Librarian and ‘Riot Grrrl Collection’ Editor Lisa Darms on Why We Still Love Riot Grrrl


This week, we were psyched to hear the news that selections from the famed Riot Grrrl Collection, part of the Fales Collection at NYU’s Bobst Library, will be published in a book later this year. The book, which was edited by senior archivist Lisa Darms, who launched the Riot Grrrl Collection several years ago (and who lived in Olympia throughout the ’90s), will feature some 350-odd printed artifacts, including fliers, posters, and zines, some of which — like Girl Germs 3, Johanna Fateman’s Artaud-Mania, and Kathleen Hanna’s My life with Evan Dando: Popstar — are even reprinted in full for your complete consumption.

“I knew I wanted [the book] to be really focused on the content,” Darms told us. “I think there are a lot of things out there that focus on the aesthetics of riot grrrl and punk, and might just show covers of zines or something, but I wanted to show the texts as well… And also try not to make it just kind of one mono-culture, but to show the debates that were happening in the movement.” Indeed, the continuing interest in riot grrrl is a particular phenomenon, and one that goes beyond just the aesthetics, at least from where we’re sitting. “People are still really hungry for this material,” Darms explained. “People really focus on the music, but in my interactions, a lot of people, especially younger people, are nostalgic about that period of time, but also specifically that period of feminism. I’ve met a lot of people who wish that that sort of feminism could re-vivify – is that a word? — that they could be part of something with that passion. I hope that the book can be an inspiration for a kind of activism.”

Perhaps the continuing interest in riot grrrl is also a nostalgia for a simpler, less digitally focused cultural era. “[The artifacts are] from a period right before the internet takes over all culture, and I think that makes it interesting: the way people are communicating still via scenes or fliers or direct communication at meetings or shows,” Darms said. “It’s something that’s hard to recreate in the same way. Now it’s a different form of dissemination. Even though people were trying to share ideas, there was an intimacy about it, so even though a zine is a published item that reproducible, there’s still this privacy or shared quality to it that I think is harder to recreate now.”

But most importantly: “I’m really excited that we’re finding another way to get the collection to people, and that’s really my main motivation, so that people don’t have to come here to the reading room, if they can’t get to New York or are intimidated by the process, that there’s another way for people to get to the stuff.” And for that, we thank her. The Riot Grrrl Collection will be published by The Feminist Press later this year, and it’s a sure bet that all the cool girls (and grrrls) will be reading it.