Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education (Online)

The Spaces in Which We Appear to Each Other: The Pedagogy of Resistance Stories in Zines by Asian American Riot Grrrls

Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education (Online)

The Spaces in Which We Appear to Each Other: The Pedagogy of Resistance Stories in Zines by Asian American Riot Grrrls

Article excerpt

Introduction

In 1991, members of Bikini Kill, a punk band based in Olympia, Washington, released the zine Bikini Kill #2. In its pages, The Riot Grrrl Manifesto appeared for the first time. Typed across an 5.5 by 8.5 inch page, the manifesto begins, "Riot Grrrl is..." The lines that follow do not, however, offer a definition. Instead, the manifesto's punchy opener declares, "BECAUSE us girls crave records and books and fanzines that speak to US that WE feel included in and can understand in our own ways"2 (Hanna, Wilcox, & Vail, 1991, n.p.). Continuing until the end of the page, the statements offer biting rationales for a new kind of feminism, a counterpoint to the "Instant Macho Gun Revolution" (n.p.), the "capitalist way of doing things" (n.p.), and "self-defeating girl type behaviors" (n.p.). These musician-writers were naming a different feminist ethos, one in which girls formed their own bands, wrote and distributed publications, and unapologetically claimed a new world order where "true punx, real soul and the revolution girl style now" (cited in Piepmeier, 2009, p. 1) reigned supreme.

The Riot Grrrl Movement, which began in the early 1990s in such cities as Olympia, Washington, and Washington, D.C., was a third wave3 feminist movement aimed as a response to patriarchy, domestic abuse, and sexual assault. Emerging from their involvement in punk scenes on the West and East Coasts, college-aged women (mostly white and working middle class) developed a multi-pronged grassroots movement disseminating a message of rebellious, aggressive female empowerment. This particular kind of feminism was unapologetic, Do-It-Yourself (DIY), and declarative. Tobi Vail, a member of Bikini Kill, rewrote the word "girl" as "grrrl" to reflect the angry snarl of the movement (Piepmeier, 2009). As explained in the opening lines of The Riot Grrrl Manifesto, the movement was also motivated by the dearth of spaces for young women to voice their rebellion and produce their own music and media (Duncombe, 1997; Star, 1999). Distributed at punk shows, libraries, and coffee shops, zines became one of the primary means through which the message of this new, unabashed feminism was broadcasted. Zines reflected the "unfiltered personal voices of young women and queer youth who are struggling against the societal and patriarchal corset and challenge the conventional meanings and expectations of femininity" (Zobl, 2003, p. 61). Embedded in punk, feminist, and queer subcultures, zines offered these young women a venue for writing outside and in resistance to traditional media. The Riot Grrrl movement would spawn much of the publication of zines by women and girls in the early nineties and continued to shape much of the emotional tenor, content, and aesthet- ic of those produced in its wake.

Zines and Asian American Riot Grrrls

"We asians [sic] are known to be superachievers, particularly mathscience wizards who maintain high grade point averages and graduate from prestigious ivy university [sic] with honors," (n.p.) writes Lynn Hou (1999) in her zine, Cyanide No. 2: Resist Psychic Death. Hou continues with a pointedly sardonic list: "we asians are an extremely submissive, quiet, and good species that rarely open our mouths" (n.p.) and "we asians are silent talented musicians who play a mean violin and set our piano on fire" (n.p.). At the end of the list, Hou adds, "What a crock of bullshit" (n.p.). Hou's zine, full of frank quips countering racial stereotypes, is one example of a sub-genre of zines, those by Asian American riot grrrls. Asian American grrrls and other women of color have a lengthy and rich history of zinemaking; however, their contributions have been less emphasized in both scholarly literature and within the larger Riot Grrrl Movement (J. Freedman, personal communication, April 25, 2012). Riot grrrls of color have long critiqued the members of the larger movement for allowing their privilege as white, middle class women to remain unacknowledged and under-examined (Zobl, 2009). …

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