Third Wave Feminism and the Riot grrrl Movement

The film “The Punk Singer” highlights the three major feminist movements that have occurred in America’s history. The first wave of feminism sprang out of women’s suffrage in the early 20th century, and the second grew as a result of the civil rights movement in the 1960’s fueled by pervasive political activism. The third wave originated in the 1990’s and is considered to continue to the present. Riot grrrl-an underground feminist punk rock movement dominated by bands like Bikini Killer, is considered part of this third wave. It is evident that Riot grrrl heavily influenced the feminist atmosphere of the late 1980’s-90’s; it was evocative and controversial sparking media attention and feminist debate. It sought to eradicate essentialist definitions of feminine behavior and to combat stereotypical portrayal of women in the media. I’m curious as to what specific part Riot grrrl played in the emergence of third wave feminism? What allowed Riot grrrl to become such a formidable cultural faction? From the film it seemed as if Riot grrrl grew alongside third wave feminism, responding to the political and sexist climate of the day. Riot grrrl widened the public perception of feminism because it spoke through a medium that everyone could understand – music. Does a movement like Riot grrrl still exist at all today, or has it transformed into a new type musical feminism?


The Feminist Stripper

In the documentary, “The Punk Singer,” Kathleen Hanna admits that she briefly worked as a stripper in order to pay her bills. This admission wasn’t explored or developed in the film. It was merely presented as a fact of Hanna’s life, so I was curious what Hanna actually thought about the profession. In the article titled “Keeping Women Down and Out: The Strip Club Boom and the Reinforcement of Male Dominance,” Jeffreys’s argues that stripping is a form of social inequality. On Kathleen Hanna’s website, the singer corroborates Jeffreys’s arguments. She says, “To be clear I NEVER saw stripping as empowering, but I did know what I was doing. A gross job to pay the bills.” In comparison, we explored the empowerment argument through “Live, Nude, Girls Unite!” (2000), where strippers unionized and fought to eradicate the stigma associated with this profession. It’s interesting how divided the feminist movement is in regards to stripping. I believe this schism in feminist opinion is a disservice to the movement as a whole because it prevents women from moving forward and taking social action concerning the strip club industry.

“Live Nude Girls Unite!” (2000)
Jeffrey’s, Sheila. “Keeping Women Down and Out: The Strip Club Boom and the Reinforcement of Male Dominance.”

The Punk Singer

The documentary “The Punk Singer,” which chronicles the life of Kathleen Hanna, explores the stage as a feminist space. As a young artist, Hanna sought to combat the violence and the sexism that usually rules punk rock music shows. She did this by ensuring that her concerts were targeted to a female audience both figuratively and literally. Hanna would call women to the front of the stage protecting them from the dangerous mosh pits that were known to erupt. Hannah’s supporters explain that this small request was actually revolutionary for gender relations as men are accustomed to dominating a room. In addition, the content of the music focused on women’s issues, such as rape and gender prejudice. Instead of music normally acting as escapist, it forced listeners to confront the issues head on; Hannah “screamed what was unspoken.” Concertgoers expressed that Hanna’s stage presence was that of a man’s; she was known to act aggressively and crudely. In “Ways of Seeing,” John Berger asserts that women behave according to how men will perceive them. However, Hanna destroyed this idea by rejecting a man’s idea of how a woman should act through her behavior and through the content of her music. It was difficult for me think of an analogous figure in music today that approaches feminism with Hanna’s aggressive approach. Has this type of feminism died in today’s culture?

Berger, John. “From Ways of Seeing.” The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. By Amelia Jones. London: Routledge, 2003. 37-39. Print.

What justice are we trying to achieve?

After watching our in-class film, “La Mitad de Todo” (2012), I began to wonder: what justice are we trying to achieve?  If we are creating theoretical frameworks, which will, in effect, inform our practices and function in the real world (and hopefully, one day, make a more just world), how are we prioritizing feminism to our understanding of other forms of oppression?  To better contextualize the question, we can analyze this through Julia Query’s (“Live Nude Girls Unite!”, 2000) negotiations with the owners of the strip club. Was their effort to become a closed shop union a feminist struggle or a labor struggle? If it’s a combination, what needs to be considered if an endeavor necessitates compromise on some goals over others? I ask this because, in any struggle, there are intersecting issues at hand. Going back to Query’s situation, how could we evaluate the success of the union if they conceded racial equality to better salaries and overall benefits?

Although abstract, this notion of priority is important. When discussing feminist ideas and even feminist utopias, we need to keep in mind other forms oppression that have become entangled with patriarchy. Doing so, helps us understand if a solution to a certain oppression creates another oppression for others. Of course, this question of priority would need to be contextualized with some specific situation. Firestone sets a good example in her utopia, “A cybernetic socialism would abolish economic classes, and all forms of labor exploitation, by granting all people a livelihood based only on material needs.”  (Firestone, 274). Here, Firestone prioritizes a feminist revolution but within a socialist change. In closing, as we further our understanding of gender and sexual oppression, we need to continuously create notions of justice that encompass other struggles to achieve the best understanding of the justice we want to see in this Earth.

Don’t be stupid, protect yourself. –

In a marketing scheme to deliver more “creative” ads, delivered with some questionable interpretations of safe sex. In the following ads, two situations showcase a group of guys, armed with their phallic symbols and protective equipment, at a crossfire in roles historically portrayed by only men. In both groups, there is one man not just fully engaged in the action but also, fully naked. Both ads illustrate the cry of wisdom: “Don’t be stupid, protect yourself.” At first glimpse, this ad seems harmless. It appears to be endorsing the use of condoms in what is implied heterosexual intercourse (following a long pattern of heteronormative advertisements where men use their phallic either as weapons or hoses).  However, as creative the ads may be, they showcase certain implicit problems.  As Judith Lorber summarizes, “As a social institution, gender is a process of creating distinguishable social statuses for the assignment of rights and responsibilities. “ Lorber reminds us that the problem is endogenous with their use of gender. The destructive nature of the gender binary is rooted in its very function- not just consequence- in assigning roles to both men and women in an unjust hierarchy. First, we see that women are absent in both situations. This implicitly infers a few things: the counterfactual (i.e. if a naked woman filed up behind other men…) would be deemed inappropriate or, Lord forbid, inconceivable for the public because, as this and other ads show, only men can fit these roles (and can be naked in public advertisements with their chest in display). In other words, the ad is unaware of its own less-than-ideal vision of women or anyone fitting outside their heterosexual mold. Only heterosexual men can fit these roles!, the ads shout-unaware, that variability in safe sex can be just as “creative” as those performing it.



Miley Cyrus – Notions of Femininity

This clip was shown as a commercial on MTV advertising highlights of the VMA’s to viewers. It briefly shows the now infamous and controversial twerking move performed by Miley Cyrus – when she bended over and danced on Robin Thicke. In the context of this class, I thought about how her behavior might me perceived to a huge audience of girls/women. Although Miley technically should have the freedom to behave as she pleases, I do believe she has a responsibility to the millions of fans that allowed her to become famous; that allowed her to become what she is. Is it possible that her extremely sexual dancing might project to women that this is how all women should act? It appears that although Miley may not have been performing solely for a heterosexual male audience, that audience was watching as well and analyzing her behavior. Perhaps women might think that in order to gain attention from men, they need to pattern their behavior after their role model, Miley – further polarizing gender binaries and defining what it means to act like a woman/act like a man. Even worse, it might be extremely influential on a huge population of young girls. In this unit we explored gender as a social construct through authors like Judith Butler and Judith Lorber. Lorber especially emphasizes that gender is constantly being done through our day to day interactions. With this in mind, Robin Thick and Miley Cyrus are indicative of cultural norms; or with this performance, they are establishing a new cultural norm that men and women will strive to imitate. I think that women who have platforms like Miley Cyrus have the capacity to further perpetuate societal definitions of what it means to be feminine, and in this case, the definition isn’t exactly a good one.

Lorber, Judith, and Susan A. Farrell. The Social Construction of Gender. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1991. 113-18. Print.

What is Beautiful?

Reflecting on the female obsession with weight loss, and the unrealistic images of woman as very skinny, perceptions of beauty in the United States are extremely skewed. It makes me wonder how we arrived here. Is it the media’s fault for projecting these images, or the consumer’s fault for enabling them? As we’ve read in “Can’t by my Love,” the advertising industry is worth billions of dollars exerting enormous influence over what is portrayed in the media. However, advertisers attempt to please their audiences by selling what they want. Therefore, what makes women crave the ideal body and perfect face? Not only do they crave this type of beauty, they spend millions of dollars attaining this ideal through surgery. They spend exorbitant amounts of money on dieting and weight loss regimes desperately hoping to reach this nearly impossible goal.
In “Reading the Slender Body,” Susan Bordo explains that although elective surgery is considered at least a bit more extreme, “…Preoccupation with fat, diet, and slenderness are not abnormal” Indeed, such preoccupation may function as one of the most powerful normalizing mechanisms of our century, insuring the production of self-monitoring and self-disciplining.” But still, it leaves the large question unanswered. Where does this preoccupation originate from? I believe that at least partially it stems from the way women construct their self-identity. In “Ways of Seeing,” John Berger asserts that women present themselves in the way that they want men to view them knowing that men are constantly surveying them. Consequently, at some point, a man’s ideal beautiful woman became extremely skinny with large breasts, and in response to this, women torture themselves in order to emulate this conception of beauty. With this norm present in society, women and men will continue to perceive beautiful in this way until culture gravitates towards a new standard of beauty.

Bordo, Susan. Umbearable Weight. Berkeley : Univ of CA Press, 1993.

Kilbourne, Jean. Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Thing and Feel. New York: Touchtsone, 1999.Print.

Berger, John. “From Ways of Seeing.” The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. By Amelia Jones. London: Routledge, 2003. 37-39. Print.