Sign up for our free newsletter
I hesitate to criticize my fellow young grrrls because it is difficult to tell where proven-misogynist reporter Jason Cherkis misrepresented them and where they were, in fact, allowed to represent themselves in August 28th’s “Riot Grrrl Reprise.” (I submit as evidence of the Cherkis anti-girl legacy: his bashing of women’s musical production and reception at the Lilith Fair, his insecure moaning over his girlfriend’s budding sexual desire for women, which prefaced the same thoughtless piece, and his fixation on the immorality of prostitutes no, wait, that’s Jake Tapper.)
Returning to the grrrls, I’m not really sure how three grrrls, one husband, and a “Papa” watching old Eddie Murphy routines constitutes the regeneration of a movement. A political movement requires action on a public stage, and either Burns and Huffman have no pragmatic understanding of organization and activism, or Cherkis presented them as ineffective and thoughtless (laughing at “bitch” jokes and mistaking their private slumber party for a public feminist act) in order to fulfill his typical agenda and apparent City Paper editorial policy to alienate the people and communities on which he is reporting.
I, like Huffman and Burns, understand the desperate need for an articulated feminism within the largely sexist punk-rock community. However, as Cherkis presented it, their motivation for resuscitating riot grrrl stems purely from an act of victimization, rape. The fact that a woman within the punk-rock community can only find a sense of empowerment through either joining a band or assuming the stance of victim is highly problematic. For those of us who are not interested in playing music, what is left? Girlfriend, ugly best friend, slut, or, in the case of “the new riot grrrl movement,” victim. Frankly, I’m not so interested in being any of these things.
Within such a small and insular community as D.C.’s punk rock scene, the accusation of rape leads to an environment in which women can only draw attention to themselves through the social currency of their violation. Valid accusations should not be ignored, but they should be exercised through prosecution and not the court of innuendo and uncomfortable glances. While I do not necessarily doubt the validity of Burns’ and Cooties’ rape narratives, false accusations cannot be tolerated, and I fear that their witch-hunt-outing attitude promotes an environment in which victimization becomes chic and the politics of riot grrrl become a recounting of sexual ambiguous interactions. “Rape” is too powerful a word to be wielded carelessly. Labeling yourself as “raped” places you beyond criticism. Its a tool that can conveniently and flippantly be used to harm others, demeaning the real experiences of women affected by rape.
Unfortunately, defining “rape” and its functions within the white-middle-class subculture of punk is too complicated a thing to do in a letter to the editor. I understand that rape is most frequently committed by someone the woman knows, and that many women are too guilty and ashamed to come forward and prosecute the perpetrator. So what Huffman and Burns have set as their agenda is, in some respect, courageous. However, finding their voices through victimization perpetuates an essentializing system in which men remain powerful, women remain powerless, and punk’s feminist movement remains heteronormative.
I support Huffman and Burns as women, and, potentially, as organizers, but I cannot support their uncomplicated vigilance.
via the Internet