The Becoming-Woman of the Young-Girls: Revisiting Riot Grrrl, Rethinking Girlhood

Hilary Malatino
Indiana University-Bloomington

The Young-Girl's triumph originates in the failure of feminism.
— Tiqqun, in Raw Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl

... it's gross when things like Riot Grrrl or feminism become a product. It's like, "Let's get it in as many magazines as possible so then everyone will know about it." I don't necessarily think that's the way to go about things because that's still reproducing a market economy. That's still saying, "Here are the managers that know the product that's best for you and you're just the stupid consumers that are supposed to consume it." Whether that product is feminism or that product is Colgate, as long as you're using those marketing concepts, you're still treating people like they're idiots and you're still reinforcing capitalism.
— Kathleen Hanna, interview with Dan Punk Planet #27 (September/October 1998)

Jessica R.: People say revolutionary stuff starts with kids. That students are really important. What do you think? Why are there so many girls in Riot Grrl and not women much more than ten years older than us? Do older women feel differently?
Madhu: I'll always feel like this; someday I'll grow up and won't have time to write fanzines, talk to people, but —
—excerpt from a roundtable interview"Riot Grrrl: Revolutions from Within," in a Signs special issue on Feminisms and Youth Cultures 23(3), Spring 1998

[1] Let us jump into the way-back machine and head towards 1998. If you were a girl, liked girls, or aspired to be a girl, it was your year. The girl, as a U.S. pop-cultural phenotype, was ever-present, and obviously in the process of some sort of vast reappraisal or conceptual reworking. You went to Claire's Boutique in your favorite suburban shopping mall, and you could find "Girl Power" emblazoned upon whatever bauble caught your eye. If you were a slightly more subversive youth, with an ear toward whatever passed for an 'underground' in your particular hometown, you may have caught wind of a politico-cultural phenomena termed "Riot Grrrl" (or Grrl, or Girl), a movement of young punk rock feminists with its primary nodes in Washington, DC and Olympia, WA. This news would, more than likely, have come from one of the mainstream women's and news magazines that had given Riot Grrrl, over the few preceding years, some column space. Peculiar write-ups, these were. Let's take a look at one from a 1992 issue of Newsweek, an outlet that offered up this caricature:

The Riot Grrrls are a new feminist voice for the video-age generation, inflamed not so much by economic issues as by social ones – incest, child abuse, abortion, eating disorders, harassment. Patching together wildly mixed ideas from Madonna, Sassy magazine and feminist critics like Susan Faludi and Naomi Wolf, they've set out to make the world safe for their kind of girlhood: sexy, assertive and loud. [1]

In retrospect, there's something at least partially correct about this portrait of the inventions and aims of Riot Grrrl. The political critique extant in Riot Grrrl fanzines, albums, and performance art often circled around issues of the body – violations of its permeability, abusive and insidious efforts to micromanage its aesthetics, impositions upon the space that it occupies.

[2] Given this admission, I'd like to look at the strange assertion proffered by Newsweek that the political purview of Riot Grrrl, focused as it was on the body, meant that it "was inflamed by" the social rather than the economic. This could mean that Riot Grrrl lacked an intersectional feminist consciousness, and was unable to think the social and the economic as irrevocably co-constitutive (I'd love to give Newsweek credit for this sort of assertion, but it seems unlikely, particularly in 1992). A more likely interpretation, though, is that this assertion tacitly positions Riot Grrrls against their feminist forebears. This interpretation positions Riot Grrrl as distinctly refusing a political platform that coheres around the legislative issues that were the shibboleths of 70s and 80s era liberal feminism – the Equal Rights Amendment, the glass ceiling, mothers' rights and reproductive justice – in favor of a focus on the more intimate politics of the lived body: issues of sexual abuse, self-harm, body image, and an address of sexual and reproductive politics. This movement away from a distinctly liberal feminism is seen as commensurable with the development of a politics that is an-economic. This figuration of the merely social focus of Riot Grrrl was utilized, in venues ranging well beyond Newsweek, to index the ostensible immaturity of the feminism extant in Riot Grrrl, positing it as comprised of a crazy-quilt, superficial conceptual bricolage that functions as evidence of a certain youthful (and more than likely, politically misled) naiveté.

[3] It was this tendency towards infantilization—that is, persistent misrepresentation and continual refusal to treat riot grrrls as articulate and logical interlocutors—that precipitated a call for a total corporate media blackout in late 1992. This strategy of Marcusean Great Refusal, this turn towards a selective communal dialogics that attempts to close the hegemon (mass media, the apparati that comprise the culture industries of capital) out was really only a reinforcement of an earlier Riot Grrrl strategy of refusing the commoditization of girlhood through reclaiming the term and creating media that would flesh out, and give new (and radical) content to the figure of the girl.

[4] This blackout, however, left the reclaimed language of grrrlhood up for grabs—and grabbed it was, often concomitantly trimmed down to grrl with two Rs rather than three and no 'riot' preceding. By the time 1998 rolled around, grrlhood, for youth even only remotely 'alternative', seemed to have replaced 'girlhood' wholesale. Rachel Fudge, in a 2001 article from Bitch magazine, attests to the ubiquity of this semiotic unmooring:

So it came to be that here in future-shock 2001, "grrl" is surprisingly prevalent as a synonym for girl or woman. Type "grrl" into any search engine and you'll get hundreds and hundreds of hits, from nonfeminist porno sites ("grrl worship at") to commercial female-focused sites ( to quasifeminist sites (GrrlGamer, WebGrrls). Though there is sometimes a shadowy acknowledgment of a certain sassiness, if not outright feminism, invoked with the grrl appellation, for the most part grrls on the web have little in common with riot grrrls or feminists of any name. [2]

I was, for all intents and purposes, definitely self-identifying within the realm of grrrl-hood in 1998. I was 15, toting issues of Punk Planet—the now defunct, then widely distributed zine – to lunch hour, ordering obscure German anti-fascist hardcore 7"s and playing them on the swank stereo equipment belonging to my mother's partner. I was finally coming to grips, however slowly, with my own attraction to girls (grrrls, grrls); excited for the follow up to Sleater-Kinney's 1997 album Dig Me Out; talking with my best friend about starting a Gay-Straight Alliance at our high school; trying to stay away from the beauty industry the way Naomi Wolf had cautioned me to; crushing on older women (most of whom were either self-identified or identified by me as real Riot Grrrls) and, through these crushes, making some sort of foray in a subgenre of creative non-fiction that merged queer erotica with obsessional diaristic accounting of brief interactions with these women; making home-made Crass t-shirts (Fight War, Not Wars; Shaved Women, Collaborators!) with my then-boyfriend and brothers; and learning, for the first time, of the existence of a scattered anarcho-punk community that stretched throughout the long peninsula of Florida, my home-state.

[5] Other events of interest that occurred in 1998, while I was perfecting my kickflip, playing tenor sax along with my favorite Bratmobile album and skipping school: Signs, the well-known gender studies journal, undertook a series of conference calls with self-identified riot grrrls, all in their teens and very early twenties, in order to roundtable on the topic of Riot Grrrl—what it is, what it means to them, how it has affected their day-to-day lives. These conversations were collected and truncated in an article entitled "Riot Grrrl: Revolutions from Within," by Jessica Rosenberg and Gitana Garofalo, initiators of this polylogue. This paper signals the incorporation of Riot Grrrl as historical phenomena within the curricula and research interests of Women's and Gender Studies: in short, it signals the institutionalization of the movement, the beginning of its formation as an epistemic object/artifact. Another sign of the decline of Riot Grrrl issued forth in 1998: Bikini Kill, the band that coined the Riot Grrrl appellation, broke up. This was announced, much to my adolescent disappointment, by frontwoman Kathleen Hanna in an interview given to Dan Sinker, editor of Punk Planet. Also addressed in this interview was the commoditization of Riot Grrrl and the disjunct between this process and the multiple radical political impulses of the movement.

[6] One more occurrence specific to 1998: a French radical collective going by the name Tiqqun began drafting what would become their first journal issue. This issue contains, among several other articles of substantive length marked by a distinctly Situationist-inspired approach, another critical reappraisal of girlhood, issued under the title of "Raw Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl." This text, while initially published in their eponymous journal tiqqun # 1 in 1999, was only translated into English in July of 2010. This lag in linguistic conversion doesn't erase, however, the historical concrescence of the fading of the phenomenon of riot girl with articulation of a theory of the young-girl. The two articulations of girlhood are intimately—though not immediately, causally, or referentially—related to one another, and it is my aim in this text to think these figurations, enactments, and tropes of girlhood present in Riot Grrrl and the theory of the Young-Girl in terms of this co-articulation. Examining this co-articulation gives us ways out, lines of flight that can inform the stakes of a contemporary critical address of what is meant when one speaks of girlhood, the girl, adolescent femininity. Why should this embodied temporality be so richly embroidered, so deeply thought in the work of political radicals, feminist and a-feminist alike? What are the political and cultural stakes of reappraising and reinventing girlhood?

Young-Girls Don't Riot

[7] Who was Tiqqun? Many responses are possible: a Situationist/Lettrist-inspired French anarchist collective that self-published numerous essays in the years 1999-2001; a collective that agitated against capital, consumption, monogamy, the State (socialist, communist, capitalist, or otherwise); an effort to reinvigorate past radicalisms—among them, post-1968 French anti-authoritarianism, 77 punk rock, 70s-era radical feminism, and Workerist communism—while remaining critically inquisitive as to their extant failures, widely and obviously evident given only a cursory survey of the condition of beings in the early-new-millennium era of transnational, constantly expanding and incorporative capital; a group of thinkers and writers that posit a threat akin to that of 'domestic terrorists' within France, and are thus an intellectually and politically dangerous import to other geopolitical spaces.

[8] For our purposes, they are the collective responsible for sketching out a theory of a figure they term the "young-girl." The young-girl is fleshed out and given conceptual shape only circuitously in their writing. This is why the term 'raw materials' is inserted in the title—to call attention to the assemblage-like quality of the theory. Not coherent, platformist, or linear in terms of its argument, the text does not seek to bring the figure of the Young-Girl from the shadows of some sort of cultural unconscious into a more substantiated and transparent sort of being. Rather, the intent is to examine how this Young-Girl, or facets of her multifarious persona, increasingly appear in unlikely sites, manifested in bodies and locales that are not the typical haunts and sites of cultural attachment usually invested by the desires of young women.

[9] The motivation for terming this concept Young-Girl stems from a recognition that femininity and youth have, historically speaking, been commoditized first. Tiqqun argues that, in the process of becoming "little by little real," Capital's domination has found its best supports in "the marginalized elements of traditional society themselves—women and youths first, then homosexuals and immigrants." [3] Those charged with the task of reproductive labor under capital, rather than (or in addition to) what has been termed 'properly' productive labor—or, put differently, those charged with the maintenance and reproduction of bodies rather than (or in addition to) the production of commodities—have been those targeted most by the realm of advertising. This makes good capitalist sense, insofar as targeting populations with a more direct relation to consumption – i.e. those who were traditionally expected to do the shopping for the household (women), or those who, not yet laboring to produce commodities themselves and existing, thus, in a relationship of pure consumption with civil society (youth) are a ideal targets for the production of new desires. The young girl is a privileged figure, then, for she is the subjectivity in which the reality of an expectation of future reproductive labor through conspicuous consumption collides with a mostly non-productive relationship to practices of consumption. The young girl, exempted from the realm of reproductive labor on account of youth, doesn't (or at least isn't expected to) produce anything—rather, she is implored to engage in the sole business of reproducing (or what many teen beauty magazines disingenuously call 'reinventing' with the aid of new products) herself. The Young-Girl, accordingly, does not and will never produce anything but herself, over and over again, with new twists but always and only within the only superficially variegated monoculture of capital. She makes herself a commodity with no interiority, no opacity.

[10] Tiqqun also claims that the Young-Girl is "not a gendered concept." [4] By this, they mean, very simply, that the Young-Girl is a figure that cannot be firmly affixed only to female (whether cis or transgendered) subjects. Rather, facets of the Young-Girl are evidenced in subjectivities as seemingly diverse as "the nightclub going jock" and the "second generation north african girl painted up to look pornstar old." [5] These subjectivities are each, if differentially, enthralled by and at least partially obedient to the concept of the Young-Girl, willingly commoditizing their bodies in concordance with the hegemonic image-types that the marketing industries regularly place on offer. This conceptual obedience is what constructs a series of secret and complicit connections between "the plugged-in, puffed-up, civil-unioned humanity from the hip neighborhood and the petty-bourgeois americanized girl in the suburbs with her plastic family." [6] The Young-Girl does not orchestrate the actions, affects, and daily lives of young girls exclusively, but instead guides the becoming of multiplicities of subjects, both those seen as normative and traditional as well as those aspiring to hipness and a certain embourgeoised progressivism. We can see, of course, that the linkages through the Young-Girl that gather together this loose agglomeration have to do, immediately, with a situation of being in thrall to consumptive practices, deeply and non-resistantly or acritically embedded in the daily workings of capital. In other words, really subsumed by it.

[11] Thus, she is her own capital, and her body is her set of work tools. This is true in so far as her exhaustively maintained image is self-same with her being. Tiqqun writes that because "her appearance entirely exhausts her essence and her representation exhausts her reality, the Young-Girl is that which is entirely expressible, and also that which is perfectly predictable and absolutely neutralized." [7] The artifice is become constitutive of being; while she may change her clothes or image, what lies beneath is not a rich interior, an alternative substance that exists in tension or some incoherence with the image, but is, at most, only a dolled-up and dressaged scrim for the workings of biopolitical domination. "When the Young-Girl 'takes off her mask,' the Empire is speaking directly to you."

[12] She isn't embodied, then, but entirely estranged from the flesh she inhabits, having firmly objectified it as a prosthesis, a tool that is used as a form of living currency. This relation of self-objectification is glossed by Tiqqun through a litany of body parts, presented not in terms of their co-articulation but instead as a sort of close-up, cannibalized, part-by-part fixation that demolishes a corporeal holism and all that might concern the lived experience of the body, reducing them to the status of the image, exhausted by its function as spectacle: "Me and my breasts, my belly-button, my butt, my legs: THE MAGAZINE OF MY BODY" (18). The collapse of the corporeal into the glossy image is a recurrent trope, and key to the expansion of the conceptual reign of the Young-Girl. The more heightened the propagation of a notion of the body as valuable, and valuable only insofar as its appearance (not, for instance, for its labor power in traditional terms), the more entrenched the notion of one's body as property becomes (either one's own, or capable of being lent out to someone else for periods of shorter or longer duration), but also, corporeal potentialities—what a body can do, to echo Baruch Spinoza—are reduced to degree zero. Bodies are valued for their appearance; the refinement of bodily appearance is commensurable with one's value as a being, one's ontological worth. On the generalization of this phenomenon, they write that "the women's magazines correct a nearly hundred-year old mistake by finally making equivalent magazines available to men." Enter GQ, enter Maxim, enter Men's Health. This generalization of one's self as living currency, which is nothing but the objectification of bodies in terms of their physical simulacra, their qualities of appearance, is a shift much more tragic than a tyranny of the beauty industries as they impose a standard body-beautiful; something much more sinister is afoot.

[13] The 'dictatorship of beauty' is also the dictatorship of ugliness. It doesn't mean the violent hegemony of a certain paradigm of beauty, but in a much more radical way, the hegemony of the physical simulacrum as a form of the objectivity of beings. Understood as such, it is clear that nothing prevents such dictatorship from extending to all people, whether beautiful, ugly, or indifferent. [8]

[14] This "hegemony of the physical simulacrum as a form of the objectivity of beings," can be understood as the coercive objectification of our selves, not according to capacities for making and building (labor power, traditionally understood), but according to our mode of appearance.

[15] This also entails the generalized de-skilling of beings. It heralds the advent of a corporeal passivity; we are not afforded opportunities or time to learn to build, to play instruments, to write, to cook, to converse, to pay attention (although we are offered endless tutorials, most of which are monetized, on how these things may be done) and instead are encouraged to become content with merely appearing.

[16] There is a certain prescience to Tiqqun's writing on the generalization of Young-Girlization, in so far as a move from an analysis of mainstream media's facilitation of the process into the role of the tertiary sector more generally. This economic sector, traditionally a 'pink-collar' ghetto, and accordingly considered only an attach? to the processes of production, a sort of subsidiary and thus feminized lubricant on the cogs of capital, is now occupied by many other minoritized social segments and also by members of differential classes, losing its subsidiary character and coming to claim a space more and more central to the operations of capital—that is, no longer tertiary. "Ah, the Young-Girls of the tertiary sector; marketing; shops; social services. In the near, foreseeable future, the whole of the capitalist regime's surplus value will be produced by Young-Girls." [9] In other words, the Young-Girl is a privileged figure, a guiding beacon of social propriety, within communicative capitalism, that re-christening of what used to be called post-Fordism.

[17] With communicative capitalism, the production of ostensible intangibles of communication, relation, and affect are no longer considered secondary to the process of production, but instead are key to the proliferation of capital, which means, to cite Hardt and Negri in Commonwealth, that "production, in other words, is becoming 'anthropogenetic,' generating forms of life." [10] This entails an important transmutation in the role of knowledge-production that is key to grasping the rise of communicative capitalism: it means that "knowledge is no longer a means to the creation of value (in the commodity form), but rather the production of knowledge is itself value creation." [11] Communication, knowledge production, and relationality more generally are increasingly commoditized: all those skills that the Young-Girls of the tertiary sector are encouraged to cultivate. The Young-Girl, then, can be considered the life form par excellence of communicative capitalism.

[18] The molding of a subjectivity completely compatible with the profit motive—and the way that this process entails the conscription of the body to the status of spectacle—means two things about the relationship between libidinality, affect, and the Young-Girl. First, that on account of her complete lack of interiority, she is "ontologically a virgin, untouched by any experience," [12] and second, that the spread of this ontological virginity, this absence of Eros, this incapacity to feel, evidences itself in "the extreme spread of male impotence, female frigidity, or even vaginal dryness," phenomena that may be, within this framework, "immediately understood as contradictions of capitalism." [13] The contradiction lies in the conflictual simultaneity of being sold seemingly endless streams of affective enticement while becoming immune to the experience of embodied desire. Put another way, our seduction power, our charm-capital and beauty-capital, have come to replace our labor power, and in the process of rendering our bodies spectacular work tools, we've forgotten how to inhabit them as flesh not exhausted by capital, as desiring-machines rather than a cold, contained surface effect. One is expected to "keep up their 'seduction power' that they can at any instant be fired and set out again on the sexual market" (68). The sexual market is not, however, circumscribed or content to remain coincident with our intimate lives; rather, it is isomorphic with the market itself. The market is libidinal; the libidinal is thoroughly commoditized. No wonder our bodies manifest resistance in the form of affective immunity. This incapacity to feel, what, for Tiqqun, seems to be a generalized (or increasingly globalized) dry fuck particular to communicative capital, also manifests itself in another prevalent corporeal disorder: anorexia. Of it, Tiqqun writes that it signals not a pathology, but the "desire to liberate oneself from a body entirely colonized by commodity symbology, to reduce to dust a physical objectivity of which the Young-Girl has been wholly dispossessed," [14] a body fabricated and rented to her by capital.

[19] The aim of "Raw Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl" is, professedly, "not so much to convert Young-Girls as to trace out all the corners of a fractalized battlefront of Young-Girlization, to supply the weapons for a hand to hand, blow by blow fight, wherever you may find yourself." [15] I found myself, in 1998, a young grrrl in the suburbs of South Florida, suburbs near-identical to those scattered throughout the rest of the United States. Speaking only extremely mediocre French, having no access to Tiqqun's writing in its pre-translated state, I found my weapons for this battle in the rich material, intellectual, and political inheritance of Riot Grrrl.

Are Riot Grrrls Becoming-Woman?

[20] Certain arguments put forth within the space of Tiqqun's writing echo, nearly point for point, a corpus of political critique scattered across the diverse array of written, aural, visual, and performative texts that comprise the agglomeration termed Riot Grrrl. I don't aim to give an exhaustive account of the topography of this terrain here. [16] Rather, I would like to provide a brief address of the interventions and inventions of Riot Grrrl premised as a response to two curious assertions. The first is one I rehearsed at the beginning of this text: that Riot Grrrl is fundamentally concerned with social rather than economic issues. The second is a two-part claim made by Tiqqun by way of glossing the advent and development of the figure of the Young-Girl. They declare that this figure originates in the crisis of classical gender roles as "the offensive that commodity domination responds to that crisis with," [17] and that its "triumph originates with the failure of feminism." [18]

[21] Each of these assertions is founded on profound, and reductive, misapprehensions. For the former, it is a matter of mistaking a distinctly anti-capitalist politics that refuses cultural commoditization while attempting to carve out not-for-profit spaces for performance, interaction, and action for an absence of economic engagement. Unsurprisingly, for news outlets such as Newsweek, the economic is completely coextensive with a specifically capitalist economics. Within this logic, social organization that works alternatively to the ethos of commoditization appears as "merely" social. This is the sort of purview that mistakes the passage of an Equal Rights Amendment for the realization of gender parity; or would view the breakage of a glass ceiling (rather than the process of making possible a collective, definitive exit from the building itself) a success of feminist politics. Within this perspective, the only feminism that engages the question of economy is liberal feminism. As remarked upon earlier, other feminisms are posited as misled, naive, evidence of a set of growing pains on the route to a fully pro-capitalist feminist politics that has as its shibboleths both demands for equal pay as well as one's right to possess one's body as their own property. While equal pay and the right to reproductive self-determination are, of course, necessary struggles in our contemporary conjuncture, it is also necessary to be able to question and develop alternatives to both the reigning economic system, as well as the presuppositions of possessive individualism that make its motor run.

[22] In the latter assertion, that hinging on the ostensible "failure of feminism," the problem lies in mistaking the ascendancy of liberal feminism over more radical strains of feminist movement with the ostensible failure of feminism full-stop. The former assertion defangs Riot Grrrl, while the later cannot accommodate for its historically concurrent existence on account of its ground-clearing attempt to demonstrate the force and efficacy of the Young-Girl. A more accurate way of telling this story would be to write of the Young-Girlization of Riot Grrrl, or the politically strange development from Revolution, Girl Style Now! to Girl Power. For, indeed, Riot Grrrl was eventually (if only partially) subsumed by the marketing machines that it was responding against. This was why issues of reformulating intersubjective erotics, thinking and enacting alternatives to heteronormativity, directly addressing sexual abuse, and examining the forces that conspire to create and sustain destructive body images were such hot topics of Riot Grrrl discourse. All of this was a response to an intimate, if not fully theorized, understanding of the dynamics of Young-Girlization, which we can now gloss as the biopolitical rendering of bodies both spectacular and docile in a manner coextensive with the interests of communicative capitalism. The girls who initiated and grew Riot Grrrl lived this process in the most intimate, molecular sense; it is no surprise that they resisted it so vociferously (when rebellion finally comes, it comes hard). These girls were positioned as the most cherished and valuable target of an ever-more-intensive commoditization process that made (and makes) millions off the creation of awful affects in young women, among them self-hatred, corporeal loathing, feelings of sexual worthlessness, and the inculcation of a sense of weak to nonexistent political effectivity. Ignoring the media and utilizing the energetic attention formerly spent there to focus, instead, on collective poietic projects—bands, fanzines, political actions, art projects, consciousness-raising—is nothing short of a radical anti-capitalist (and thus, of course, economically interested) gesture.

[23] Of course it is written of (and off) by mainstream media as another short-lived, politically ineffective youth sub-culture. But, even speaking only in terms of my own biography, it was obvious that Riot Grrrl was actually something much more imperative: a laboratory of radical political engagement that emphasized becoming in the context of radical feminist, as well as radical queer, political actions, epistemic orientations, and poeietic projects.
To further parse this process of becoming-beyond-the-Young-Girl, we can look towards the emphasis Deleuze and Guattari place on the figure of the 'girl' within A Thousand Plateaus and consider its deep resonance in the politically motivated revaluation of the radical potentialities of the girl that operated, with Riot Grrrl, as a temporally schizzed embrace of a wilder, less thoroughly socialized, less straightjacketed brand of femininity located temporally prior to the construction of, in Kathleen Hanna's words, "the walls that say you can't." These walls, in Hanna's purview, are precisely those teachings which come commensurate with proper female gender enactment within the milieu of what hooks has termed white-supremacist-capitalist patriarchy. In the zine Bikini Kill, which witnessed the first publication of Hanna's "Burn Down the Walls that Say You Can't," Hanna lists these necessary unlearnings –among them:

Resist the temptation to view those around you as objects & use them.
Recognize empathy and vulnerability as positive forms of strength.
Resist the internalization of capitalism, the reducing of people & oneself to commodities, meant to be consumed.
Resist psychic death.
Acknowledge emotional violence as real.
Close your mind to the propaganda of the status quo by examining its effects on you, cell by artificial cell. [19]

These unlearnings are necessary in order to harness what Bikini Kill has called the revolutionarysoulforce of the girl. Harnessing this force entails a psychosomatic stripping that aims to rid oneself of the deliberate psychical-corporeal conditioning of communicative capitalism, intent as it is on instrumentalization, denigration of the intuitive and empathic, with the intended side effects of epistemic, emotional, and physical violence enacted against women, queers, folks of color, the poor. Revolutionarysoulforce is the short term for what is freed up as one de-schools or de-toxifies from the internalization of multiple hegemonies.

[24] Riot Grrrl locates the girl as a real space up for reinhabitation regardless of one's age, providing a commitment to this process of unlearning and invention guided by a specifically anti-capitalist DIY ethic. The temporal and spatial location of the girl is actually a modality wherein one is simultaneously temperamental, inquisitive, demanding, and mutable, unfixed. And it is from within this mode that Riot Grrrl—zines, bands, performance art—moves.

[25] Deleuze and Guattari write of the girl that it is her body that is "stolen first" in the process of fabricating sexed and sexually "opposable organisms," and that this theft is constituted by a series of order-words, demands, impositions: "stop behaving like that, you're not a little girl anymore, you're not a tomboy, etc." [20] This series of impositions establishes a unified prehistory for the girl, a principle of intelligibility for her being a sexed body which excises behavioral, desirous contradictions, all manner of compelling, queer impropriety. It is through this process of fabrication and excision that heterosex is then installed as normative: "it is by using the girl as an example [of] the object of [the boy's] desire, that an opposed organism, a dominant history is fabricated for him too." [21] Within this schematic, girlhood is posited as prior to the instantiation of biunivocal sex, and thus becomes a privileged figure of desiring production, on account of inhabiting a corporeal and psychic space that is "indifferent to memory" and non-figurative, refusing postponed fulfillment, delayed gratifications, nor the grafting of one's substance, one's desires, one's being onto a fabricated 'opposable organism,' within a dyadic, heterosexist libidinal economy. Thus, Deleuze and Guattari advocate an embrace of girlhood as a line of flight, an inhabitation of the between, the intermezzo, neither and not-yet either man nor woman, that undoes the great "dualism machines." [22] This embrace is, at core, what is meant by becoming-woman. As they write, by way of a reversal of gendered developmental temporalities, "it is not the girl who becomes a woman; it is becoming-woman that produces the universal girl." [23]

[26] This is precisely what Tobi Vail, drummer for Bikini Kill and the Frumpies, multi-instrumentalist and the brain behind Jigsaw zine, elucidates regarding the difference between 'femininity' and 'girl culture,' although in a radically different vernacular aimed at girls and queer youth:

That's what we mean by girl culture. There's a whole girl culture that exists when you're little. There girls have their own scene. And it always gets totally fucked up when girls start dating boys. Like two of them like the same guy. Or they just start dating guys and that becomes their llife. Then they get married and that's traditionally how women get into these situations where they are totally separated from each other in these domestic spheres. What we want to say is, 'no, that's not happening to us. This is girl culture and these are our rituals'. [24]

Girl culture can be thought of, then, as a definite and defiantly queer realm that establishes counter-norms and alternative, resistant community by way of rituals that evade majoritarian/hegemonic logics is what is enabled by this embrace of girlhood, by this process of becoming-otherwise than what white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy has attempted to make of . This trajectory is one of disarticulation without telos, one of refusing the organismic intelligibility lent by the coherency and ontological stasis of being a woman...or a man.

[27] Engaging in these sorts of becomings is, for sure, a kind of girl power: potentia feminae.


[1] "Revolution, Girl Style," Newsweek, 1992.

[2] Rachel Fudge, "Girl, You'll Be a Lady Soon." Bitch magazine., 2001.

[3] ibid., iii.

[4][4] Tiqqun, "Raw Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl," ii.

[5] ibid., ii-iii.

[6] ibid., iii.

[7] ibid., 7.

[8] ibid., 24.

[9] ibid., 42.

[10] Hardt and Negri, Commonwealth, 267.

[11] ibid., 267-268.

[12] Tiqqun, ibid., 11.

[13] Tiqqun, ibid., 64.

[14] ibid, 64.

[15] ibid, vi.

[16] For a more expansive historical account of Riot Grrrl, I suggest Sara Marcus's forthcoming Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution (Harper Perennial, 2010).

[17] Tiqqun, 3.

[18][18] Tiqqun, 8.

[19] Kathleen Hanna. "Riot Grrrl Manifesto." Bikini Kill Zine #2. 1991.

[20] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 276.

[21] ibid., 276.

[22] ibid., 277.

[23] ibid., 277.

[24] Interview with Tobi Vail and Kathleen Hanna. Punk Planet #5, Jan/Feb 1995.