The Ongoing History of New Music, episode 864: Riot Grrrls-A primer

There is no question that the vast majority of rock history is centred around dudes. It has been a very, very male thing. Not always, but most of the time.

There was a time when it was common knowledge (seriously!) that girls just couldn’t rock. They didn’t have the feel. They were built wrong. It just wasn’t in their DNA like it was with guys.

That’s garbage, of course. But it took a long, long, long time for those prejudices to be defeated.

The original punk rock of the mid-70s was a great help, thanks to the movement’s dogma that anyone with anything to say should be able to say it regardless of musical ability, social class, race or gender. Lots of people were able to get on board with that.

But there was backsliding in the 80s. For example, hardcore punk was among the most testosterone-driven bro-rock ever. Women were pushed to the back if not excluded entirely. And when grunge came along in the early 90s, it, too, was very dude-heavy.

Even though parts of the grunge world were totally down with feminist causes and ideals–think Kurt Cobain and the guys in Pearl Jam, who were pretty woke and sympathetic–the scene was still very much a boy’s club.

This time, though, a group of women were determined to carve out their own space with music that was about them and for them. It spoke to issues that they cared about. And it was music that could rock just as hard and be just as abrasive as what the guys were doing. Sometimes even mores.

They became known as riot grrrls. This is their story.

Songs heard on this show

7 Year Bitch, Dead Men Don’t Rape

Patti Smith, Gloria

Fifth Column, Where Are They Now?

Mecca Normal, Who Told You So

Pagan Babies, Best Sunday Dress

Bikini Kill, Suck My Left One

Bratmobile, Cherry Bomb

Heavens to Betsy, Me&Her

Huggy Bear, Her Jazz

Sleater-Kinney, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone

Team Dresch, Uncle Phranc

Hole, Rock Star

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