Monday, March 28, 2011

Remembering the riot grrrls

Earlier this month the Women's Resource Center at MSU put out a really great Women's History Month themed newsletter. You can view the entire newsletter here. But I also wanted to copy one of the stories here. Most of the time when we think about history, especially women's history, we mainly focus on people and events in the more distant past. What we often fail to realize is that women are constantly making history as we speak.

This article is about women from just a couple decades ago who made waves in the music scene during the 90s through a movement they liked to call riot grrrl. Below is the entire story copied straight from the MSU Women's Resource Center newsletter, but first, here's a little taste of what riot grrrl sounded like:



the herstory of riot grrrl

BECAUSE I believe with my
wholeheartmindbody that girls
constitute a revolutionary soul
force that can, and will change the
world for real*

During the early to mid nineties riot grrrl changed music history and feminism forever. It was during this time that a revolutionary underground network of education and self awareness - through writing, art, the DIY ethic, activism, and women-centered community - was formed in Washington, Oregon, and much of the Pacific Northwest. This particular feminist culture evolved from zines (small circulation publications of original or appropriated text/images) and groups of women with no particular agenda wondering what might happen if a bunch of women just met. Male domination of the hardcore music scene pushed women to decide that they no longer wanted to assimilate to what was said to be good music, writing, etc. Feeling marginalized in the increasingly violent atmosphere, they decided to make their own waves. At the forefront of the underground movement were punk rock bands such as Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Heavens to Betsy.

Riot Grrrl music revolved around the complete empowerment of women. Unlike other aspects of the feminist movement focused on issues of economics, riot grrrl was all about what it meant to be creative and young. Lyrics honed in on complex issues of female empowerment, sexuality, domestic abuse, and rape. Take the following lyrics from the Bikini Kill song ‘Jigsaw Youth’:

We know there's not
One way, one light, one stupid truth
Don't fit your definitions
Don't need your demands
Not into
Win lose reality
Won't fit in with
Your plan

The scene started with a bang, but excitement diffused with unanticipated media attention that overwhelmed the movement and tore apart its community feeling. Many of the women associated with riot grrrl felt that their aesthetic was being misrepresented by the media. They weren’t looking to create one definitive group or statement but rather to open up a discourse and to eliminate labeling. Unsolicited media attention on particular individuals – for example, Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill – Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution by Sara Marcus created internal divides. A popularized view of feminists, the media portrayed participants as “man-haters”. However, riot grrl was strictly pro-woman rather than anti-man. At some shows men were charged more for admission (unless they wore a dress) or were asked to move to a venue’s outskirts so that women could be the ones at the front of the stage. All of this was not to devalue men, but to give women the opportunity to enjoy a scene that was made by and for them. There were also those who felt that riot grrrl included only a certain demographic of women (see: white, middle class). However, when Hanna speaks of the results she claims that whether or not [they] changed the world is not the point; small differences matter.

Regardless of misrepresentation, misinformation, and various critiques of the movement, one thing remains true: riot grrrl encapsulated a moment in time when a group of ladies took on the world in their own way, with no apologies or hesitations. Wouldn’t we all love that freedom of expression to be up on stage, churning out a hot lick on the guitar, and belting out mantras of empowerment in front of an enthusiastic crowd of women who love music and want to feel empowered too?

There is a little riot grrrl in all of us. Do you hesitate to speak/write/sing/scream your mind? Why? In honor of Women’s History Month, let her out for a minute, an hour, day, or until your throat gets sore from singing . . . Come on. Change the world for real.

Want to learn more?

Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution by Sara Marcus.

Riot Grrl: Revolution Girl Style Now! By Nadine Monem.

Girls Guide to Taking Over the World: Writings From The Girl Zine Revolution by Karen Green, Tristan Taormino, and Ann Magnuson.

Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music by Marisa Meltzer.

Don’t Need You: Herstory of Riot Grrrl (DVD—Urban Cowgirl Productions).

*last line of the riot grrrl manifesto published in 1991 in the bikini kill
zine 2.

Submitted by Maria Mattson, contributing writer for the MSU Women’s Resource Center.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Everything you ever wanted to know about Title IX

"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."
-Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972

What is Title IX?

Title IX is a law passed in 1972 that prohibits sex discrimination in all federally funded educational programs in schools. This includes equitable access to all academic programs, activities, athletics, course offerings, admissions, recruitment, and scholarships.

Who does Title IX protect?

The protections of Title IX apply to male and female students, faculty and staff. It protects against sexual harassment based upon sex, gender, gender identity and expression (real and perceived), and sexual orientation (real and perceived). Title IX also protects students in academic and non-academic activities because of pregnancy, birth, miscarriage, and abortion.

What can Title IX do for me?

Students have the right to file a complaint if their rights under Title IX are violated. The school’s response and all policies must be “prompt and equitable.” Title IX prohibits retaliation against those who file complaints. Each federally funded institution (school district) must designate a Title IX Coordinator to oversee compliance and grievance procedures. The contact information of the Title IX Coordinator must be made available to students, staff, and parents. Victims of sexual harassment may recover monetary damages under Title IX if the school shows deliberate indifference in dealing with the discrimination or related retaliation.

Why are we concerned about Title IX?

One major problem with how schools deal with Title IX is that they often conflate the terms bullying and harassment. If the sex/gender based harassment of students is deemed bullying, then parents may believe they are not entitled to Title IX protections. While in reality, under Title IX, parents can sue for monetary damages if their charges of sexual harassment are met with "deliberate indifference" on the part of schools.

Although school districts are responsible for upholding Title IX, some admitted their ignorance of the law and what it covers. Additionally, many districts are not in compliance with the federal mandate that they appoint, train, and make available to the public a Title IX coordinator to oversee compliance with the law, to deal with complaints (including those of sexual harassment), and to oversee reporting procedures.

Furthermore, superintendents (and other administrators) serving primarily in administrative roles are reported to be the Title IX coordinators in many districts. Michigan NOW believes that Title IX coordinators should be in positions of student advocacy for the majority of their job duties, and not in administrative roles in addition to Title IX responsibilities.

What’s the difference between bullying and harassment?

Bullying involves behavior repeated over time upon an individual which intentionally inflicts harm, whereas harassment involves biased behaviors, intentional or not, having negative impact on a target and/or environment (causing a hostile environment) based upon some distinguishing characteristic such as race, gender, sexuality, disability, etc.

What are we doing?

Oakland County NOW is working to make sure that every school district in Michigan is in full compliance with Title IX. We are in the process of sending out a survey to each school district in Michigan requesting information about their Title IX policies which will then help us determine which areas of compliance are most neglected.

What you can do:

We must hold school districts accountable to Title IX. You can help by calling your local school district, and asking for the name of their Title IX coordinator. If your district does not have a Title IX coordinator, ask that they comply with federal regulations.

Some other actions you can take:

1. Investigate whether your school (your child’s school) is equitable in terms of sports scheduling and facilities.
2. If you are experiencing gender based harassment, keep a log of times, dates, and specific experiences.
3. Tell your parents, as well as school personnel what is happening.
4. Find your district’s anti-harassment policy. If it does not enumerate protected categories (such as sex; gender; sexual orientation and gender identity, real and perceived) advocate for the inclusion of protected categories in the policy, as well as guidelines for prohibited behaviors, and an anti-retaliation statement.
5. See the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights “Letter to Colleagues” for more information about your rights to be free from harassment in school under Title IX and other anti-discrimination laws:

Where can I get more info about Title IX?

Here and here!

(Title IX info courtesy of Jennifer Martin)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Fun facts about Planned Parenthood in MI

Lately, Planned Parenthood has increasingly been on my mind. Of course, the potential defunding of PP nationwide has got me in a mild state of panic, but on a smaller scale, I'm worried about the state of PP in my own community.

Just the other day, while I was at work (in Auburn Hills), I was confronted by two women who were visiting various businesses in the area and collecting signatures in opposition to the construction of a new Planned Parenthood site in Auburn Hills.

While trying to maintain a modicum of politeness (I was still on the clock) and also get them out of my store as quickly as possible, I bluntly told them, "No, I'm not going to sign that."

Looking a little shocked but not having yet given up on the promise of my signature, they tried to ply me with pamphlets and tell me that, if only I would educate myself a bit on the topic, I might change my mind.

Again, probably a hint ruder than I was aiming for, I shunned their pamphlets and declared that I was quite educated on the topic and would not be changing my mind any time soon.

This was the point at which they brought out the big guns. They pronounced that Planned Parenthood "lures young girls in" to try and force them to have abortions and began some diatribe about murder, before I could cut them off with a firm "NOPE," finally sending them on their way.

As wildly misinformed and downright nuts as many of these people are, they still hold a lot of political sway, and that really has me shaking in my boots lately. I recently discovered that the petition these women wanted me to sign allegedly contains 10,000 signatures and is being presented at a city council meeting tonight. The kicker here is that PP hasn't even announced whether or not abortions will even be offered at this site!

Please stand with Planned Parenthood in your own community. Let your city officials know that you want Planned Parenthood to be a part of your community.

Now for the fun facts I promised:
  • There are currently 28 Planned Parenthood health centers in Michigan
  • Only 4 of these centers actually provide abortions
  • There currently are no Planned Parenthood centers in Oakland County
  • 1 in 5 women will visit a Planned Parenthood in her lifetime
  • Planned Parenthood helps prevent 612,000 unintended pregnancies every year
  • Each year Planned Parenthood provides 1 million pap tests, 830,000 breast exams and nearly 4 million tests and treatments for STIs
  • 3% of all Planned Parenthood services are abortion services
(All statistics taken from


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

White House report on the status of women: cliffnotes version

First things first: Happy Women’s History Month! Yesterday kicked off the first day of this month-long celebration of womens' achievements.

The White House helped ring in the first day of WHM by issuing a report titled, “Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being,” the first of its kind to be created since 1963.

The five major areas of American women’s lives discussed in this report include: People, families and income; education; employment; health; and crime and violence.

In order to save you some time (the report is 97 pages long!), I picked out what I thought were some of the most important and interesting points made in the report (you can, however, read the full report here):

  • Marriage and childbirth are increasingly being put off (or avoided altogether) in favor of college and career for both men and women.
  • The rates of women attending and graduating college have dramatically increased in the past few decades, outpacing men in most areas aside from science and technology.
  • However, poverty is still more common among women than men.
  • Women have been less hard-hit than men by unemployment during the current recession.
  • In households in which both the man and woman are employed, women are still more likely than men to work a “second shift consisting of housekeeping, childcare, volunteer work, etc.
  • Women are more likely than men to suffer from chronic medical conditions including depression and mobility problems.
  • Homicide, rape and other nonfatal attacks against women (including those perpetrated by intimate partners) have decreased within the past 20 years.