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RIOT GRRRL REVOLUTION: HISTORY OF WOMEN IN PUNK (part one)

Welcome back to the Riot GRRRL Revolution!

Punk is generally classified by its anti-status quo disposition, do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos, and desire for desalination. Regardless of this rebellious attitude the punk scene supposedly embodies, their actions towards women in the scene did not reflect their values and thus a culture of sexism was born in Punk.

In the punk scene, women and non-men alike were repeatedly excluded, abused, and manipulated to the point of no return. This bias against women in the punk scenes was so extreme that women in crowds would be assaulted physically, sexually and verbally. As musicians, this bias was present through their lack of being taken seriously regardless of musical talent, their not being allowed to perform, their lack of equal opportunity, and women’s music being ripped off by male counterparts. In rebellion against this treatment, there was a female punk revolution. 

There is a conglomeration of prominent masculinist traditions within the punk scene. The narrative pushed in the early 1970s through the 90s punk scene was overwhelmingly focused on the men— creating wide success for male-dominant punk bands. Since the earliest forms of punk music in the 1960s, male-centric punk bands occupied the punk spotlight.

We see the emergence of rock bands with what would develop to be the punk sound. Chronologically,  The Kinks (1960), The Who (1964), The Velvet Underground (1965) and The Squires (1966) emerge and develop a sound that would be the jumping-off point for punk music as a whole. This male-dominated original sound sets up for a male-dominated scene, in which history informs the general pipeline from such an environment to a toxic, abusive environment for women. Early punk bands such as The Ramones, The Stooges, DEVO, and electric eels continue this male-dominated legacy– however, there were female punk bands emerging alongside that were separated from the movement and instead labeled as Pop.


At the same time as their male counterparts, the early ’70s gave the punk scene Blondie, Alice Bag, The Slits and The Patti Smith Group. However, they were given significantly less air time, exposure, and opportunities with the same, if not arguably better, music.

Blondie’s 1977 performance at CBGB gave the female punk rockers a taste of their male counterparts’ opportunity. To be seen and heard in a male-dominated scene was monumental.


Through the public consumption of the music industry being touted as macho or male without an investigation as to why this might be the case, there is systematic oppression and bias against females and gender-nonconforming artists. Thus, Riot GRRRL is born, an uprising against this oppression, a revolution of musical equity.

Check out UICRADIO.ORG weekly for Friday morning installments of Riot GRRRL Revolution! There will be four more parts so be sure to check them out. For an exclusive in-depth discussion about Riot GRRRL tune in Thursdays 5-6 on uicradio.org or through the RadioFX app!

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