Friday, November 27, 2015

The Riot GRRRL Show: Running with Scissors


True Warrior.

Money where her mouth is.

DIY: Do It Yourself

This is a description of a RIOT GRRRL, it's also a description of local radical feminist, Michelle Wyssmann.

Michelle ran the punk-bar-home-community-center called Vandals for the last couple years, and the reason so many of us Midtown Misfits felt like we were meant to be there is because Michelle creates an environment where individuality and creativity is encouraged and ENFORCED. The Riot GRRRL movement is a large part of what shaped Michelle's ethic and business sense, so it was no surprise that she has been endeavoring to bring the Riot GRRRL scene kicking and screaming to KC.

Her first show was a great time and a full house, but Michelle felt that the message behind the movement was not represented well to the community who may not know the history of 3rd wave feminism and Riot GRRRL culture. Chatting over coffee, I begged her to let me MC the next show and bring that narrative to the stage.

{{{{{An Alien's Brief History of RIOT GRRRL Ethics:

It was the 90's and we were wearing flannel and nobody knew we were new wave. Alternative wasn't a word to describe music yet. The punk movement was alive and well, and grunge was a thing that only existed in garages on the west coast. A bunch of smart and talented women were in the wake of 2nd wave feminism which loosely translated to "middle class white ladies fighting for placement in upper corporate management." Which is needed, but left out so much of the female identifying person's needs, especially for poor women and women of color.

The original Riot GRRRLs studied 3rd wave feminism which addressed exactly those needs, and came to realize that they, as artists, were putting themselves second, making themselves accessories to their punk-band-boyfriends by not creating and making for themselves. So the ladies began community activist programs for women's education and opportunity creation, the ladies began writing essays and self-publishing them in the growing Zine scene, most notably, the ladies started putting together their own bands and playing tons of shows.

The name Riot GRRRL grew organically through the diverse happenings, and the ethic was DIY. These women didn't feel the need to be offered an opportunity, they went out and created them. In this way, I want to encourage you to DIY educate yourself on this rich recent history of women's issues, agendas and actions.

Pro-tip: Start by watching Lydia Lunch videos "How do you make a living?" I DON'T! --LL
Listen to Bikini Kill, and find Kathleen Hannah. "Popularity is totally overrated." -KH
Read "Words Will Break Cement" by Masha Gessen.

Now back to KC today.}}}}}

Michelle is the picture of feminist activism in action and this Riot GRRRL show on October 15, 2015 shows just how much. She booked, produced, stage managed and promoted four bands, one MC, a host of vendors and also created a zine, ROAR, for the show.

Stellar New York indie wild child, Nan Turner and her band, Schwervon, opened the show. Nan is as for-real a radical performance artist as I've come across in a long time; every time I've seen her perform it is a unique and visceral performance. On this night she and partner, Matt Roth, interjected between songs a poem accompanied by Nan's interpretive dance:

Babehammer played next, an all lady grunge trio, and their first outing as a band. The staple of KC genderqueer everything interesting, Wick Thomas, threw down with Wick & the Tricks. (They want to make out with you!) Blondie Brunetti, Rita Brinkerhoff's eclectic act, rounded out the show with their aloof edginess and thumb in the eye to top 40 conformity.

For myself, I create performance art pieces when I MC. I like the interstitials to have integrity and create a cohesive and pointed show. To do this for a Riot GRRRL show, I was beyond excited. This is a space I can get as gritty and angry as I dream. Michelle and I met a couple times to talk about the message she wanted to get across and I developed my piece. I know I'm going to do a version of Write Up, a type of performance piece I often do which centers on dressing like a slut and asking people to write answers to vulnerable questions on my bare skin. These pieces are rarely recorded in any way.

Sharp Scissors

I already know this is going to be a whole day process to get into performance mode. I put on a hoodie that proclaims my biggest fear. I took a relic, okok, a selfie. I'm tryin a elevate my shit. I knew this would be the last day of my river blond hair.

I check my email to see if my zine is printed at the big mega corporate box paper store. No email. The order is for a single double sided page with the text of two of my poems, one on each side, in a tri-fold pamphlet design. The zine features two feminist poems; Girl, Girl, GRRRL and Breaking Plates. It looks like this:

I call the store. Hi, blah blah blah, is my order ready?

Um, no. We can't print that order. What? Why not?

Because ... it's ... um ... vulgar. What? Ohhhhhhh. because it says GET FUCKED repeatedly in huge letters all over it?

Yes. It's against corporate policy to print vulgar orders. Well, did you read the poem?

Oh yes! We all read the poem! What the everloving patricarchy!

Here's what's vulgar to me.

Corporations institute policies their low wage workers are expected to enforce. Policies which, in this situation, are operating against the worker's own self interest. Corporations regularly insist we hurt ourselves to better their bottom line, that we act as agents in our own self-destruction.

Let's meet down at the docks after midnight for the secret meeting ...

As you can see, it was printed anyway. Ask me in person for what's off the record.

I get home, kiss and fold each zine and get dressed for the show. I get barely dressed. Lingerie and shorts so short my pink lace panties are falling out the bottom. My best stomping heels. I start at the bar and saunter in with tears painted on my face and my tits hanging out of my underwear. Blue x's are visible under the lace, just in case a nipple should wiggle too obviously.

I barely dress because I'm going to ask people to interact with me all night, and tell me some thoughtful truths about themselves. We're going to share more than the weather. I am the image of vulnerability dressed like this. I am the essence of asking for it, but I find people don't take advantage of me, instead they are curious, helpful and instantly protective.

I barely dress when I want to feel strong. I imagine lingerie not as an invitation but as a threat. I imagine it as my warrior clothes, minimal and fierce.

I take one of the permanent markers I have in my pocket out and ask the bartender to write on me. The performance begins.

She writes across my left shoulder A feminist is a ... I take the sewing scissors out of my other pocket, and ask her to cut the first lock of my hair. She knows what I want and takes a huge lock right out from the middle center of my forehead. There is no going back now.

Throughout the rest of the night, I ask people to complete the sentence, and then to cut some more of my hair away. 


 People write: Mother, bitch, logical choice, power, boss, lover of self.  My cousin writes WARRIOR across my neck and cutts a big chunk out of my hair.

Some people refuse to cut my hair. I'm NOT going to fuck you up!

Do you have to have good hair? Really? Am I defined completely and confined to being fucked up if my hairs aren't arranged in a Dr. Magazine Adman prescribed fashion?

I recite my poems between bands, talk about Hannah and Feminism and Activism and how to get involved; but I also get to hear so many stories of people's gender, sexual, non-consentual, deviant, fluid, diverse experiences. I offer my body into people's hands, they offer their hearts into mine. Together, we create stories. 

And an infinity of thanks to that biggest of hearts, Michelle Wyssmann, for making space for all of us to fucking rock out!

and to Jess Morman for many of these photos!


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