riot grrls and rioting girls in 2017

The London Short Film Festival 2017 featured some absolutely cracking events, but none more electrifying than their final weekend programme on Saturday eve: White trash Girls, Gun Girls & Riot Grrls, featuring 7 psychedelic, wacky and wonderful nineties shorts about bad-ass ladies.

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It kicked off with The Devil Inside [White Trash Girl #2] by Jennifer Reeder in 1995, about a super hero who, fuelled by her history of abuse from the hands of her stepfather, becomes part of a trailer trash crime fighting team. In Search of Margo-go directed by Jill Reiter in 1994 featuring queen riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna was an 80s synth-pop piece of wonder.

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An interesting look into female musicians of the time, many of whom were part of the radical riot grrrl movement was No Alternative Girls by Tamra Davis shot in 1995. These films, although created 20 years ago, were still relevant and still matter. The topics they cover; abuse, female body image, fitting in or assimilating to what society deems appropriate for a woman are all notions current feminist groups are fighting for. When one of the women in Davis’ film is talking about female pop stars and their right to wear as much or as little clothing as they desire, it really resonates that the same arguments are still being had today. Society, the government and the press still believing they have the authority to police women’s bodies in whichever way they see fit.

Included in the price of the ticket entry was Clara Heathcock’s zine ‘Girl’ which was commissioned especially for this event. It features the work of 6 artist and has a defiance yet kindness about it. Clara is keen to tell us that the zine is very much inspired by the riot grrrl movement and more specifically the words of Julia Downes “riot grrrl is not a genre, and certainly not a historical genre, instead a set of tactics that women use to ignite each other”. This zine proves that riot grrrl as a political and social movement is still very alive today, and doesn’t have to be tied to traditional themes of punk and grunge.

riot grrl is often misunderstood and repacked – packaged in the 90s as all-girl-power-pop groups, as girl punk, as angry girls. But riot grrl is more than that, its an expression of yourself without fear, of creating art without boundaries. It’s about standing up, and continuing to have a voice when you are told no by your society. It’s about being mad without being crazy. It’s having the knowledge that you can be the girliest girl in the room but still be sexy and scary and powerful. In 2017 we need these women more than ever.

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