There’s been a lot of noise about race and riot grrrl as multiple retrospectives go forward, and I hope that I have had some impact on that conversation (see the essay I wrote for the special “Punk Anteriors” issue of Women & Performance, and my interview in the Summer 2013 issue of Bitch). There’s also been some pushback, as evidenced in the comments to Laina Dawes’ 2013 piece published on Bitch Media. I haven’t checked this blog in a while, but as I posted “Against Efficiency Machines,” WordPress helpfully reminded me that I hadn’t ever “approved” the following anonymous comment (submitted in 2010), which I have cut and pasted here as evidence that these confrontations with race and riot grrrl are absolutely necessary.
When Riot Grrrl started black men taunted them in sexist ways, demanding that they couldn’t ever know oppression because they were rich and white. But rich white girls knew oppression and this was their chance to express themselves if they could get over being shouted down by people of color who ruled the city. Minor Threat called this African-American oppression of white kids “Guilty of Being White.” In a city run by crackhead Marion Barry the oppression of white people by black and latin people is obvious, it’s known, it’s our reality. Outside of Washington, DC people could not possibly get it. Instead of being a feminist and demanding that black men stop “Hollering” at women in the street, people read this and think racism is the cause of our anger.
The chauvinist pig who forced himself on you and when you rejected him you became a “racist white bitch” and the only way not to be branded a racist would be to submit to him. He was real. There were assholes like that in every school, bused in from Ward 7 and Ward 8. Assholes who the teachers refused to discipline because of their hard lives, slinging coke at our parties, getting in fights, disrupting class, calling all women bitches.
Riot Grrrl in DC was both wealthy and white because the male power structure in DC is African-American and poor. Over and over again, to this day, we are told that our opinions do not matter- pay taxes to medicaid and welfare and shut up “newcomer” if you don’t like it “move back to Iowa” and you don’t live in “The REAL DC.”
It’s impossible to understand Riot Grrrl without knowing that. It’s impossible to understand feminism in Washington, DC without recognizing the ethnic dynamic that existed under Marion Barry.