Monday, August 15, 2005

Riot Thesis

"Carlton, you sure wrote enough about riot grrrl! Maybe you should write a master's thesis about that!"

Actually, someone already has.

"Words+ Guitar: The Riot Grrrl Movement and Third-Wave Feminism" by Hillary Belzer

My Notes While Reading it:
It's pretty much accurate. I'd totally forgotten about the Tailhook scandal, the William Kennedy Smith hearing, and the Spur Posse; not to mention the fact that they happened right about the same time as the Clarence Thomas hearing and the heyday of the anti-abortion movement. I remember Camille Paglia was hated, although the sex-positive feminism she was tied to eventually caught on in a big way. The author pretty much misquotes Paglia, which is painfully de rigeur with these sorts of articles. Andrea Dworkin was a lot more popular than the author suggests. Also, the anti-media animus was exactly as strong as she suggests. Remember the massive protests against Basic Instinct? Ah, was it that simple back then?

I also don't know how much "cultural theory" went into it. Academics tend to use the word "postmodern" the way 1950s ad-men used the word "atomic"- they just slap it on the old product and make it sound sexy. I don't remember hearing about Foucault ever- besides, Foucault was a mysogynist if anybody ever was. Also, Derrida was a university thing, but not what you heard about at shows or meetings or wherever. The biggest influences actually seemed to be second-wave feminists. I heard all the time about bell hooks and Andrea Dworkin and Kate Millet. Why exactly do academics treat two older French men like they're expert voices on American feminist issues anyway?

But, there was the idea of "feminisms" which was pretty much central to both the third wave and Riot Grrrl. Also, she's right that there was a strong belief that all forms of oppression are linked, race is impossible to get away from in DC anyway. And, I remember hearing about "the gaze" all the time. I guess my problem with the cultural theory stuff here is that people were trying to figure out how race and sex work- not writing footnotes to books of theory. I just don't know if this part of the essay is correct- I can't remember anyone talking about theory. People loved bell hooks, who I found tiresome, but that wasn't really "theory". I don't know. I'm not the one to say really. I was just sort of around, the meetings were girls-only. It does say something that the writer has academic sources and zinester sources, but no zines about theory.

The author is absolutely correct about why so many girls wrote on their bodies and actually about a lot of things. I'd still say a lot of those people were pretty steeped in second-wave thinkers and writers a hell of a lot more than in po-mo academia. Also, she doesn't really get at what huge issues rape and pornography were for the girls and boys of that scene in that time. Rape especially was the big issue that was dragged out of the closet in that time. Anorexia was big too, but rape was pretty much the big horrifying thing that everyone seemed to decide to fight against at the same time.

All that said, the thesis is extremely accurate and makes its points well. Also, I stupidly misspelled Erika's name in the last post. Twice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm quite late to the party but I finally googled myself and stumbled across your post regarding my thesis. I admit, it might not have been the most well-executed piece on Riot Grrrl, but I had pretty much ZERO guidance on it. Just felt the need to defend myself. ;)