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.
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“You getting up?” A voice calls from behind the couch over the sounds of hissing. It mixes with the low hum of the refrigerator and the rustling of sheets when Mikasa sits upright. She looks about, bewildered and blinking, not quite awake despite the sunlight resting on her face.
Everything around her looks unfamiliar. With the mottled couch and the pale cream walls and the quaint kitchen a few steps away, Mikasa can’t put her finger on where she is, until she spots the face of a man she recognises. “Wha-?” she replies in a groan. Mikasa rubs her eyes, trying to push away the last remnant of sleep but finding smudges of mascara on her fingers instead.