In the 1990’s, the Riot Grrrl movement was born. It was a movement of women who played loud punk music, wore black Doc Marten shit-stomping boots, and didn’t give a fuck what anyone thought about them. They stood up to the patriarchy and for women everywhere.
And I wanted to be one so damn badly.
But in my twenties, I brutally suppressed so much of myself in the name of keeping the peace. When I was nineteen my dad had his first heart attack and would later retire early within the next couple of years. When I was twenty-one my mother was diagnosed with cancer that would slowly kill her seven years later. Without telling anyone, I became a caregiver and was more than willing to give up a lot of my life. What I didn’t intend to do, and should have never have done, was give up almost all of my own life because I knew people were mouthing off to my parents behind my back about them letting me live at home while I was helping out as much as I could.
Back then, I felt like I could not find my own way like most people start to do in their twenties. I didn’t go out and raise hell, or even have more than one drink at a time. I didn’t socialize in any way that was meaningful and long-lasting. I felt like I was not allowed to slip, stumble, and fall like most people do. And not because people were over-protective of me, but because these well-intentioned people thought that I couldn’t handle falling on my ass. And also if I wasn’t at their beck-and-call I was a selfish bitch.
This is why after all these years I want to be a Riot Grrrl. I want to stand up and yell and scream and tell the assholes of this world to ‘fuck off!’ more than anything. I do it here on my own website-blog as an act of defiance. And so far, no one has reached out to me to tell me to shut the hell up with well-intentioned words and bullshit. But hey, if anyone wants to do that I will unleash my inner Riot Grrrl on you.
I am comforted to see a new generation embracing the Riot Grrrl aesthetic today. And I’m also comforted by those of us entering middle-age kicking and screaming along with them because you’re never too old to be a Riot Grrrl. And I think if I had embraced my inner Riot Grrrl back then I wouldn’t be working so hard now to regain the self-confidence I so foolishly gave away back then. Maybe I would have ended up out on my ass and alone but I would have survived, just with more scars than I already have.
Recently, I saw a question asked: what would you tell your eighteen year-old self if you could?
I’d tell her the following:
1) You are so much stronger than you will ever realize.
2) You have the right to stand up for yourself and call out the shit-talkers in your life. Because if you do that, you’ll call their bluff.
3) Five minutes after someone is done ripping you to shreds, they won’t remember what they did it for in the first place. Don’t let them do that to you.
4) Do not be ashamed to do the right thing even if it means sacrificing your own personal life to do it. There is no shame in spending time with people you love as they’re dying, like all the time I spent with my mother.
5) Start saving up for a pair of Doc Marten boots and a black leather jacket.
I think my experiences in the 1990’s mirrored what was going on in the world, especially how a presidential administration elected on a lot of hope and rock ‘n’ roll music ended in a trial over a stained blue dress that could have been avoided had a sitting president read about Alexander Hamilton and his ‘Reynold Pamphlet’ (Alexander Hamilton had an affair while US Treasury Secretary and wrote that pamphlet to clear his name of allegations of embezzlement, which he was innocent of. All Bill Clinton had to do was call a press conference instead to clear his name). For me, it was like ‘family values’ bullshit reaching an extreme hypocritical apex in American society.
This is why I think the Riot Grrrl aesthetic survives and thrives today because it’s about calling out bullshit and hypocrisy. I highly recommend it and have vowed to be like it in the ways I can.
And yes, I’m still saving up for a pair of Doc Marten boots and a black leather jacket. Preferably with lots of zippers or sharp-studs.