Who Took the Bomp?

Who Took the Bomp?  is a documentary about iconic feminist electronic band Le Tigre directed by Kerthy Fix. It was recently shown at MOMA’s Looking at Music 3.0 exhibit which celebrates 90’s post-punk DIY/feminist culture including Bikini Kill fanzines, a Miranda July video chain letter, and a Riot Grrrl film series.

No other show at the MOMA has made me want to bare my midriff and write SLUT on my stomach more. I was inspired in the way a fourteen year old is inspired as band members Kathleen Hanna, Johanna Fateman, and JD Samson confronted sexism and homophobia on tour. The infectious energy in the sold-out auditorium full of die-hard fans (all grown up) was nostalgic, but it was also a reality that not that much has changed.

In the Q&A following the documentary, Riot Grrrl pioneer Kathleen Hanna spoke about the archival of the Riot Grrrl Movement at NYU’s Fales Library and Special Collections department, a movement that tried to avoid mainstream documentation with a self-imposed media blackout. Her decision to contribute to the collection was based on her fear that all the work that the movement achieved would be lost.

“Associated with acts such as Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Huggy Bear and Team Dresch, the Riot Grrrl movement was exemplified by its use of raw and raucous punk rock to foster the exchange of ideas surrounding feminism, queer identity and grassroots political activism. Still, “everybody wants to call it a zine collection,” laments archivist Lisa Darms. (http://www.nypress.com/article-22128-academia-girl-style-now.html)

The Riot Grrrl movement was anything but just a zine collection. It was a feminist social movement comprised of an underground community of DIY artists, activists, and musicians that created a subculture that directly addressed the absence of women in music and so much more. In Deleuzian terms, the multiplicitous nature of zines and rhetoric of inclusion created a rhizomatic structure. “ANYONE IS A RIOT GRRRL. ANYONE. We are not a club and there are no rules (Riot Grrrl, #8). Elizabeth Grosz’s writes, “A multiplicity is not a pluralised notion of identity (identity multiplied by n locations), but is rather an ever-changing, nontotalisable collectivity, an assemblage defined, not by its abiding identity or principle of sameness over time, but through its capacity to undergo permutations and transformations, that is, its dimensionality.” Echoing the Deleuze’s “line of flight,” riot grrrl bands stated: “punkrock [sic] is a queer scene/ punk rock is queercore a call to the multi trajectorised sex.”

Deleuze and Guattari explain the rhizome as, “composed not of units but of dimensions, or rather directions in motion. It has neither a beginning nor end, but always a middle (milieu) from which it grows and which it overspills … The rhizome operates by variation, expansion, conquest, capture, offshoots.” In the Riot Grrrl movement, the rhizome was more than just a network of zines. According to the NYU website, the Riot Grrrl community created a collection that “includes (but is not limited to) correspondence, artwork, journals and notebooks, audio or video recordings, photographs, clippings, and flyers, as well as any source materials relating to the creation of artworks, writings, fanzines, bands, performances or events” and provides “primary resources for scholars who are interested in feminism, punk activism, queer theory, gender theory, DIY culture, and music history.”

I think it’s safe to say that Kathleen Hanna can lay her fears to rest. The Riot Grrrl movement can’t disappear, because “it is an assemblage defined, not by its abiding identity or principle of sameness over time, but through its capacity to undergo permutations and transformations, that is, its dimensionality.” It is fluid and in motion with “neither a beginning nor an end, but always a middle from which it grows and which it overspills.” It is a movement, always in flight, and always becoming.

– christine zenyi lu

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