Riot grrrl in Milwaukee: "Things are still F'd Up!"
Post by Adam Schabow on 10/20/2010 8:33pm
It all started with an invitation for author Sarah Marcus to come to Milwaukee and discuss her new book, “Girls to the Front: the True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution”. However, what started as a simple one-night event, has quickly expanded to a three day festival consisting of bands, poetry and workshops celebrating the fierceness of the riot grrrl movement.
“Girls to the Front” festival organizer Lindsay Hayden explains, “Riot grrrl was a music/activist movement from the early nineties- a feminist punk movement actually. And the idea was, that there were young women who got together and said that they were fed up with male dominated subculture, so they created their own (subculture) based around feminist ideals”.
Bands like Sleater-Kinney, Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy and probably the most influential, Bikini Kill, all played huge roles in promoting the riot grrrl lifestyle.
Now, nearly 15 years later, the “Girls to the Front” festival will celebrate this movement with Chicago acts The Ovens and Cathy Santonies as well as local Milwaukee acts including Sook and DJ Televore. However, Hayden suggests there will be diversity in the musical acts. “One of the things we want to do is give space to those who are making grungy music in their basement. That was a lot of what riot grrrl was about. You didn’t necessarily have to have…talent to be able to play. You just picked up a guitar and played.”
The festival includes workshops about crochet (called “Stitch and Bitch”), polyamory, transgender topics, and of course, a reading from Marcus herself.
Being a mother of two boys, Hayden discussed what living a riot grrrl life is like now that she is older. “The subculture often focuses on people in their late teens or early 20’s and there is not a lot of room for people that are older. Those movements, in some ways, don’t have legs unless you plan for the future. You have to plan for the next generation for riot boys or feminist girls- those that are being raised in that lifestyle.” Hayden suggests that being a mom in many ways has strengthened her feminist resolve. “You don’t really realize how sexist society is until you have children and suddenly you are this figure defined as a mom.”
Hayden explains the relevancy of riot grrrl in today’s culture. “When it got to the 80’s, there was a huge backlash against feminism and feminist ideas. Basically there was this idea and a push forward by the status quo, (stating) that feminism was over. Hayden exclaims, “But the riot girls in the 90’s said ‘No. Things are still F’d up!’”
“Now there is still that same idea.” Hayden continues, “We had this whole problem with sexism and now it’s the 2000’s and everything is fixed and we don’t need feminism anymore- but things are still F’d up!!”
Hayden and fellow organizer Evelyn Sempos felt strongly this festival could help shed a light for a whole new generation of girls that know nothing of riot grrrl, while at the same time, helping those over the age of 21, embrace the feminist label.
When discussing the festival, Hayden says, “Maybe it’s something Milwaukee needs right now and that women in Milwaukee need and queer people in Milwaukee need. Or maybe just people in general.”
The "Girls to the Front" Festival runs from Friday, October 22nd through the 24th in Riverwest. For more information about the festival, click here!