3 Eternal Riot Grrrl Songs that Have Inspired Millions

The Seattle area has spawned a lot of great music. There are the grunge bands, of course. Heart comes from the city. Imaginative, Grammy Award-winning rappers like Sir Mix-a-Lot, Ishmael Butler, and Macklemore stem from the region. But there’s another crucial musical movement that has made waves and impacted the globe and that, of course, is riot grrrl.

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The largely underground feminist punk movement started in the 1990s in Olympia, Washington, and grew to become a worldwide phenomenon that empowered young women and gave space to them at concerts and other areas where males too often dominated the conversation. Here below, we wanted to dive into three eternal songs from the riot grrrl movement that have inspired millions.

[RELATED: The 25 Best Kathleen Hanna Quotes]

“Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill

In many ways, this song is the official anthem of the riot grrrl movement. It was written and performed by one of—if not the most—important people in the movement, Kathleen Hanna and her iconic Olympia-born band Bikini Kill. Released first as a single, the track ended up also on an EP and LP. But it’s the single that was produced by another female rock icon, Joan Jett, who plays guitar and sings background vocals on the track. On the subversive, powerful song, Hanna sings,

That girl thinks she’s the queen of the neighborhood
She’s got the hottest trike in town
That girl, she holds her head up so high
I think I wanna be her best friend, yeah

Rebel girl, rebel girl
Rebel girl you are the queen of my world
Rebel girl, rebel girl
I think I wanna take you home
I wanna try on your clothes, uh

“Dig Me Out” by Sleater-Kinney

This song was released on the 1997 album of the same name by the Olympia-born band Sleater-Kinney. The catchy buzzy track featured Carrie Brownstein (later of Portlandia fame) on guitar with Cortin Tucker singing and drummer Janet Weiss on the kit making her debut with the band (she would later serve as the group’s longest-running drummer). On the song, Tucker performs with passion and drive, like an arrow, singing,

What do you want, what do you know?
Ooh, you get nervous making me go?
Get into your sores, get into your things
Do you get nervous watching me bleed?

Dig me out, dig me in
Out of this mess, baby, out of my head
Dig me out, dig me in
Out of my body, out of my skin

“Cool Schmool” by Bratmobile

From Bratmobile’s 1993 album Pottymouth, the Olympia-born band (with one of the best monikers ever) talks about carving their own space in the world. They flip the idea of what girls are “supposed to do” on its head and that is the central ethos to riot grrrl songs. On the track, over a zippy guitar line, lead singer Allison Wolfe offers,

I don’t want you to tell me what’s so cool
I don’t wanna go back to junior highschool
I don’t want anyone to tell me how thin I am
I don’t want to die for your fucking candy treats
Cool schmool

I just wanna be one of the boys
I just wanna be your little fashion toy
Let’s hang out and be cool, alright
Let’s go watch the girl fight tonight
Cool schmool

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Photo by Rachel Bright, courtesy of Charm School Media

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