't closer to his reelection. But yeah, Riot Grrl day is pretty cool.
posted by clockbound at 10:33 AM on April 9, 2015

I understand the importance of intersectionality but I do think it's important to give credit where credit is due. And not to make it about white cis males, but the Riot Grrrl movement certainly forced me to confront the fact that not only were women not properly represented in punk and indie music but that the environment was openly hostile to them. That's not nothing.
posted by eamondaly at 10:34 AM on April 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

fuck yes: Rebel Girl, You Are the Queen of My World!
posted by jammy at 11:11 AM on April 9, 2015

I have very mixed feelings about riot grrrl.

Partly, yes, I am old; fashions of my late teens are now being worn by people in their late teens (and very nice they look, too) and so naturally I have this bias against my youth appearing in the vintage stores and just generally getting turned into an institution because it makes me feel like I have one foot in the grave.

Partly, there's no way that something essentially cool and cerebral and curated can capture or express the multifariousness of the actual thing, even as my peers and I experienced it (pretty far from a big city; too enmeshed in work and school responsibilities to afford/attend the festivals and events). So there's always this inevitable falseness that you can't get around without ceasing to write history altogether.

Partly I'm basically a pessimist and always look on the gloomy side of life.

Partly, the truth is that I did not particularly enjoy very much about riot grrrl. (Bratmobile, yes; tiny plastic barrettes, yes; fanzines generally, yes; Huggybear yes thanks very much* also they were about as punk an item as you were likely to run across and Not Very Nice by the standards of the Midwest). It seemed at the time like it was mostly for pretty, straight girls - as I know I've commented elsewhere here - who found it easy to have "girl solidarity" with each other and whose primary problems were around sexual assault and creepy male attention. Basically, I always felt that I was not good enough for riot grrrl, especially the cuter/twee-er parts, and I felt like my relationship with my body was very different from what was described in riot grrrl cultural production.

There's also this way in which holding something up as super cool and ultra feminist when it was (even if mostly in ignorance) pretty racist and alienating for women of color - there's a way where that feels like a betrayal. A betrayal of the women who were around back then and were excluded or had to keep their experience as women of color to themselves, and also a betrayal of what I think riot grrrl was supposed to mean.

Maybe this makes no sense in the age of the internets, because music and its attendant subcultures fit so differently into the cultural landscape now (mostly IMO for the better), but at the time all that stuff was important. It was serious - I certainly didn't feel like I belonged amongst riot grrrl stuff, but the goal was still obviously to live your values as consistently as you could through taking political action, daily life and aesthetic practice. I feel like the internet has really given people many more tools for enacting and managing multiple identities, but also has maybe obscured the way something like riot grrrl sought to create a consistency across different aspects of your life. And because of this, I feel like focusing on the good-time, cool stuff and not on the failings is against what it was all at least supposed to be about - things were supposed to be fair; you weren't supposed to turn away from difficult truths. Also, it really, truly wasn't about engaging with the mainstream on the mainstream's terms - of all recent art/social movements, riot grrrl was one which really refused access to the media whenever it was possible to do so.

Things do change, and things change their meaning with time; it's not like even if it were desirable you could just say "this was the meaning of riot grrrl, the end, no other interpretations shall be ventured". But I am not entirely happy with the meaning that has emerged for riot grrrl.

*Certainly among my most treasured records is that Huggybear/Bikini Kill split EP; they were easily the riot grrrl band whose work resonated the most with me
posted by Frowner at 11:16 AM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Thanks, benito.strauss, that is indeed the song I meant to link, I don't know what happened with my link, I blame YouTube.
posted by maryr at 11:22 AM on April 9, 2015

Oh yeah, and have we all forgotten that Kathleen Hanna played at TERF-Party Michigan Womyn's Fest and has never commented on or apologized for it, despite their "womyn-born-womyn" policy of trans exclusion? How PUNK and FEMINIST and BRAVE of her.
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:43 AM on April 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

You can't really say "riot grrl is for cis women" more strongly than playing an event where trans women are explictly banned.
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:45 AM on April 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

which is why I claim the term, Juliet Banana ;-)

There was something about the way riot grrrls said "I'm here, I'm punk too, and this will be our punk movement and men(males) can't define it". At the time as a totally in-the-closet punk kid in boymode that was the first time in my life that I had seen women in my age and interest group claim a space and successfully defend it. Years later when I was going through my first emergent period of trans awareness I relied heavily on what my riot grrrl punk friends from dallas had shown me 20 years earlier. Even if they don't and surely didn't back then, understand or accept me as a woman, and even though there are structural problems with the whole damn way it was done, as I lived it, I wouldn't be the woman I am today without the movement having happened in the first place. So for that I am grateful and I claim transgrrrl as a part of my identity.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:02 PM on April 9, 2015 [6 favorites]

Oh yeah, and have we all forgotten that Kathleen Hanna played at TERF-Party Michigan Womyn's Fest and has never commented on or apologized for it, despite their "womyn-born-womyn" policy of trans exclusion? How PUNK and FEMINIST and BRAVE of her.

She diiiiid? Wow. I dimly remember reading something in Bitch maybe in 2003 about Michigan and some of the Mr. Lady bands. It's funny, because she has so much cred and fame now that if she were to make a big statement about Michigan, that would have a lot of force.

I think this is one of those things where it is actually really bad to have one person be held up as "the voice" of a movement. For one thing, again, that really was not what it was supposed to be about - if I had all my old zines and stuff, I could point to places where lots of people wrote against the idea.

I also feel like there's probably a lot of background politics - people who know people, people who feel that they owe people - that have led to Kathleen Hanna and JD Samson saying such mumblemouthed nonsense about Michigan and/or refusing to say that it's not okay to exclude trans women.

Just, ugh. Lately I feel like I no longer have a positive emotional reaction to the word "feminist" because I feel like most of the feminists I meet in real life have very, very reductionist ideas about gender, sexual identity, sexual practice,'s like, I'm starting to associate "feminism" with barked one-liners about how sex workers can't consent and therefore sex work is rape because patriarchy, polyamory is misogynist, etc.
posted by Frowner at 12:27 PM on April 9, 2015

Riot grrrl really was more a punk subculture and I think it is important to keep it framed in that regard when looking back into recent history and trying to re-cast it in a more complete light.

I am friends with many women here in Austin who I either knew directly from the riot grrrl movement back then or met way later and found out they were a part of it back in the day. They *all* accept, support and adore what I am doing and completely accept me into their spaces no questions asked.

So, given my own local experiences I am really hesitant to get all grar about this from a transgender politics angle. I mean yeah, there's always work to do to improve but I think in trying to reach out to the women who were a part of the riot grrrl movement us trans grrrls might see better success with "call-in" tactics as opposed to "call-out". Just my two cents based on personal experience...
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:29 PM on April 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

I highly recommend the Alien She exhibit that larrybob mentioned above, if you can get to it. It's about the lasting impact of Riot Grrrl, and as one of the curators said,
Astria said they have documented chapters in 24 countries since 1991, some even still forming in the last few years. And what’s come from the movement, besides the incredible work that is part of Alien She, is that the conversations created around the topics so important to Riot Grrrl have expanded to become even more inclusive.

“Through their Facebook pages and Tumblrs you can see how many forefront politics and language that are explicitly intersectional, POC, queer, and trans*,” she said. “The most repeated histories and criticisms of Riot Grrrl don’t include these stories.”
posted by jjwiseman at 2:07 PM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

I came of age in the Minneapolis punk scene and was involved with riot grrrl to some extent. It let me find the space to be angry for the first time in my life, and it was the first space I was ever in where straight women cared about being allies to queer women.

To me a lot of the point of riot grrrl was about creating space for women's voices and recognizing plurality among women, so the idea that Kathleen Hanna or any other individual could speak for everyone who was involved is contradictory to the entire ethos.
posted by bile and syntax at 3:03 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

It seemed at the time like it was mostly for pretty, straight girls

posted by entropicamericana at 3:40 PM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Link to aforementioned Mimi Nguyen paper Riot Grrrl, Race and Revival.
posted by larrybob at 6:31 PM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

entropicamericana, I own the original release of Personal Best, plus just about every queercore/homocore release I could find to buy between about 1993 and 2000. (If only I had a working record player right now!)

The existence of Team Dresch did not mean that queer women's concerns were well represented or deeply considered in most riot grrrl circles, nor did it mean that the body politics of riot grrrl were all that great. That's why there was a lot of contention in those circles at those times, and why people like Nomy Lamm were basically making dissenting zines.

I promise you, the dominant narrative of riot grrrl femininity was - where I was, and in a number of other scenes - "you are a young white straight woman who is thin and average or very pretty, and you have been sexually assaulted and/or sexually harassed; you want the right to wear miniskirts without being grabbed in the pit, you want to be able to perform music and be taken seriously and you want to be treated as an equal by men in general and your boyfriend in particular". To someone like me, who had been told several times that I was too ugly to bother raping, for instance, and who got a lot of the homophobic kind of harassment plus a lot of disgust about the very idea that a loathesome lump like me could even have a sexuality, and who was fat, and who was queer, those messages were sometimes difficult to hear. There was very definitely a clear norm about how to "perform" riot grrrl, and it was a norm that I could not meet.

This is precisely what I mean about how the history of riot grrrl gets written - I'm saying "hey, I had a complex and not that great experience even though there were some things that were very positive", and i feel like you're coming back and saying "oh, look, there were some bands with queer women in them, therefore your lived experience and how you perceived your lived experience is full of lies or false consciousness or just plain wrong". It is like there's so much interest in saying that riot grrrl was Awesome Feminist Queer-Friendly Awesomeness Forever that no actual lived experience can be allowed to get in the way.
posted by Frowner at 7:21 PM on April 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

I hope frowner, that I am not contributing to that. I recognize the problems, I do, and for a long time they pissed me the fuck off. But honestly that goes for everything that existed culturally from 2 minutes ago to time immemorial, that said your lived experiences are valid and your frustrations with the riot grrrl movement should not be ignored. I guess what I'm trying to do is show people that there was a germ of goodness there, and that I *think* it's getting better. Apologies for erasing your experiences, which I hope I didn't do but totally accept responsibility for if I did. Hugs.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:53 PM on April 9, 2015

Kaia Wilson of Team Dresch publicly supported Mich Fest's "womyn born womyn" trans women exclusion policy and refused to pull her other band The Butchies from the line-up. Kind of a weird token to throw in to show how queer friendly riot grrl was.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:46 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Frowner that's really interesting, and the exact opposite of my experience in the UK where I was "too girly" for RG (I'm not massively girly). Shamed for wearing makeup, shamed for wearing "slutty" short skirts. I also remember a lot of slagging off of people like Courtney Love, Kim Deal and Tanya Donnolly for being whores, ie attractive to heterosexual men. Those were the words used. Pretty unpleasant, and very unwelcoming (which always seemed to be the point - they were super-insular).

RG was very enmeshed with the local lesbian community though, and that is the same community where I was turned away from the local lesbian bar with my girlfriend for "playing at being lesbians", ie being too femme. So I guess it depends a lot on local culture.
posted by tinkletown at 2:06 AM on April 10, 2015

Frowner that's really interesting, and the exact opposite of my experience in the UK where I was "too girly" for RG (I'm not massively girly). Shamed for wearing makeup, shamed for wearing "slutty" short skirts. I also remember a lot of slagging off of people like Courtney Love, Kim Deal and Tanya Donnolly for being whores, ie attractive to heterosexual men. Those were the words used. Pretty unpleasant, and very unwelcoming (which always seemed to be the point - they were super-insular).

Wow....That's so different! I had no idea at all. People are so terrible.

I hope frowner, that I am not contributing to that.

You're not, and I don't think anyone in this thread is trying to invalidate anyone's experience, honestly.

I think there's an inbuilt difficulty in writing any kind of history and especially the history of subcultural stuff, and I think there's a difficulty in balancing the "I was there and experienced [THING]" side - which is necessarily so partial - with "when we look at records, we see that [OTHER THING] was a very common experience", which can easily sort of standardize/reify a history, plus the difficulty of squaring up all the different experiences.

It's so interesting to see something that I actually experienced get turned into Official Feminist Subcultural History really makes me realize how much must get left out or smoothed over in other kinds of history writing. (Not that this is hold-the-presses news, but it strikes you differently when it's happening to you.)

History is really, really difficult, I guess I'm saying.

(The truth is that I was never super-into Team Dresch, either, leaving aside any MichFest stuff. I liked Huggybear much the best, and I also had (and I think still have) a copy of the Bratmobile DC cassette which I loved, and I really liked Slant 6 plus a lot of the sorta-kinda riot grrrlly stuff on the Yoyo Records compilations. I can still sing most of those, actually, if you start me off with the first line. "Alien Movie Star" and "Frieda Is A Cat" are the best, though, and I often sing the latter to my cat, whose name rhymes with 'Frieda'.)

I guess a chronic feature of riot grrrl - not unique to riot grrrl by any means - is the inability to think its own processes of exclusion.
posted by Frowner at 7:02 AM on April 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's interesting how Kathleen's name is the one that's most associated with Riot Grrrl. At the time -- and now -- I think of Tobi Vail as being the person who started it all.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:55 PM on April 11, 2015

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