Monday, November 2, 2009

I Finally Get to Write A Little about Vivian Girls!!

OK, so in the past year or so there have been a TON of girl groups popping up around Brooklyn and Cali (gettin' lots of blog love), and I want to compare them to the riot grrrl movement in the 90s (that was mentioned in the Zeisler briefly), because I think there is a relationship that is worth noting.

First, Riot Grrrl was a punk rock realization of the 3rd Wave of feminism that was discussed in the reading, very blunt, often times explicitly sexual, and very personalized. It was solidly rooted in DIY ethics that epitomized the 80s hardcore scene, but it was definitively feminine and dealt with issues relating to being a female outside of the mainstream social world. The music lost none of the aggression of hardcore, but rather used that fury to challenge what it meant to be a woman and working for gender equality. Bikini Kill and Bratmobile were the biggies (although I'm pretty sure they didn't like labeling themselves as such), and the K Records bands also get lumped in there too, along with Sleater-Kinney. Anyway point is, they were fiercely political bands with an aggressive style. Enjoy this fan video of "Rebel Girl," one of the "defining" songs (again, a claim the band would probably want to reject) of the movement.

Fast forward to last year, when Vivian Girls broke. Vivian Girls, along with bands like Dum Dum Girls, Frankie Rose (original drummer for Viv Gals, her debut 7" came out last weekish on Slumberland, and is RAD), Best Cost, Pens, Grass Widow, etc etc etc, use a similar DIY mode of operation ("hey guys I have the Woodsist 7"!"), but to very different effects. In contrast to the Riot Grrrl bands, these new lo-fi grrrls are completely apolitical, instead concentrating their efforts on stoicism. Check out this video for "Tell The World," their first single.

The look so bored! The lyrics, as with most of their songs, are about love, or something. They care, or something. Not to diss on them, because I lurve them (mostly) and they thanked WNYU on their album. My theory is that, like the reading suggests, that they are operating within a supposedly "post-feminist" world, where women apparently are equal to men. This world is probably the insular Brooklyn scene, which is predominantly run by girls who work for Todd P...still a male figure at the top though! They are only concerned with success at this level, whereas Bikini Kill and the rest were looking at a wider world. This is probably a symptom of the internet, but that is a whoooole different topic.

Anyway, to get to some sort of point here, Vivian Girls, and to a certain extent the rest of the new lo-fi grrrl gang, could be seen as existing because of Riot Grrrl, which paved the way for the respect of women in the punk and DIY communities, which has lead groups like Vivian Girls to believe they are operating in a post-feminist world. They embody femininity and make a point to differentiate themselves from the male-centric groups from the same scene (hey, it's in their name!), but this is as radical as they get, to simply label themselves as "different."

The closest this scene has ever gotten to Riot Grrrl was Mika Miko from California, who just broke up actually. They tackled sex and femininity dead on, rather than flirting idly around concepts of idealized relationships like many of these other groups do.

Alice, I swear I didn't write about Riot Grrrl just to pander to you!


  1. To clarify, I don't really believe that there is a post-feminist world, even in the Brooklyn scene, that there is an illusion of one through the visibility of females in this particular scene. This illusion is what is responsible for the attitude that I am postulating Vivian Girls and the rest have, and that this illusion was made possible by the burst of visibility of women in the Riot Grrrl movement.

  2. Kathleen Hanna is giving a talk here at NYU in December!

    Also, I'm sure you've heard of/listen to Crystal Stilts of which Frankie Rose is the drummer for, but if you don't, you should cuz their awesome.