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How Subculture Results in Social Movement or Social ActivismEssay

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Riot Grrrl: Subculture as Social Activism

Subculture is a term that is used to refer to a small cultural group within a larger culture though it's characterized by differing beliefs or interests from larger culture. Subcultures are usually considered as rebellion to normalcy since they seemingly criticize the prevalent societal standard. In most cases, subcultures emerge as a result of criticism to existing dominant standards in the society, which contributes to their consideration and perception as negative groups because of the nature of their criticism. Moreover, subcultures develop when like-minded people who feel ignored or suppressed by certain standards in the society come together to develop a sense of identity. As a result, subcultures are seemingly regarded as social movements or social activism as demonstrated in the case of Riot Grrrl.

Subcultures and Social Activism or Social Movements

As previously mentioned, subcultures are small cultural groups within larger cultures that emerge from feelings of ignorance or suppression. Consequently, these small groups develop to oppose the dominant societal standards that seemingly contribute to their suppression or ignorance. When these groups develop, they seek to distinguish themselves from the larger culture or others members within similar cultural groups. Actually, subcultures are identified in different ways including through negative relations to work, refusal to comply with standards of ordinary life within a larger culture, and negative or hesitant relations to the larger culture. Given their nature, there are questions on whether subcultures can in fact be social movements or social activism because such movements or activists emerge from similar foundations i.e. in opposition to the dominant societal standards.

However, subcultures are also regarded as interests that function within the boundaries of the existing social order (Martin, p.1). For instance, youth subcultures are perceived as the prevalent middle-class culture since they come from a parent or working class culture though they have unique shape and structure that makes them different from their original culture. On the contrary, social movements are developed as forms of solidarism action that generate conflict to an extent that they break through the compatibility limits of the existing social order or system. Due to these differing perspectives, studies on subcultures and social movements have remained largely separate and unique. However, social movements and subcultures are similar on the premise of ideas that conceptualize them and concerns or dissatisfaction with the overall effectiveness of the larger culture.

Riot Grrrl Movement

Riot Grrrl is a subculture that started in the early 1990s in the Pacific Northwest, especially Washington and partly in California and Oregon. This subculture comprises young feminist women with liberal political ideals and prefer punk rock genre. These young feminists are either members of or enjoy music by Riot Grrrl bands or musical groups, which emphasize their political ideals. This implies that the major stakeholders of this subculture are young feminists and members of punk musical groups and bands. After its emergence in Washington State and Washington DC in the early 1990s, the Riot Grrrl quickly spread across the country and other parts including the United Kingdom (D'Angelica, p.1).

Riot Grrrl movement developed from punk rock scenes that were dominated by men and tried to remain a sub-cultural movement though women in riot grrrl bands and musical groups became the subject of increased attention across mainstream media. Reporters in mainstream media were enthralled with these women since their music and dancing styles were too provocative to comprehend. The challenges in understanding this music and dancing styles were fueled by the fact that rock music was conventionally viewed as the sphere of men because of it aggressive, potent, angry and decisive nature that seemingly made it unattractive to young people, especially young women. Female journalists in mainstream media who attempted to report about the Riot Grrrl bands and musical groups were fixated on heavy rock music being the sphere of men to an extent that they attempted to reduce the movement into a fashion statement (D'Angelica, p.1).

While the mainstream media increasingly misunderstood the music and dancing styles of these women in a male-dominated sphere, the image of a young woman playing a guitar and rumbling with uncontrolled fury became a source of inspiration to countless girls. These girls were increasingly inspired by Riot Grrrl musical bands to become dynamic young feminists who championed their own or distinctive political ideals. Therefore, these female-dominated punk rock bands in a male-dominated sphere became revolutionary tools through which a huge number of girls were inspired and provoked to become young feminists.

The revoluntionary spirit of the movement was further evident in the creation of zines, which were independently published pamphlet magazines. Zines were a means through which the emerging young feminists would challenge the existing belief that being feminine is tantamount to being dumb, bad, and weak (D'Angelica, p.2). Through zines, these young women manifested their feminism in provocative and unrefined manners by expressing their frustrations and anger with the widespread belief of what constitutes being feminine. Actually, Riot Grrrl zines were powerful tools that gave a voice to the unheard since they were a means through which young feminists would reject definitions provided by the dominant society. These definitions would be substituted with descriptions from the movement itself and help create their own meanings by taking over the most common means of production (Austin & Willard, p.444). Zines also helped Riot Grrrls to confront one of the most damaging tools to their lives i.e. the mainstream media while creating their own alternative culture that represented their desires to be enthusiastic feminists without damaging their perceptions on gender sex and performance.

The growth and development of the Riot Grrrl movement was largely fueled by the fact that these young feminists were increasingly concerned with the conventional feminist political ideals of violence against women and the right to make independent decisions. Through punk music and writing (i.e. using vines), riot grrrls consciously opted to express their perspectives against the conventional feminist political ideals. Young feminists developed their own subculture that would highlight the issues they prioritized since they felt that older and liberal feminists did not sufficiently express their issues or address their interests. Some of the major interests this group advocated for include ending bullying and jealousy between girls, stopping violence perpetrated against young women, creation of safe spaces for girls, stopping body image issues, and acknowledging white privilege.

Can Subculture be Social Activism?

The link between subcultures and social activism or social movements has been an issue of considerable interest given that these concepts are relatively similar though they have some different aspects. The significant interest on whether subculture can indeed be social activism is fueled by the fact that social movements and subcultures are empirically and analytically different concepts (Martin, p.1). As evident in the case of Riot Grrrl movement and Bikini Hill by Kathleen Hanna, subculture can in fact be social activism, especially in relation to social movements that create social change. Bikini Kill was by Kathleen Hanna that arranged weekly meetings between riot grrrls and other 20 women, which culminated in the formation of a band called Bikini Kill. Together with Riot Grrrl, Bikini Kill band played antagonistic punk rock music that advocated for a feminist agenda (Peddie, p.35). Some of the major ways through which subculture is in fact social activism as shown in the case of Bikini Kill and Riot Grrrl movement include

Creation of Social Movements

As previously mentioned, subcultures basically emerge as groups to challenge certain dominant societal standards that are regarded as suppressive to the members of the specific group. One of the major ways through which subculture is in fact social activism is that it facilitates the creation of social movements that are used as avenues for opposing the unfair dominant societal standard. In the case of Riot Grrrl, the development of this subculture facilitated the creation of a movement that challenges the male-dominates sphere of punk rock music. The subculture originally developed as a group through which women would engage in punk rock that was dominated by men.

Rock Grrrl band provided the basis for the creation of a social movement that was not only based on punk music but acted as framework through which young feminists would express their political ideas and highlight their issues. Moreover, the band teamed up with Bikini Kill to pronounce a feminist agenda and place gender issues at the forefront of local and regional discussions and attention (Peddie, p.35). As a politically charged group, the Riot Grrrl subculture arose to challenge the physical marginalization of women's involvement in the punk genre. In addition, Bikini Kill subculture helped create a social movement (Riot Grrrl movement) to advocate for women's issues by encouraging women to come to the front of the stage while focusing their songs' lyrics on feminist messages and issues. Therefore, one of the major ways with which subculture is in fact social activism is through promoting the creation and development of social movement that advocate social change depending on dominant societal standards.

Advocating for Common Issues… [END OF PREVIEW]

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