Grrrls aren’t made of sugar and spice and everything nice


EL PASO – When I was about 15 years old I was not concerned with the media or how it constructs “models” to women. I did not pay attention to the latest fashion trends or even obeyed feminine beauty standards. It was not because I considered myself to be a rebel, but simply because those things were not appealing.

Lately, I have made some observations and noted that magazines, TV shows, movies and music address topics like body image, clothes, and relationships to attract young women. Is it too late to notice? Has this been happening since “wham”?

Yes. This has been happening before Gillette’s Milady Décolleté was marketed to women. Topics like these have left women preoccupied with the thought of how to please a superficial society. The outcome is negative because some people let themselves be dragged by mainstream media and adopt this type of thinking and they judge other people for not being like “them.” It creates problems of self-esteem in many who are in search of a sense of identity.

Little does mainstream media do to encourage women to engage themselves in politics or other activities besides reading “beauty tips.” Though the media has addressed women as consumers and not producers, women have utilized it as a source for empowerment.

Women’s activists groups like Guerrilla Girls have challenged women’s exclusion from museums and galleries. Artists like Niagara Detroit have challenged the established gender roles with illustrations that depict “femme fatales,” like the ones in film noir. The women shown are in control of themselves and do not let the men manipulate them.

A movement that influenced women to abandon feminine standards of beauty and that encouraged them to express their opinion claiming a space in the counterculture was the Riot Grrrl movement. In the 1990s, the Riot Grrrl movement challenged gender norms and served as inspiration for women to express themselves in a creative way. It emerged from a fusion of punk and feminism. American punk bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile created zines that gave women a voice to confront sexism.

In 1992, these bands hosted a convention in Washington D.C. that not only featured music and women empowerment issues but also themes such as racism, family violence, body image, and rape.

The Riot Grrrl movement was appealing to me because its expressions were strong. The people involved in the movement were not trying to be nice. They were sincere and tough.

Riot Grrrls combined “girlish aesthetic” with masculine elements like military boots. They were expressions of rage challenging oppression and established notions of patriotism. Some women wrote the words “slut,” “rape,” “whore,” on their bodies and clothes. Self-labeling as “slut,” defused the word’s power.

I think this is very important. This symbolized a refusal to be controlled and also proclaimed that they were in charge of their sexuality. Words lose their force when those who have been insulted by them appropriate them. This denotes security and determination.

Here in El Paso organizations like Latinitas enable young Latin women to achieve personal and academic success through media and technology. Girls engage in the basics of journalism through writing, photography, video and audio production. La Mujer Obrera is also a border organization that supports women’s empowerment. They have a variety of programs for community and economic development.

In the border prominent Latin culture is still machista. There are women who still believe they should look for a man’s approval. We don’t need it. We are in charge of ourselves. We don’t need to have a certain image imposed on us and we don’t need to oppress others either.

One should remember what Arthur Rimbaud said in his Letter To a Seer:  “When the eternal slavery of Women is destroyed, when she lives for herself and through herself, when man—up till now abominable—will have set her free, she will be a poet as well! Woman will discover the unknown! Will her world of ideas differ from ours? She will discover strange things, unfathomable, repulsive, delightful.”

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