On a gloomy Thursday morning, a vibrant t-shirt timeline was showcased on Dexter Lawn depicting the stories of various women in punk. With punk music blasting in the background, Women in Punk organizer and political science junior Katie Ettl handed out stickers and buttons with other student assistants from the Gender Equity Center.
Women in Punk took place May 24 and 25 and consisted of a t-shirt timeline and a critical analysis of the riot grrrl punk movement with women and gender studies professor Ednie Garrison. A concert in the University Union Plaza featuring local bands GRRLS and EXTRA VIRGIN was also schedule, however it was cancelled due to unpredictable weather and band members being unavailable.
Histories of women of color in punk were displayed with red t-shirts while the histories of white women in punk were displayed with white t-shirts. The text on each shirt highlighted significant moments in the riot grrrl movement, covering the publication of zines as well as groundbreaking performances.
Riot grrrl was a feminist movement started in the 1990s by young women including Kathleen Hanna, Allison Wolfe, Molly Neuman and many others, with a focus on female empowerment, alternative media and anti-consumerism. According to Ettl, riot grrrl critiqued racism, patriarchy, rape culture and the nuclear family. Information throughout the movement was circulated through zines, or self-published magazines.
In “Spectator: USC’s Journal of Film and Television Criticism,” Mary Celeste Kearney discusses the rise of the riot grrrl movement and states, “Opting for alternative and less expensive ways of spreading their ‘grrrl power’ message through the production and distribution of music, zines, films, video, and fashion, the anti-corporate ‘Do-It-Yourself’ (DIY) ethos associated with other alternative cultures has been fully adopted by these female youth who have found it politically necessary to empower themselves rather than to be empowered by corporate profit schemes.”
“The inspiration was from how we wanted to tell the history and also the creative process of sharing activist and social justice information and beliefs through music. Punk music is one of the most politically charged genres in the American music canon besides folk and hip-hop,” Ettl said.
At the t-shirt timeline display, students read about women artists in punk including, but not limited to, The Bags, The Go-Go’s and Ramdasha Bikceem. The t-shirt timeline focused on the intersectionality of punk music and aimed to amplify the voices of women of color in punk.
Mathematics senior Stephanie Ray is a student assistant at the Gender Equity Center and helped facilitate the timeline.
“Something like this is important in general, but also important at Cal Poly because we don’t see a lot of representation of a lot of counter-culture movements in general, let alone the work of people who are usually even further marginalized within those communities,” Ray said.
“I thought it was really interesting to bring this knowledge forward to the campus because not a lot of people know about punk and not a lot of people know about the voices that I put on my t-shirt timeline and about riot grrrl,” Ettl said. “I would think the only place where people are exposed to that is in a women and gender studies class because riot grrl was kind of one of the defining movements of what some feminists call the third wave of the early ‘90s.”
According to Ettl, the t-shirt timeline represented the materialistic and accessible ways people shared information during the riot grrrl movement. She hopes that from this event, students will realize they have the power to produce their own forms of media and express themselves creatively.
“The quarter system beats us up and makes us think one-dimensionally about a lot of things, and so to think about a music movement as something more than just a music movement I think can be really eye-opening to people are not really feeling creatively stimulated,” Ettl said.