The first time I learned about ‘zines I was 16 years old. Thumbing through the pages of Seveteen Magazine, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the articles about which lipgloss to buy or how to get your crush to like you - when there it was, in huge block letters: RIOT GRRRL. The phrase itself has an outrageous energy and it instantly grabbed me. I read the article, learning that with a pair of scissors and some glitter I could make something called a fanzine that would activate my creativity and provide an outlet for my most intimate thoughts. More importantly, I wasn’t alone. Because there she was on the page in a sunflower dress with iconic black bangs, telling me that I matter: Kathleen Hanna.
I was drawn to the riot grrrl movement, which originally began in the early 90’s, because it made me feel empowered for the first time. I started to speak up in class. As the adolescent years of my life unfolded I started to wear eyeliner and short skirts because that’s when I felt most like myself, a walking dichotomy between playful femininity and balls-to-the-wall rebellion. I discovered punk music and started to write rock n’ roll songs because the angst felt honest and I was teeming with it. I covered myself in glitter and booked shows at dive bars, ditching the notion that a young, educated woman is supposed to behave accordingly and keep quiet. Kathleen said I could, so I did. In The Punk Singer, she emphasizes the importance of empowering the young girl in her bedroom who doesn’t feel like the world will accept her. When I saw the show footage of her demanding that all of the girls in the audience make their way to the front of the crowd so as not to be injured in the male-dominated mosh pit, I did feel important and accepted. “ALL THE GIRLS TO THE FRONT. I’M NOT KIDDING” - she was speaking directly to me, and through her I realized that I am a force to be reckoned with.
I woke up one morning last April, days before the release of my debut record, to hundredsof new followers overnight, all teens and all expressing different variations of the same sentiment. You told me that my music makes you feel comfortable in your bodies, perfect just the way you are right now, proud of your sexualities no matter where they fall on the spectrum, and finally heard. Your hyper-emotional and borderline maniacal reaction to my music moved me and inspired me to call you the CULT. Now it’s up to us to carry the torch of GIRLS TO THE FRONT into 2017. I am telling you that in a world that runs on machismo you are NOT weak if you show vulnerability. You CAN express yourself sexually AND be taken seriously. You can be rebellious AND intellectual. You CAN kick ass in a babydoll dress - male, female, or outside of the gender binary. You DO have a voice and it IS relevant. You CAN start your own DIY record label and make your own zine. And in the words of Kathleen Hanna, “girls constitute a revolutionary force that CAN and WILL change the world for real.” That’s us.
So, grab a pair of scissors and some glitter. Your voice matters. And the way you choose to express yourself is valid and beautiful.
few years ago, I was broke and renting a tiny home in a small town in central
Wisconsin. So when I spotted an ad in the classifieds section for a mall Santa
position - even though I was never a big fan of Christmas - I decided, what the
hell. I desperately needed the extra cash.
was hired the next day.
first couple days went alright. Boys, girls, fat kids, smelly kids - they all
had their lists, and were eager to talk my ear off about it. Some tugged at my
fake beard, others jumped on my lap so hard I was afraid the
cheaply-constructed plywood Santa throne would crack and collapse - but it was
an okay gig.
then he showed up.
was no more than eight or nine years old with brown, bowl-shaped hair. He wore
a red and white striped shirt that made him look like a human candy cane. I
peered at him as he stood in line alone, no mother or father in sight. When it
was his turn, the boy gently climbed onto my lap and stared with an unnatural
focus directly into my eyes.
asked what he wanted for Christmas, and he just sat in silence, eyes piercing
mine. I repeated the question and patted him on the shoulder with my white
glove. No response.
leaned in close. His breath tickled my ear. He placed one hand on my fake
beard, and the other behind my hat. He said:
have a gift for Santa.”
hopped down and disappeared through a crowd of people.
I got home that evening there was a small present wrapped in green wrapping
paper and tied with a red bow sitting on my kitchen table. I picked it up and
shook it - something rattled inside. I unwrapped the paper, opened the
cardboard box, and removed the object within.
was a garage door opener.
turned it in my hand. Thinking it may have been dropped off by my landlord, I
walked to the garage and clicked the button on the new device a few times. The
garage door stayed shut. I called my landlord, and he said he hadn’t been over
in a few days. The opener was not from him.
thoughts returned to the young boy with the candy cane sweater from the mall,
and I shuddered. I checked the doors and windows before I went to bed, making
sure they were locked.
little sleep I got that night was with the garage door opener still palmed in
candy cane kid returned the next day. He climbed on my lap and said nothing. He
just stared. Frank Sinatra’sJingle Bells crackled from the mall’s
speaker system. The boy leaned in, and said:
have a gift for Santa.”
hopped down, waded into the sea of shoppers, and was gone.
expected another gift that evening when I returned home, but thankfully, there
was nothing. I slept a tad more soundly, but in the middle of the night I was
awoken by the crashing of glass coming from the kitchen. I grabbed the lamp off
the dresser, and yanked the electrical cord from the wall. I clutched the lamp
like a baseball bat, and I gently nudged open my bedroom door.
when the giggling began - the giggling of a mischievous, little boy. I called
out, and the giggling stopped. Tiny footsteps pitter-pattered on the linoleum
floor, and I ran into the kitchen, just in time to see a red and white striped
sweater and short legs wiggle out the broken window and into the night.
my kitchen table was another gift. I flipped on the light and tore open the
wrapping paper - another cardboard box. I reached inside and pulled out my