What was it about Riot Grrrl that most resonated with you back then?
It was very co-mingled with my rebellion against my parents, the sort of break that you have anyway in your teens and twenties. So instead of being alone (or in school) and questioning the interpersonal politics of my family, my parents, my mom as a woman, my dad as a man—I was part of a movement of young women doing this. It offered a model of strength and self-reliance (DIY) that I really needed as an artist.
I think the sense of a larger cause was also important because I had dropped out of college and pretty much dropped out of my family, so the self-importance that came from being a feminist was a sorely needed framework, almost as religion might be to a different kind of person. And then gradually my own ideas and values grew beyond any collective sense of feminism—this was true for everyone.
Do you think that this early attraction to Riot Grrrl has had any lingering influence on you?
Me and my friends from that time sometimes even feel a bit plagued by our inner Riot Grrrl. Younger feminists don’t have much compunction about mainstream vs. underground, selling out, etc. but we still turn these issues over and over in a way that now seems dated, that feels particular to Riot Grrrl—this “f—k you” to the mainstream. Because Riot Grrrl was punk—messy, f—ked up, ripped tights, I don’t need help, I might be violent—all of that is still inside me and it (subtly) inspires how I function in the world. There are a big handful of influences from my twenties that continue to impact me. Riot Grrrl is just one, but I’m glad for it.
Is there a contemporary equivalent?
I think the closest thing to Riot Grrrl in the U.S. now is the world that Tavi Gevison has created through her online magazine, Rookie. Because of the Internet, that website is much, much larger, as far as girls being served, than Riot Grrrl ever was. But it looks different and it’s a business. It has ads, it’s organized, and a few adults work for Rookie. Like many kids I talk to these days, Tavi is close with her parents. So the rebellion/politics is more educated, specific. She and her peers carefully turn over the finer points of being a young woman while being wildly aware (via the Internet) of history, mainstream fashion, music, film, etc. These women have much to love, whereas we only loved a few things and broadly rejected a lot of things we didn’t know much about. In an oppressive country there is actually something to riot about: a dad that is much larger and more oppressive than your own dad. Riot Grrrl was always a mask that made girls feel powerful—underneath, each girl was just herself.