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Introduction to ROCKRGRL

A Tribute to Rock Moms: the ultimate balancing act

ROCKRGRL began as a black and white, photocopied music fanzine in 1995.  Carla DeSantis, creator, contributor, and editor-in-chief, envisioned a fanzine about women in music that rejected patriarchal stereotypes largely associated with women.  These stereotypes included qualifying terms like “woman rocker” or “female drummer;” gendered expectations of women in popular music as back-up singers or sexualized eye candy rather than singer/songwriters, guitarists, bassists, drummers, or producers; and staying quiet about issues important to women and feminism overall so as not to become unlikable.  Instead of staying silent and letting mainstream media continue to barely recognize women in rock (limiting coverage often to special "Women in Rock" issues of music magazines), ROCKRGRL focused on feminist issues exclusively, including rape culture, sexual assault, surviving trauma, freedom to choose, and being valued as creative human beings, regardless of gender identity, sexuality, age, ethnicity, race, or life choices.

Though ROCKRGRL’s focus was on women and women's issues, men were not completely excluded; occasionally, especially in later issues, men were contributors (writers or photographers).  Men who were in bands with women were not shamed or attacked; they were simply not the focus.  Men’s presence in ROCKRGRL might be read as that of allies to the women who were, in fact, hugely influential to the popular music scene in the mid-1990s and early 2000s.  Importantly, ROCKRGRL also did not only focus on one demographic: white, middle class, cisgendered, heteronormative women.  Across 57 issues, ROCKRGRL included women of color, lesbians and bisexuals, mature women who lived through the early days of Womyn’s music in the 1970s, and young girls who were already making music and breaking the mold of what girls and young women are supposed to do.

While I sifted through the Rockrgrl issues one by one, I initially looked for images, articles, quotes, and topics that were in some way related to feminist concerns of gender and sexuality, identity politics, and feminist activism.  Across over 50 issues, I noticed patterns and themes that fit into three broad topical umbrellas: Challenging the Patriarchy, Marginalized Bodies in Rock Music, and Identity Politics and Femininity.  The images curated in this gallery were chosen to represent some of the highlights of the zine, and is not a complete representation of every single example found in the issues.  However, this gallery is representative of the major themes, topics, and concerns that women in rock faced in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s.  Furthermore, this gallery will stand as one interpretation, or reading, of a feminist zine, and has the potential to be one of many digitally curated galleries that showcase the creativity, political activism, and originality found in music fanzines. 

While some of the images archived here are in their complete form, many are cropped in order to highlight a particular aspect of the original article or interview.  In instances that lack the entire published context, the metadata of the image contains the information needed to locate the original article (issue and year), which can be found in the BGSU Music Library and Sound Recordings Archive.