amber recently wrote a post for her blog (see side bar) in which she quoted a fair chunk of an e-mail i’d sent her, trying to make sense of how i feel about the idea of a “riot grrrl revival” (i’m not feeling great about it). this is what she quoted:
“…i realized: those of us who were involved with riot grrrl Original Recipe have ALREADY been building upon riot grrrl for like twelve or fifteen years now! so when people who weren’t around the first time around say that they are drawn to riot grrrl with the intention of “building upon” it, it’s like…um, what the hell do you think i’m already doing? i think the very fact that people like you & your sister are making these feminist personal zines in the first place is INHERENTLY building upon the legacy of riot grrrl, whether it’s intentional or not. you know? the original ladyfest in olympia (where i taught two workshops) was “building upon” riot grrrl. paper trail distro was a build-upon. the boston skillshare was a build-upon. going to midwifery school & learning to perform abortions was a build-upon. the fact that i am still a feminist is a build-upon. maybe these things aren’t being in punk bands & writing “riot grrl” on my knuckles, but it’s like, this is what a riot grrrl does when she grows up, & that trajectory can take all kinds of different forms (which is to say, there are other ways that people have “built-upon” than just what i have done).
“i have been attached to this idea that a “riot grrrl revival” is an exercise in pointlessness, but i couldn’t figure out a way to say it that actually expressed what i meant (& didn’t just sound dismissive & mean-spirited in a way i don’t actually feel). i think this is it: it feels pointless because i feel like the friendships you have made with people in the zine scene ARE the build-upon. maranda’s writing about mental health are the build-upon. the fact that you’re interested in alternatives to traditional menstrual products is the build-upon. there’s no need for a “revival” because the build-upon is happening everyday. & i think it’s maybe actually more important to acknowledge what has happened since riot grrrl Original Recipe fell apart as being a continuum of feminist activism/culture/community-building in whatever obvious & not-so-obvious/explicitly political (in the civic sense) & explicitly personal (like self-care) ways it manifests.”
thoughts? i don’t totally know how i feel about this quote because, while i wrote it & i think it makes a good point illustrating my lack of enthusiasm for this whole weird “revival” idea (or “legacy” or whatever you want to call it–different people seem to have different ideas about it), i feel weird that so many of the examples i used of “build-upons” are things that i have done. i was trying to draw from my own personal experience to provide a sense of trajectory from one teenage riot grrrl in 1994 to the thirty-year-old ex/post-riot grrrl that i am today…but i worry that the examples are too limited, because the path i took is different from the paths a lot of other ex-riot grrrls have taken. but…hopefully it’s obvious enough that i respect the fact that different people have taken (& currently are on) all kinds of different paths, & there’s no one right way to put whatever lessons you learned from riot grrrl into action, right?
i’m in a mood tonight. it’s been a gorgeous day, & i spent a good chunk of it walking around town & sitting in the sun. i am seeing a chiropracter for my fucked up back (apparently my thoracic spine locked into place, who knows why?) & i feel a lot better now. i’ve seen him three times in the last week, & i have a lot less pain, more mobility, & more energy. i saw him this morning, & then i got a hot fudge sundae & ate it outside in the sun, reading a book. i also sold a cute-but-too-narrow pair of shoes to arizona trading company & stocked up on cute spring/summer tops.
on saturday, i went to a clothing swap out in the country. i unloaded a couple of bags i really shouldn’t use anymore (because they are too ugly for words), some ill-fitting jeans, a whole pile of too-small/weird-fitting t-shirts, a couple of dresses & skirts i couldn’t work into my wardrobe, all my leg warmers (i had four pairs & i hadn’t worn any of them in at least five years), etc…some really cute stuff! but stuff that doesn’t really work for my look anymore, now that i am thirty & actually care about wearing clothes that fit & aren’t purposely garish. i finally got rid of the stripe-y jersey dress with a hood that was just a touch too small for me & also not really appropriate for my personal aesthetic. & i got rid of the flowery white bedazzled baby doll peter pan collar dress i used to wear all the time (paired with combat boots & ripped striped tights, of course) when i was twenty & living in portland. i hadn’t been able to squeeze into it in years, but held on to it out of sentimentality. but i donated it to the clothing swap. my neighbor alyssa, who is seven years younger than me & has a way more colorful, lively personal dress sense than i do at this point, took both dresses. i’m glad they found a good home!
i loaded up on basic tees & layering essentials, plus a really well-fitting pair of jeans to cut off into shorts (they’re a smidgen too short on me, so it’s no loss). i also got some espadrilles–who knows if i’ll ever wear them? alyssa said they’d make good i-have-a-wedding-to-attend shoes, which is true, but i also have three pairs of nice heels, plus two pairs of dressy flats. i doubt i’ll ever wear the espadrilles unless i dye them. they’re an awful yellow color right now.
but i’m excited to have so many cute new tops to wear in warmer weather. & none of them are t-shirts! when i was younger, my entire wardrobe was t-shirts, miniskirts, torn up shredded tights, leg warmers, combat boots, & thrifted old man pants. the less stuff matched, the happier i was. i got through one entire winter (in boston!) without a winter coat. i just layered three sweaters at a time under my hoodie with the big anarchy-A patch on the back. i used to have monochromatic days where i wore nothing but pink (pink corduroys, pink t-shirt, pink cardigan, pink striped socks, pink studded belt, pink headband, pink sneakers). i can’t even imagine dressing like that now. what happened to me? god, when i lived in portland, i owned thirteen wigs, & i actually wore them. a lot.
now i wear jeans or corduroys almost every day, & i don’t like to wear t-shirts unless the collars & sleeves have been cut off. i don’t think crewnecks flatter my body type at all, but tunic-style shirts generally make me look pregnant. it’s a delicate balance, but i got a lot of good stuff at the clothing swap & at the thrift store today. i am psyched for hot weather now! (it helps that our apartment has central air. kansas gets wicked hot.)
on the way home from the clothing swap, we noticed a man & his dog jogging on the sidewalk by this little park near the river. everyone in the car was like, “wow, look at the dog run! he’s really into having his exercise today!” “what a good dog to run without a leash!” “that dog is so cute!” etc. then alyssa said, “what if that person is just running away from that dog?” most hilarious thing i have heard in a while.