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Riot Grrrl as the penultimate transformation of Punk Rock

I have already talked about the 'provocative ambiguity' to be found within the Punk Rock discourse, and its doubled-edged nature is only too apparent if one contrasts the number of wimmin musicians to be found in late seventies PUNK ROCK circles with the patriarchal and misogynist attitudes of the 'white power rock and roll' bands clustered around Skrewdriver. Now, as the PUNK ROCK genre evolves and is refined over time, many of the wimmin who were seen as belonging within the entangled PUNK ROCK scenes of the late seventies have become marginalised or removed to the categories of rock and pop. Where this hasn't been the case, the groups in which they played tended to be male dominated. For example, on the West Coast PUNK scene of the late seventies, it seemed virtually obligatory to have a femail bass player but then within pop and rock discourse, the rhythm section is generally considered to play a subordinate role to the singer and guitarist(s). It follows from this that within LA PUNK ROCK groups such as the Germs or the Alleycats, the femail bass players might have anchored the sound but they are not thought of as having led these bands.

Thinking of various groups from the late seventies/early eighties who featured, at least for a time, femail members, and who might once have been considered a part of the new wave explosion, it's incredible to realise how few can still be viewed as falling within the flexible boundaries of the PUNK ROCK genre. Here's a list off the top of my head: Cherry Vanilla, Nina Hagen, Passage, Young Marble Giants, Weekend, Warm, Rubella Ballet, Partisans, Adverts, Runaways, Poison Girls, Venus And The Razorblades, Zipper, Hagar The Womb, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, New Order, Slits, Siouxsie And The Banshees, Raincoats, Manicured Noise, Big In Japan, Mad, X-Ray Spex, Killjoys, Kleenex, Liliput, Mo-Dettes, ESG, Snatch, Sonic Youth, Prag Vec, Photos, Go Gos, Cramps, Crass, Au Pairs, B-52s, B-Girls, Delta 5, Human League, True Life Confessions, Vice Squad, Chaotic Dischord, Selector, Bodysnatchers, Mood Elevators, Lemon Kittens, Sick Things, Stinky Toys, Rachel Sweet, Jayne Ayre, Toyah, Hazel O'Conner, Blondie, Eie Trummerfraun, Trudy, Pulsallama, Teenage Jesus And The Jerks, Rezillos, Revillos, Metrophase, Throbbing Gristle.

I have already stated that I do not wish to use the list as an organising principal and must repeat that many of these bands are not necessarily PUNK ROCK acts. The point I am making is that late seventies PUNK ROCK created a space in which wimmin could play music, even if the evolution of the ideological strand within the genre and its later transformations, as it sought to organise itself around the principles of class and race, served to undercut this initially liberating aspect of the discourse. The 'anyone can do it' attitude of PUNK ROCK, alongside its insistence that making music is not about technical skill, removes one of the major barriers that excludes wimmin from participating in the production of pop records as anything other than a manipulated chanteuse.

Skill, like 'genius', is traditionally a male attribute within our socially constructed notions of gender, and these tend to be counterpoised to what are portrayed as more 'humble' femail qualities such as intuition and empathy. Related to this are notions of the 'skilled' rock musician as an 'artist', an idea that is violently rejected as an oppressive imposition of the dominant culture by those engaged with PUNK ROCK discourse. Since 'artistic creativity' is an area in which traditionally repressed male emotionality is allowed 'legitimate' expression, it is hardly surprising that those propagating patriarchy wish to exclude wimmin from cultural activities serving this function. PUNK ROCK projects itself as 'unartistic', and therefore doesn't automatically erect barriers against the participation of wimmin.

Riot Grrrl was wimmin reasserting themselves within the PUNK ROCK genre and despite the discourse tending towards patriarchal modes of organisation during its class and race based phases, it ultimately tips back into being progressive, which is why nationalist Oi! bands and 'white power rock and roll' groups inevitably abandon this particular cultural form in favour of 'hard' rock. Like the ideological Punk Rock explosion of the late seventies, Riot Grrrl was initially an American phenomenon but the conditions in which it could move from the underground into mass culture only existed in England. The required media infrastructure consisted of a relatively wide range of national newspapers and TV stations, alongside a peculiarly hip and fashion based music and style press. If the years 1976 and 1977 were an amplic period for the PUNK ROCK genre, a time in which a wide variety of musical and fashion currents were entangled and infused, then Oi! and 'white power rock and roll' must be viewed as the cyclical return of the chiselling process, which dominated their evolution despite the necessity for brief amplic periods within each of these subgenres. What had been brought together had to be refined, reduced and reorganised on the basis of class and race. Riot Grrrl, when it was transplanted across the Atlantic and brought into the hot house of British youth culture, should have provided PUNK ROCK with another amplic phase. Unfortunately, this process was completely botched because Huggy Bear, who became the central media icon of the Riot Grrrl movement, initially went along with the press hype and then more or less refused to talk to journalists at the very moment the 'movement' was attaining critical mass. As a consequence, this stage in the dialectical unfolding of ideological Punk Rock went off as a whimper, rather than with the required bang.

In many ways, this section of my text will be very different to the proceeding ones, because I am dealing with a Punk Rock phenomenon that has not, as yet, superseded its amplic phase by acquiring the necessary characteristics to enter a chiselling period. Some readers may have been puzzled as to why I made no mention of bands such as the Business in my section on Oi! To spell it out, although the Business were closely associated with 'street rock' during its amplic phase in the early eighties, musically they are too close to a mainstream rock sound to be considered a part of the evolving Oi! subgenre by someone, such as myself, who is engaged in a very refined chiselling of the ideological Punk Rock discourse. However, my methodological approach to Riot Grrrl will be quite different because its current evolutionary state necessitates an amplic procedure.

Since Huggy Bear were required to take on the role played by the Sex Pistols in an earlier stage of the evolution of the Punk Rock genre, providing a myth around which other bands could organise themselves, it is perfectly feasible to suggest that they were not a Riot Grrrl act. However, since Huggy Bear were unwilling to play out the whole of their allotted role, they failed to rise above their peers and, as a consequence, it is not problematic for me to treat them as an archetypal Riot Grrrl band. Rather than looking at Riot Grrrl music in any detail, I wish to focus on the media coverage the 'movement' generated, because this gives a good indication of what would have happened if Huggy Bear had risen (or if your ideological orientation inclines you towards a less critical perspective, sunk) to a level where they were prepared to fulfil their, at least potentially, 'historic role'. Following a verbal confrontation between Huggy Bear and TV presenter Terry Christian on the 12 February 1993 edition of late nite 'yoof' show The Word, the music press cranked up the hype around the band and before long the national media were falling over themselves to cover Riot Grrrl. Ready, Teddy, Go! Rage Against The Man Machine! screamed a headline in the New Musical Express on 6 March 1993:

"You've seen Huggy Bear smash up mainstream complacency on The Word, you've heard how Bikini Kill take their tops off onstage, you've been baffled by a load of biased ranting on some kind of new punk for women... now prepare yourself for the DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO RIOT GRRRL! This week, Steven Wells goes on the trail of the elusive Huggy Bear, nails them down for a few quotes and power-drills his colours unequivocally to their radical, wonderful mast. Over the page, Liz Evans uncovers the thrilling, subversive history of the American Riot Grrrl movement, and checks the opinions of role model Kim Gordon, plus Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson of Lush, and Come's Thalia Zedek. Next week, Bikini Kill reveal themselves exclusively to NME and riot grrran Lydia Lunch lashes out at the whole scene. Take cover, cynics... and remember kids – Boy! Girl! Revolution Now!"

If this sounds like a manipulative bit of hype to you, then, like me, you're never going to be sixteen again. While Melody Maker was quicker off the mark in pumping up the phenomena (this particular publication had an advantage over its chief rival because two members of Huggy Bear shared a house with one of its staff journalists), the NME's larger circulation caused the mainstream media to take its pronouncements as definitive. Several music journalists were unashamedly hyping Riot Grrrl and this was just what the 'movement' (which didn't as yet exist in the UK) required if its amplic phase was to be productive. I saw for myself how effective this strategy was because for several years I'd allowed Erica Smith, who produces the feminist comics journal GirlFrenzy, to use my post box address. After GirlFrenzy appeared in the list of essential Riot Grrrl reading run by the NME, mail poured in despite the fact that Smith did not consider herself to be a Riot Grrrl and had never heard of the phenomena before the media hype began.

The number of letters GirlFrenzy received soared, without much of this extra mail bearing any relationship to the content of the magazine. There were numerous enquiries about Riot Grrrl from journalists and disc jockeys, which were all thrown straight in the bin. However, replies with relevant addresses were sent to the numerous teenage grrrls, most studying at provincial colleges, who wanted to get involved in Riot Grrrl. Almost without exception, these would state that the letter writer knew the NME sucked as badly as the rest of the media, but that since they didn't know any Riot Grrrls and were desperate to get in touch with some, this was their only source of information. Since the NME piece was taken as authoritative by the national media, several daily newspapers cited GirlFrenzy as a leading Riot Grrrl publication, and the Independent On Sunday of 14 March 1993 even reproduced the front cover of the magazine in its feature on the phenomena. Under the headline Rock Against Men Is Music To The Riot Grrrls' Ears, Hester Matthewman reported that a 'new movement of radical young feminists draws its inspiration from man-hating, all-women bands'. Matthewman provided the information you'd expect:

"Riot Grrrls are here. And they're angrrry. Described by the rock-music press as girl-punk revolutionaries, these radical young feminists are not keen on men. ('Man-hating is simply the attitude that most men suck, and they do,' according to Jo of the band Huggy Bear.) Riot Grrrl bands have been grabbing media attention recently – Huggy Bear attacked Terry Christian, presenter of Channel 4's The Word, on the air, and fans had to be ejected from the studio."

Ten days later, under the headline Angry Young Women, Caroline Sullivan was reporting pretty much the same thing in The Guardian:

"Riot Grrrls UK are following punk's initial trajectory. There are fanzines, embryonic grrrl gangs and at the hub, Huggy Bear. The London and Brighton based quintet have already had their Bill Grundy Moment, a la the Sex Pistols. Last month, they were ejected from The Word after noisily accusing presenter Terry Christian of sexism. The Word reportedly demanded an apology... But while the Pistols were aimless, even nihilistic, Huggy Bear are focused and 'girl-positive'. Their aim is Girl Power and they particularly detest boy rock..."

Save The World? Not A Hope Grrrls Anne Barrowclough raged in the Daily Mail of 27 March 1993:

"They screech, they spit, they snarl, they swear. Every word they scream through the microphone is a prayer against men. When their music stops, you are left with a pounding head, buzzing ear drums and no doubt that Men are The Enemy. Meet the Riot Grrrls, the latest, nastiest phenomenon to enter the British music scene... Riot Grrrls don't like men much. They don't like anything much, except other women – as long as they're 'enlightened' and don't 'act like their parents'... Riot Grrrls are to music what Damien Hirst is to art. They're angry, anarchistic, full of loathing. They call themselves feminists but theirs is a feminism of rage and, even, fear. At its simplest, their message is that men have held women back in the music industry and subjected them to violence in everyday life. By forming all-girl bands and screaming tunelessly at their audiences, they believe they can change the balance and ensure that women rule OK. What makes them frightening is the virulence of their message. They attempt to instil in young fans a deep loathing of men, based on the fear of violence that most young women have. Their (male) detractors have dubbed them, with reason, 'feminazis'... In many ways their actions contradict what they are trying to achieve. Bikini Kill have an especially revolting modus operandi in which they take off their tops, dance in their bras, and even toss sanitary towels into the audience... Not only do they show off their bodies on stage – some claiming proudly to be strippers – but they depend on men as their backing bands and technicians. At the gigs, however, the fans remain convinced these girls are going to change the world..."

The coverage spluttered on through the summer, with, for example, the Daily Star of 9 July 1993 carrying the report I Brave The Riot Girls by John Poole:

"They are the toughest, meanest group of feminists since women began burning their bras back in the swinging Sixties. The so-called Riot Girls play rough 'n' ready rock music and they list MAN-HATING among their favourite hobbies. Shabbily-dressed bands such as Huggy Bear, Bikini Kill, Lunachicks, Bratmobile and L7 are ruthlessly ruled by outrageous guru Courtney Love. It was her hardcore punk band Hole, which gave birth to an army of angry girls who wanted to take over 'boring' male rock 'n' roll... And so a scorching Saturday evening finds me outside the Dome, a premier London rock venue... To steady my nerves, I have an ice-cold beer in the bar next door... A gang of teenage girl bruisers has followed me into the pub. A shiver goes down my spine as an incredibly scruffy girl spits: 'Oh No! It's the Daily Star!'... I scurry away in a cab. The chilling screams are ringing in my ears and I'm just thankful I wasn't stripped naked and hung from the nearest lamp-post..."

Daisy Waugh in the Evening Standard of 16 August 1993 was less revealing about her sexual fears and frustrations and her piece, carried under the headline Don't Mess With The Girls Who Just Wanna Be Grrrls, was mildly sympathetic towards Riot Grrrl:

"Riot Grrrls are angry. Imagine a collection of 15 year-olds who have recently discovered feminism – and rock – and what a wicked, unfair world is out there. Imagine that sort of righteous, adolescent anger, these are girls who like to say f***, who like the space to be allowed a bit of (admittedly half-baked) self-expression, who believe in anarchy and revolution. Their ideas may be babyish. But at least they have some. At least they've learned there's more to life than simpering over the contents of their dressing tables... Lucky girls, I wish there'd been a gang of them back home in Taunton when I was very young."

If much of the press coverage was silly and inaccurate, that hardly matters; its function should have been to create a buzz, excitement, a scene. The dilemma faced by Riot Grrrl once Huggy Bear pulled out of the hype wasn't that its media reportage was distorted, the problem was that there wasn't enough of it and what there was simply wasn't sensational enough. Riot Grrrl, in as far as it has ever really existed, was created by the press, which threw together various disparate phenomenon and labelled this jumble a movement. People don't necessarily believe everything they read in the papers and the success of publications such as the Weekly World News and the Sunday Sport is partly based on the fact that their readers enjoy testing both their scepticism and their gullibility.

Without doubt, 'Riot Grrrls' and potential 'Riot Grrrls' were the most gullible consumers of media reports on the phenomena, necessarily so, because in this way they were able to realise their productive role in the 'creation of culture'. It was essential for several thousand teenage grrrls to believe this movement really existed, so that it could become a material reality. Unfortunately, the young wimmin who became Riot Grrrls after reading media hype about the phenomenon, or in some cases upon seeing themselves cited as the leaders of the 'movement', were greatly handicapped by the fact that it was almost universally stated that they refused to talk to the press. This 'misrepresentation' was widely believed in Riot Grrrl circles, although it was patently untrue, and resulted in the instant 'movement' failing to make proper use of the vehicle the initial music press hype had created for it. The extraordinary success of late seventies PUNK ROCK was grounded in the fact that most of those who became embroiled in the media discourse around which their activities had been organised were only too happy to go along with any hype whatsoever.

While a theatrical critique of the media is common enough in PUNK ROCK, Riot Grrrl's tragedy was that its devotees mistook the rhetoric attributed to them by the press for reality. In doing so, they pushed the absurdly simplistic critique of the media found in much late seventies PUNK ROCK to its logical conclusion. To focus on just one example, the theme runs through many of the lyrics to be found on TV Tube Heart, the first Radiators From Space album (Chiswick Records, London 1977). The rhetorical nature of the PUNK ROCK critique of the media is readily evident from Television Screen, the Radiators first single and the opening track on their long player. The singer rants 'I'm gonna sock my Telecaster through the television screen,' and that he's 'never seen more than a tenner a week.' Now it's quite obvious that if the second statement is true, he would not have been able to afford an expensive guitar, Telecasters are great instruments but, unfortunately, they don't come cheap. Of course, it's possible the singer stole the guitar, but then if he's adept at ripping off expensive musical equipment, crime should have provided him with more than 'a tenner a week'. Other media fixated songs on the record include Enemies, which responds to press coverage of a murder at one of the band's gigs; Prison Bars a rant about how the lines, or 'bars', that make up a television picture result in everybody looking seven inches high; Press Gang with its chant of 'media poison in my bloodstream'; and Sunday World, the title of a newspaper lying on the floor in the front cover photo of the band watching TV. The back cover of the album features a photograph of the group standing around a smashed television, an image that works precisely because it is a cliché.

With these issues in mind, it ought to be obvious why I have focused my attention on the 'mainstream' media, rather than 'underground' fanzines, which are considered to be of major importance to the PUNK ROCK phenomenon by 'commentators' such as Tricia Henry. It should be equally apparent that I am chiefly interested in treating PUNK ROCK in its various forms as an evolving musical genre. Fanzines are really a second order activity, most of them wouldn't exist if there was no PUNK ROCK music to write about. While someone wishing to deal with PUNK ROCK as a 'subculture' may find the content of fanzines 'illuminating', I am not a social historian and have no interest in this type of 'archaeology'. In the course of preparing this text, I did look through a pile of old fanzines, things like Sniffin' Glue and Ripped & Torn, as well as the book Punk edited by Julie Davis (Millington, London 1977) which consists of bits and bobs about bands written by 'zine editors. I originally read much of this stuff when I was fourteen or fifteen and at the time considered it 'crucial', now it appears utterly tedious, inaccurate and uninformative. In looking for information about individual bands, the mainstream music press was much more useful, which isn't to say that 'zines don't have a useful function in opening up possibilities for the individuals who produce them, thereby leading them on to better and more interesting things. However, as a vehicle for either 'creativity' or 'communication' they are, by and large, an embarrassment.

No doubt, many of the Riot Grrrl bands consider fanzines to be an important feature of their scene, certainly Huggy Bear and Bikini Kill had a propensity for handing out xeroxed manifestos at their own gigs. Likewise, concerts are seen by many fans as an opportunity to peddle their hastily assembled collages and scribbled texts in xerox form. The booklet accompanying a Bikini Kill CD entitled The First Two Records (Kill Rock Stars, Olympia 1994), contains this among its copious sleeve notes:

"To force some forever identity on other people is stupid. Point out inconsistencies in their behaviour, explain how they are not 'truly what they say' because you saw them 'do this' one time... why? Because it is easier to deal with cardboard cut outs than real people, cuz a lot of us pretend like we're the center of the universe sometimes and everyone is just background extras to the movie we imagine we star in. WELL WHILE WE ARE ALL ARGUING ABOUT WHOSE GONNA GET TO OPEN FOR THE MELVINS, WHOSE GONNA WEAR WHAT TO THE PARTY, WHO IS LAME / TAME BECAUSE THEY PERPETUATE THIS THING WE HATE, WHO IS NOT REALLY A PUNK ROCKER CUZ 'I remember when he / she used to listen to Duran Duran', THE REVOLUTION IS GOING DOWN... no it's not happening without us, it is just plain not happening at all... it is going down to the gurgling sound of our own voices, reproducing the voices of our parents in a slightly altered way, the TV people... trying to dictate to each other what is and what isn't cool or revolutionary or true resistance, what is or isn't true in other people's lives... In order for me to exist I must believe that two contradictory things can exist in the same space. This is not a choice I make, it just is..."

And so the torch of oedipal rebellion is passed down to another generation, and there is a distinction that needs to be made here between our subcultural and our genetic 'parents'. It remains a cliché to state that we should not base our understanding of other people's activities solely on the claims they make about the meaning of their actions. As was the case with Oi! it was precisely because Riot Grrrl did not exist that the music press felt compelled to invent it. It is therefore hardly surprising that within Riot Grrrl we find traces of ideological Punk Rock's previous stages of development. The notions of class war, race war and sex war are interlinked, and despite their theatrical presentation within the Punk Rock discourse, the national press was keen to stress that hate and violence was a major component in each of the concepts that marked the genre's successive stages of development.

While neither the London based Voodoo Queens with their Anglo-Indian line-up, nor the Japanese band Shonen Knife, may actually consider themselves to be Riot Grrrls, it is perfectly feasible for me to treat them as being subsumed within this category because the subgenre has yet to supersede its amplic phase. Thus one is able to report Riot Grrrl as presenting the issue of racial identity and difference, raised negatively in the previous stage of the ongoing unfolding of the ideological Punk Rock subgenre, as a positive resolution of this issue. The meeting of different cultural traditions under the integrating rubric of the evolving and pata-national PUNK ROCK musical discourse can be cited as a fine example of the incontestable fact that 'miscegenation is the creative principle at work in evolution'. While the individuals who belong to the various Riot Grrrl bands come from a diverse range of backgrounds, it should not surprise anybody that the bass player with Mambo Taxi had previously been in the Belgian Oi! group Comrade. And just as the entangled late seventies PUNK ROCK phenomena had an elliptical relationship with 'exploitation' band the Runaways, it now appears inevitable that a group like Shampoo would emerge on the pop scene at the same time as Riot Grrrl.

It seems unlikely that Riot Grrrl will ever attain the critical mass necessary to have much of an impact on mainstream culture. This failure will in its turn slow down the evolutionary unfolding of ideological Punk Rock. Nevertheless, over an indeterminate period, Riot Grrrl must transform quantity into quality, the emphasis on youth, evident in the word Grrrl, giving way to a more general concern with femininity, and this must ultimately resolve itself into anxiety about Gaia, or Mother Earth. This explains why the New Wave Of New Wave hype recently whipped up by the music press failed to ignite. Just as 'you can never step into the same river twice' (due to the ongoing flow of water, any given river is constantly changing), it is equally impossible to repeat any stage of ideological Punk Rock once it has unfolded, or, indeed, for the subgenre to deviate from the course of development I have outlined. I do not wish to pass judgement on the musical merits of the various bands associated with NWONW, I need merely observe that despite absurd claims to the contrary they have nothing to do with Punk Rock because the only principle around which it is now possible to organise a fresh development of this subgenre is that of ecology.

An extraordinarily premature attempt to organise music in this fashion can be found on Vegan Reich's Hardline EP (Hardline, California, no date but early nineties), which unfortunately adopts the non-PUNK ROCK format of hardcore. A leaflet accompanying the record states:

"The time has come for an ideology and for a movement, that is both physically and morally strong enough, to do battle against the forces of evil that are destroying the earth (and all life upon it). One that cannot be bought, nor led astray by temptation. A movement free of the vices that sedate the mind and weaken the body. An ideology that is pure and righteous, without contradictions or inconsistencies. One that judges all things by one standard and emphasizes personal responsibility and accountability above all else. An overall view on life that not only deals with the external, but also the internal – realizing that a physical entity of oppression, such as the capitalist system (where all life is deemed an expendable resource), is merely an outward manifestation of the warped values held by the people who run the institutions that control our lives, influence our culture and destroy the earth..."

Vegan Reich's song lyrics are as much fun as their idealist literature, and only the music lets the record down. I, The Jury is typical of the four tracks on the EP:

"I'm thru with tolerance / No more acceptance of your crimes / I don't care about your freedom coz your action restricts mine / And the rights of those you step on everyday / As you drag down all in your way as you slowly self-decay / Smoking a cash crop / I don't care if you die / But the animals tested / Should they pay that price? / Or those who are near you who have got no choice but to breath secondhand smoke you create / And what of those who are killed or maimed as you drink and drive as if it's a game? / Or the third world peasants forced to make your cocaine / Enslaved and impoverished for the choices you've made / To feed your weakness another vice / To satisfy your hunger / You never think twice of the pain it causes others / You just talk about your rights / As you eat the flesh from another that you denied life / Freedom is not just a one way street / You've got no right to choose when it gets in the way / Of others well being, their rights, their needs / To live in peace in a sane society / And everything you do does get in the way of all that surrounds you / So don't ever say that it harms only you and it's your choice to make / Coz a weak link in the chain will break the whole thing / And that I cannot tolerate / Won't let you pull us all down the drain / I'm thru with looking the other way / It's fucking time to set things straight / For too long you've been the one to dictate the way the rest of us live / And that's now gonna change if you wish to remain / Then stay in your place coz you fuck us up again / And I won't hesitate to infringe your rights / To take them away / To be the judge and jury and make you fucking pay for the crimes you commit day after day / Coz only with you stopped will our lives be truly free!"

Vegan Reich have mastered the empty rhetoric of PUNK ROCK but not the genre's musical sound. However, their words are a foretaste of what the future undoubtedly holds. Thus we are able to grasp all four stages in the dialectical unfolding of ideological Punk Rock. The vague radicalism of groups such as the Fugs and the MC5 was transformed in England during the late seventies into a concern with class which only found its full realisation in Oi!. Increasing the level of pseudo-intransigence, which is a natural tendency among those participating in this discourse, led to rhetoric about the 'proletariat' being more narrowly defined in terms of the 'white working class'. The racism of the 'white power rock and roll' bands was predicated on notions about the 'healthy' masculinity of 'white working class' youth. As the theatrical potential of this 'masculinity' was quantitatively increased, it was reduced to the level of a caricature, and was thereby inverted, becoming camp and ultimately resulting in 'top faces' on the 'white power rock and roll' scene, such as Nicky Crane, admitting (at least to each other) that they were gay. In this way, through the bridging concept of sexuality, the Punk Rock dialectic shifts its mode of organisation from theatrics about race to rhetoric about gender, with the resulting emergence of the Riot Grrrl 'movement'. As I have just pointed out, within the Punk Rock genre a quantitative increase in levels of concern about femininity will result in the discourse ultimately adopting Mother Earth, or ecology, as its ideological organising principle.

I have already stated that within this particular dialectic the cosmic counterpart of class is Earth, while the mythical equivalent of race is Water, with gender being represented by Air. It necessarily follows that ecology corresponds to Fire. The same elements can be seen dialectically unfolding in the development of mass political ideologies during the course of the past century – the modern workers' movement arose in the epoch preceding the First World War; the interwar period was an era of fascist triumph, in which bestial racial theories gained ground; feminism made a huge impact on the lives of ordinary men and wimmin in the post-war period, with feminist theory reaching a new maturity in the nineteen-seventies; while a world-wide ecological movement developed in the nineteen-eighties. I have no desire to offer an explanation for these correspondences, I simply wish to point them out.

Previous: Chapter VIII: Hail Hail Rock 'N' Roll

Next: Chapter X: Concluding Unacademic Postscript

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