I was raised in the aftermath of the riot grrrl movement and fell in love with the alpha-girl toughness and the ways in which femininity was reclaimed and redefined by the movement. Like their second-wave feminism predecessors fought for their place in the working world and reproductive rights, riot grrrls and third-wave feminists fought for their place in punk rock, protest, and other subversive art forms geared toward change. Bands like Bikini Kill and Thee Headcoatees might not being dominating DIY stages anymore, but the legacy of the riot grrrl movement keeps on going. OG riot punk bands like Sleater-Kinney are still growling at festivals, zines can still be found in local record stores, and a generation of new socially-minded, change driven girl bands like Pussy Riot, Bleached, and The Coathangers are surfing the airwaves.

Even though a generation of young women are taking no prisoners in the music and art world and making names for themselves, the Chicago music scene skews male. There are a few great female-driven bands like Bunny and Lala Lala and a growing community of female photographers, artists, and writers. I chatted with Chloe Graham, (whose zine you can peep here, find a full physical copy at Quimby’s Bookstore, Saki, Reckless Records, or by contacting her directly) in order to gain a larger scope on the unique ways in which women take up space in the Chicago music scene.

Graham’s entry into the Chicago music scene has similar roots to the riot grrrl writers of the 1990s.

“At first, it was mostly to emulate girl writers from the 70s that I admired, like Ellen Willis and Lisa Robinson, who traveled with the Rolling Stones, The Clash, Led Zeppelin, and the Sex Pistols for her magazine, Rock News (copies of which i somehow found at my local coffee shop?!). After that, I kind of got frustrated with how inaccessible much of this music was, considering that many of these musicians either were very old and toured rarely, or had died before i was even born! So this spring, I started seeking out local bands like The Walters, Twin Peaks, and The Symposium.”

This retro inspiration mixed with a desire for something new and different resulted in the creation of Graham’s zine, which includes interviews, artwork, and photography from some of the baddest grrrls in Chicago. 

The inclusion and celebration of women’s raw talent in the Chicago music world needs to expand beyond zines and short sets played in bars. In our conversation about changing the landscape of the scene, Graham said it best: “I just want more grrrl bands, man!” In the DIY tradition, I wanted to pick up my dusty guitar and start an all-girl surf punk band, but then I remembered that I have crippling anxiety and the singing voice of a dying parrot. With that, I encourage all of the talented, badass women I’ve met in the Chicago scene to plug in and be fearless.

by Hayley Robertson

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