LB Riot Grrrl Takes Back the Fight

Here’s my latest little ditty (article) I just finished for Random Lengths News (due out in print this Friday).  Yay to LB Riot Grrrl!  😀

riot grrrl

Long Beach Riot Grrrl Takes Back the Fight

by Jennifer Tehani Sarreal

It may have been decades since the famous rally cry for women everywhere to “Take Back the Night!” but Long Beach Riot Grrrl, a local neo-feminist movement, with its provocative art and free events, screams of a new brand of feminism that is anything but out-dated.

I recently attended a free screening and discussion of the documentary “W.A.R.: Women Art Revolution,” lead by a xeroxed flyer of hand drawn doodles and information that I found at the bottom of my purse one evening.  It took me a few moments to realize it was a flyer. The nostalgic approach of word-of-mouth marketing coupled with that simple piece of paper ignited within me a call to action where other professional colored cardstock had failed.

It wasn’t until viewing the untethered film about the historical disproportionate representation of male to female art in the country – and justified outrage – that I sadly realized I (like many of the interviewees in the documentary) was unable to name more than two famous female painters.  With over 40 years of footage from the Feminist Art Movement, blatant examples of widespread artistic discrimination and the fight against female ostracization, “W.A.R.: Women Art Revolution” offers a tiny glimpse of a generations-long struggle for recognition.

Sitting on an information table preceding rows of chairs packed with a full audience, were more black-and-white punk-style flyers next to a basket of buttons with sayings like “I [Heart] Consensual Sex,” feminist comic books for sale, a donation jar and Monet Pedrazzini – an organizer for Long Beach Riot Grrrl – who was more than happy to introduce me to the growing movement and invite me to upcoming events.

Film screenings are just one of the many free and gender-inclusive weekly activities in Long Beach provided by Riot Grrrl.  Other regular events include: a monthly political prisoner letter-writing party (which is a project in collaboration with another local activist group, Food Not Bombs), group discussions on feminism and “DIY Wednesdays” where community members can take classes to learn anything from creating homemade vegan candy to playing the ukulele.

Pedrazzini saw these local happenings as a vehicle to both serve and connect with her community.  As a result, she discovered more faith in it.

“I wish to provide others with a catalyzing force of validation and recognition,” she said after the screening. “All of our events have given me a sense of community as well as kept me uplifted in my outlook on the world. It’s a beautiful thing to be around these people who care about the same things you do.”

This Riot Grrrl was inspired to see a feminist-focused group emerging in Long Beach and, although she was not one of the founding members, became a core organizer.  The movement has become an extension of her beliefs in action.

“Riot Grrrl as a genre of music, as a branch of feminism and as ‘grrrl’ punk philosophy has been a catalyst in my life towards radical thought, unabashed confidence and, most importantly, an unapologetic authenticity,” Monet continued. “All of these ideas have validated a culmination of oppressive experiences in my life that stemmed from not measuring up to the conventional standards of a girl.”

Though Long Beach Riot Grrrl has been operating in the Long Beach area for less than a year, the Riot Grrrl Movement itself has been in existence since the early 1990’s and supported by feminist punk rock groups across the globe.  The most notable of these groups is Pussy Riot, the Russian feminist punk rock band that made headlines worldwide when members of the group were incarcerated on charges of “hooliganism” for a one-minute performance protest in front of a cathedral in Moscow (that included a prayer to the Madonna to remove Putin).

Pedrazzini is an individual reflection of the Riot Grrrl movement in her fem-empowered resistance to all forms of discrimination and violence against women.

“Being unconventional [in] expressing my gender identity (as a cisgendered straight girl) as I please…also made me a target for sexual harassment and assault…and has labeled me a sexual object,” Monet explained, describing her relationship to the Riot Grrrl movement. “This was the hypocrisy of my society I dealt with all of my life: being scolded for who I am but validated for how my body has happened to shape out.  This is why I needed Riot Grrrl”.  Many others do, too.

She concluded with an enthusiastic petition for support “Come to our events! All of our events are ‘safe space-modeled’ meaning any intolerance is not tolerated! We aim to provide a platform of respect and safety for any individual (besides a bigot),” with a small caveat.

Fighting the good fight for gender equality and empowering others to boldly be themselves without shame or judgment, is just as relevant and essential today as it ever has been.  With the appearance of Long Beach Riot Grrrl, perhaps we will glimpse a future world where hate crimes, abuse and the objectification of women are shadows of the past.  Until then, Riot Grrrls (and their male allies) are vigilant as they continue to sing, paint and dance visions of this new world into reality.

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