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Painted Brain | Music As The Voice Of Movements
The name “Riot Grrrl” emerged. The use of the word “girl” came fr
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punk rock music mental health

Music as the voice of movements

“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 want to be her best friend, yeah”
-Bikini kills, rebel girl
She’s so hard to please
But she’s a forest fire
I do my best to meet her demands
Play at romance, we slow dance
In the living room, but all that a stranger would see
Is one girl swaying alone
Stroking her cheek
-Lorde, Liability
One’s music is often seen as an extension or showcase of one’s self from a lyrical perspective. Music is a medium through which artists and lyricists convey their innermost thoughts and feelings; sometimes through deep metaphors and allegories, sometimes through confessional and blunt catharsis (David Mitchell-Baker).
Riot Grrrl began in 1991, when a group of women from Washington, D.C., and Olympia, Washington, held a meeting to discuss how to address sexism in the punk scene. Inspired by recent antiracist riots in D.C., the women decided they wanted to start a “girl riot” against a society they felt offered no validation of women’s experiences (Kristen Schilt).


The name “Riot Grrrl” emerged. The use of the word “girl” came from a desire to focus on childhood, a time when girls have the strongest self-esteem and belief in themselves (Kristen).


At its inception, Riot Grrrl issued a manifesto stating its philosophy and intent. The manifesto was published in various Riot Grrrl “zines”, such as Riot Grrrl and Bikini Kill. Zines (short for “fanzines”) are homemade publications with limited distribution. Zines became an important part of the punk scene in the late 1970s because punks liked “producing a paper unhampered by corporate structure, cash, and censorship” (Kristen Schilt). Zine making was a predominantly male domain, however. Mark Perry, one of the early punk zine makers, wrote in one issue of Sniffin’ Glue: “Punks are not girls, and if it comes to the crunch we’ll have no options but to fight back” (Kristen Schilt)


Zines became a medium for discussing taboo subjects, such as rape, incest, and eating disorders. Zine making offered girls a way of forming connections with other girls who shared their experiences. The formation of these connections allowed girls to see their own personal experiences with rape and assault as part of a larger political problem. As Hillary Carlip wrote in Girlpower, “In zines, [Riot Grrrls] are finally free to express themselves fully, to be heard, and also to realize they are not alone” (34).


What does this punk revolution have to do with mental health? everything.


Throughout the ’00s, emo music found itself stigmatized as a genre; stereotyped with skinny jeans, studs, wristbands and eccentric hairstyles as a look, and then self-harmdepression, and suicide as a personal assessment of those who wrote and listened to the genre (David Mitchell-Baker).


In the past music that has been synonymous with talking about one’s lives and genuinely not feeling alright. I do not think that this had the same intention, but today its making new waves. With those who the music once set so well with, come up and realize what really made the words so important to them.


Ultimately, the emo stigma is slowly being peeled away and people are seeing the music for what it is; deeply relevant and strikingly relatable. Seemingly gone is the negativity and imagery that plagued the genre for so long, now it’s a movement that’s taking over again but this time with the right messages and the important themes. Emo is cool again but more importantly, emo is necessary(David Mitchell-Baker).


Places like the Painted Brain have magazines that tie together the lived experience that mirror those of punk zines. How far can people push to open the flame and create a wave of normalness?

Afraid of what the truth might bring
He locks his doors and never leaves
Desperately searching for signs
Too terrified to find a thing
He battens all the hatches down
And wonders why he hears no sound
Frantically searching his dreams
He wonders what it’s all about
-Telescope, Cage The Elephant

Allison Peters is an MSW Intern from USC Suzanne Dworak Peck School of Social Work. You can find more of her work on

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