A Brief Visual History of Riot Grrrl Zines

Riot Grrrl was an underground feminist movement that began in the early nineties, which was closely tied to punk music, radical politics, and a DIY aesthetic. Riot Grrrl activism involved meetings, the creation of zines, and a nationwide network of support for women in music. While some say the movement lasted until the mid-90s, others contend it never ended. With the popularity of Sara Marcus‘s recently published book Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution, it seems there may be some truth to that statement. And there are many zines, which tell the tale of the origins of the movement. In 1993, according to a Canadian newspaper (as mentioned in Girls to the Front), 40,000 zines were published in North America.

During the NY Art Book Fair last weekend, a sampling of those publications could be seen at You Are Her — an exhibition of over six hundred Riot Grrrl zines presented by Goteblüd, a San Francisco-based dealer in fanzines and underground magazines. As these artifacts would be donated to the Fales Library & Special Collections at New York University following the exhibition, it was the last time most of them could be freely handled and photocopied. While the Riot Grrrl community now has a life online via the Riot Grrrl blog, we took the opportunity to look through the physical artifacts that started it all and bring you a selection of some of the more notable Riot Grrrl zine covers we could get our hands on.


The origins of the Riot Grrrl movement can be found in this zine started by Tobi Vail in 1988 in Olympia, Washington. Vail, a musician, wrote mostly about the punk and feminist scenes in the Pacific Northwest. According to Girls to the Front, after reading a five-page article on gender called “Boxes” in Jigsaw, Kathleen Hanna was inspired to send Vail — who would later become her bandmate in Bikini Kill — some interviews she had done with musicians while on the road. After Vail and Hanna met, the two soon came upon a vision for a movement that Vail titled Revolution Girl Style Now. Jigsaw now has a blog.