Bikini Kill asked for revolution in the 90s, why are they still waiting?


Bikini Kill, from the artists Facebook page

While female-led acts are near invisible on festival listings and while there is a need for a project like Safe Gigs for Women, Getintothis’ Amelia Vandergast wonders where the Riot Grrl Revolution is.

Almost 30 years after Bikini Kill asked for Revolution Girl Style Now! with their 1991 album, they’re still waiting.

In our ever-perplexing post-truth world, where reason and sanity are depressingly scant, especially if the mainstream press has anything to do with it, I can’t even begin to express my gratitude for their return.

It’s a depressing sign of the times that Bikini Kill made their comeback in 2019 feeling that their message was relevant.

Sleater-Kinney also came back with vengeance after the release of their 2019 album The Center Won’t Hold containing some soul-slicing vulnerable and raw material.

The record, which was produced by St. Vincent, may well be aural marmite for fans of the older material, but I found it all too easy to acquire the taste.

The atmosphere at the Manchester leg of their UK tour was beyond the usual feeling of heading to a gig and finding yourself around vaguely like-minded people.

Inside the walls of the venue existed a beautiful liberal open-minded bubble; a brief reprieve from the divisive, hysteric, endemic-obsessed world outside.

Carrie Brownstein’s explosively volatile energy and beaming smile as she thrashed her guitar in true glam rock fashion was one thing. Hearing her say that the future belongs to immigrants, queers and women was quite another.

That seemingly small statement hit me with tingling resonance and the affirmation that it is well and truly time to revisit the Riot Grrrl manifesto and start making noise again.

Despite the relative success of the Riot Grrrl movement, the number of ears which their feminist-inspired ethos reached was severely limited.

Mainstream media crushed the epoch by manufacturing their own tamer and sugar-coated poster girls of female empowerment. Yes, I’m talking about the Spice Girls.

Bikini Kills’ Kathleen Hanna tirelessly adapted academic material into accessible song lyrics and zines to open up conversations about rape and female empowerment.

But young girls who could have been empowered by their music and solidarity spent their time pontificating which Spice Girl they related to the most and figuring out the dance moves to Wannabe instead.

With that in mind, I hope you can forgive my cynicism when I see mainstream press trying to be sympathetic when it comes to instances of sexual abuse after they silenced so many musicians actively speaking out against Rape Culture.

Women in the Music Industry VS the Madonna-Whore Dichotomy

Sure, sympathies pour in for women who have been a victim of sexual assault, rags such as The Daily Mail and The S*n rushed to rake in the cash from publishing Duffy’s story.

But commiserations are worthless when they’re solely joined by a series of statements and facts relayed for shock value.

Feminism has since moved on from the Riot Grrrl movement with the power of social media sparking the fourth wave in 2012 aiding movements such as the #MeToo movement. But making noise online can’t be the final objective.

Conversations have to be the first and not the final instance of action.

We can’t really do much about the fact that Brexit happened or that somehow Boris Johnson is in charge, but we can help to maintain a healthy breeding ground for the culture which is responsible for giving us the aural escapism we desperately need.

Just as Riot Grrrl bands said in the 90s, safe spaces for women are vital.

Yet, even the mention of equality on festival line ups is enough to get blood boiling. Don’t even mention female-only festivals and gigs! It’s just not fair that male artists suffer such a ripple effect!

But we will mention female-only festivals. Because they are essential. Frankly, I don’t care about any male opinions telling me otherwise.

For the most part, I’m inclined to believe that most angry commentators have no idea how artists go from buying a guitar to headlining Glastonbury, that process doesn’t concern them.

All they know is who is on the radio when they turn it on and who features on the major festival posters.

They never have to think about how dangerous it is for women negating a male-dominated industry as they start out and try to establish themselves in their respective scenes.

They just see audacity in women wanting to explore their creativity in safe spaces. I mean, how dare they?

WHY don’t they need to put up with the sleazy/patronising industry folk which every female band I know could tell me stories about?

There will never be any official stats on how many women quit the industry because of the sexism they face. But I can guarantee that it would be enough to change the minds of those against female-only gigs and festivals.

Hands Off Gretel’s Lauren Tate talks Angry EP, fairy tales and safe gigs for women

Additionally, it’s women in the crowd who benefit from safe spaces existing. With the help of organisations such as Safe Gigs for Women, it’s becoming easier to ensure female members of the crowd feel safe at more gigs.

The organisation was set up by regular gig-goers, they head to multiple events each year. The more volunteers they get, the more safe spaces there will be.

Before major changes are made in festival lineups, change needs to happen in the underground music scenes.

If you head down to events promoting female and non-binary artists you’ll soon see that inequality on major festival bills isn’t due to lack of artistic merit.  I’ll never forget discovering Brighton-based lo-fi punks Cultdreams at a Girl Gang event in Leeds in 2019.