My Musical Reawakening: Courtesy of Sleater-Kinney & My Riot Grrrl Foremothers

Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker in 1998. Alex Crick via: Rolling Stone

Over the last few years, I’ve been having trouble maintaining my relationship with music. Aside from a few albums, I haven’t found much that’s gotten me really excited. I thought that intense emotional connection to a song or album, like when you realize you have a crush on someone and can’t stop smiling or saying their name, was something that might be reserved for my adolescence. I just wasn’t hearing any part of myself in the music I was coming across. I felt like nobody was speaking to me, nobody was making the kind of music I needed to hear.

I recently set out to create a playlist for myself that oozed feminine power. I googled various combinations of: Feminist, music, playlist, etc. Then, the thought came to me – Riot Grrrl. I had one of those moments when a bunch of different ideas that had been floating around in my brain hurtled toward each other at full force and knocked the wind out of me.

I have known for a while that the following things are true:

  1. Riot Grrrl is a cool thing that exists.
  2. Sleater-Kinney also exists and is affiliated with the Riot Grrrl Scene.
  3. Carrie Brownstein is really friggin cool and is also involved in Sleater-Kinney.

I’m not sure if I should be thanking their comeback, my attempt at compiling a comprehensive Girl Power playlist, or the books I’ve been reading, but something in my brain has clicked and I’m thrilled.

I found the Girl Germs playlist on Rookie Mag’s site and right at the top of the list was #1 Must have by Sleater-Kinney. I listened to the song. When I heard the words, “The number one must have is that we are safe” and, “Culture is what we make it, yes it is!” I felt like I’d been punched in the face (in a very good way).  

I went back and looked up the rest of the lyrics to the song, and then added heaps and heaps of Sleater-Kinney and related artists to all of my current playlists. I watched The Punk Singer on Netflix and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and seeing. I couldn’t believe how empowering it was to listen to women sing about feminism – about their bodies and their feelings, their problems, their anger.

I thought, How could I possibly have missed this in my high school quest to be hip to any indie or poppy punk band you could name? Now that I think about it, I would bet that 95% of the music on my maxed out 160 gig iPod was written by angsty teenage boys. Where were my angsty ladies? What was I doing?

I know I bopped around to The Hollows, Rilo Kiley, and Neko Case. And I definitely freaked out when I got into She & Him and listened to nothing else for 6 months, but my love for those female artists felt different than my love for bands like Bright Eyes, Brand New, or Anthony Green. Listening to them felt like more of an indulgence, something I did, usually while singing really, really loudly, alone in my car or with my best girl friend.

I’m kind of disappointed in my past self for allowing my cultural intake to be so affected by my just one of the boys attitude. I wonder how many other things I missed out on when I was so busy trying to impress everyone (dudes) with my carefully curated musical knowledge?

In a mindset where the worst thing I could possibly be is “like other girls,” I’m not surprised that I overlooked the angry girl music scene. As I grew, and learned to embrace my own womanhood, I’ve subconsciously made space in my mind for culture, politics, and people who do the same. Until recently, I hadn’t come across anything that could fill it. I didn’t even know there was space that needed to be filled.

I now have music to listen to that will match my expanding, intense, and unbending sense of womanhood. I won’t abandon the music I already know and love, but this kind of revival was definitely something I needed.

I know all of these songs don’t  explicitly fall into the  category of ‘riot grrrl,’ but they make me feel like I’ve got power bursting from my ovaries so I want to share them with all of you.


Madelaine Walker : Anthropology enthusiast, bookworm & couch potato. In search of a life I’ll be proud to recount in old age.