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From the Vaults

From the Vaults: Dyke Punks with Attitude

From the Vaults: Dyke Punks with Attitude

Photography: Dana Shuerholz

“Riot Grrrl” groups go way beyond grunge. 

This article originally appeared in the August/September 1993 issue of OUT.

"There's always been queers involved in music, involved in everything, but maybe right now people are more outwardly struggling--girls writing more songs about their relationships with women, or about fucking girls." So says Kathleen Hanna, 24-year-old busexual singer for Bikini Kill. From Washington, D.C., to Olympia, Washington, a growing number of "grrrl" groups with out dykes and bisexual women are cranking out grunge and mainstream college rock, their tunes loud, angry, feminist, and absolutely lesbo. "Things out there are so bad, there's nothing left to lose," explains Hanna.

There is an explicit homo-friendly vibe running through alternative rock, with bands like L7 and Nirvana on the line for the gay community. But the mainstream media has largely ignored queer women in the punk music scene, omitting nearly all references to lesbians in their generic "women in rock" and "riot grrrl" features. No matter. Dyke bands refuse to be silenced, sprouting up on independent labels such as Olympia's K and San Francisco's Outpunk and taking on sexism, homophobia, and gender politics in their urgent songs. Here's a sampling:

Bikini Kill

Widely credited with inciting the riot grrrl revolution, co-sexual Bikini Kill from Olympia ignite audiences with blistering songs about physical and sexual abuse. Their live shows function like group therapy, with young girls taking the mic to air their problems with fellow punkers. Despite her booming voice and formidable stage presence, singer Hanna confesses that inside, she's as scared as her fans: "A lot of people might think that I'm self-assured, but who's the person who has to have the bigger gun? The person who feels the least safe, the least protected."

Tribe 8

What Holly Near was to 1970s women's music, San Francisco's Tribe 8 is to modern-day dyke punk: the leader of the pack. "A lot of members of women's bands are queer, bisexual, or queer-positive, [but] it seems like an issue that people don't want to deal with yet," says 28-year-old guitarist Leslie Mah, a bike messenger by day. "That's where we come in, because we shove it in your face." Singer Lynn Breedlove often performs topless, urging women to storm the front and men to stay in the back. On songs like "Lezbophobia"--off their album By the Time We Get to Colorado (Outpunk)--she socks it to the straight girls who gawk, "Ew, it's a she, and she's looking at me," with "No way, baby. Hey, you--straight girl. You think I wanna lay ya? You got lezbophobia! You don't have to lose any sleep about us."

FIfth Column

This accomplished all-dyke band from Toronto began pioneering young feminist punk while most of today's riot grrrls were still in grade school. The group's co-founder, G.B. Jones, has also appeared in the underground gay film No Skin Off My Ass and edited the influential queer fanzine J.D.'s. Their All-Time Queen of the World (Hide Records) introduced the band's cool, brisk rock 'n' roll to a whole new legion of young, screaming riot grrrls. Now comes a disc on K Records, due out this summer, and a series of split seven-inch singles with New York-based mixed queer band God Is My Co-Pilot (Outpunk), and Fifth Column's offshoot band, Human Ashtrays, who do a tune called "Kill the Straights" (Dark Beloved Cloud Records).

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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