“Jet Ski” by Bikini Kill – Even More Relevant Today

I was a pretty strange little girl. While the other girls at my preschool were playing princess-dress-up, I was collecting bugs in a dirt patch. My parents bought me a Barbie Dream House once. I ended up cutting off the dolls’ hair, covering them with paint and Crayola marker ink, and ultimately mutilated them before throwing them out and proclaiming “No Barbies allowed! Only dinosaurs and animals!” as I filled the pink plastic mansion with brontosauruses and pterodactyls. I don’t think I ever wore a feminine Halloween costume until I was thirteen (previous Hollows’ Eve ensembles included a T. Rex, a Wolf, a Sorcerer, and Bob Marley). It wasn’t until my early teens that I realized that being a girl didn’t mean that I had to be pretty in pink and plastered in princess-y pomp. A girl can be a trailblazer. A girl can be a scientist. A girl can be a senator. A girl can be a leader. A girl can be intelligent. A girl can be independent. A girl can be powerful. A girl can be anything.

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Bikini Kill brought feminism hurtling, screaming onto the early 90s underground scene in the Pacific Northwest with riot grrrl, a feminist punk movement that dared to prove that girls could scream, play, write, and rebel just as well, if not better, than any boy punk group. They said no, I am not a sex object, no, you can not rape me, yes, I am intelligent, and yes, I am equal, in opposition to a large, popular culture that rarely perceived women beyond skin deep. Together, Kathleen Hanna, Toby Vail, Kathi Wilcox, and Billy Karren proved that a girls’ riot is a force to be reckoned with.

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Lyrics:

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I felt like annotating.

My dad tells me that now is a good time to be woman, because more girls are taking over. Seeing statistics about how many women are getting college educations and landing high-ranking jobs is promising, but the fight is far from over.

As a teenage girl right on the precipice of becoming an adult woman, it’s hard to not think that my world seems to have taken a turn for the worst. Suddenly, I live in a world in which a man who gropes women and fetishizes his own daughter can be elected president. It’s a world in which women do not have control over what they can and can’t do with their bodies and get punished for being raped, or where we get paid less for having two X chromosomes. Now, female senators can be silenced for speaking out against the appointment of an Attorney General who once worked to crush the civil rights movement.

It’s a scary place.

But that doesn’t mean that we sit down and give up the fight.

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Taken by my best friend at the Los Angeles chapter of the Women’s March on Washington (I would have been there too if it weren’t for a bit of miscommunication).

Like it or not, women are capable of a lot and rebellion is a game that girls can play too. We have the strength and intelligence to shake the earth and make change, no matter who the opposition might be. Even if you live under a dictatorship, the individual mind can still be an autonomous state. The one thing that laws can never restrain is our capability to think and feel.

It’s been almost 21 years since Bikini Kill released “Jet Ski” on their album Reject All American, and yet, we still need to remind the patriarchy that we’re more than just “motor boats” and “cartoon shows”. We still have to march in the streets to remind them that it’s not our job to give them some sweet candy whenever they want it. If organizing in opposition to a system that still refuses to release us from oppression is what we have to do in order to achieve justice, that’s what we’ll do.

And we’re doing it.

Resistance has been around as long as civilization, and it is very much alive.

It’s easy to feel hopeless when the opposition has gained authority and oppression is as stifling as a pile of sand bags. But change isn’t made by taking the easy route. It’s hard to be part of the resistance — dangerous even — but we do not live in a utopian fantasyland that is perfect enough to remain stagnant. We can’t afford to stay still and silent. If we can bring courage out of the fairytales and into our own story, maybe there is a possibility for us to have our own happy ending, in our own way.

In James Madison’s Federalist 51, he says that justice is the end of government. While we have improved a lot since 1788, justice has yet to reach everyone. Since we have not yet reached “the end” the only thing we have to do is to keep working harder to bring the dream of equality into reality. We have to keep trying to make things better for everyone.

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Sometimes when I find a pill bug in the garden or see dinosaur figurines in the toy section at Walmart, I think about how determined I was to be different, even when the girls taunted me for wearing overalls instead of a cutesy dress or when the boys wouldn’t let me  participate in their tricycle races or imaginary Power Ranger battles.

The situation hasn’t really changed, only the players  — now it’s a patriarchal government trying to tell me what I can and can’t do, who I can and can’t be, simply because of my gender. But my will to stand up for myself, my beliefs, my sisters, and my fellow human beings hasn’t changed either.

If history can teach us anything, it’s that change is inevitable. So let’s use power that each of us knows we have to make change for the better.

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2 thoughts on ““Jet Ski” by Bikini Kill – Even More Relevant Today

  1. An incredible write up on one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite bands!!! What you wrote put perfectly into words everything that I, and many of the people around me, have been thinking about what’s going on. In an era where the bigoted ideologies of the Republicans and, in my country, political fringedwellers-come-“spokespeople for the new world” (groans) like Cory Bernardi and the One Nation Party are becoming scarily prevalent, the philosophy of riot grrrl is the perfect thing to remind us both that being a woman isn’t just about being able to do the ironing (to reference a former prime minister of ours who made a comment to that effect!) and that art is one of the most powerful ways to make change. Kathleen Hanna and her current-day successors – and this post (which I think she would be super proud to be associated with!) – give me hope that there is a whole band of people out there that are refusing to let Trump and his followers win, who are making beautiful art that protests the goings-on of our world right now. As you say in your last sentence: “…Let’s use power that each of us knows we have to make change for the better.” 🙂 (Sorry for taking so long to comment on this!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad that you enjoyed this post! The political arena across the globe is becoming an increasingly scary place and I can’t help but feel like we’ll be progressing towards a 1984-esque dystopia unless we react. I’m so glad that there are other young people out there who believe in the riot grrrl ideology of strong individuals (female, male, and of all races genders, orientations, and backgrounds) coming together to fight for equality and freedom of expression.

      I’ve been trying to get some of my like-minded friends who have never listened punk before to take a listen to some of my “weird” music but their reactions are usually along the lines of utter shock and a comment something like “Wow, this has a lot of…sounds”, so I’m glad that there’s some fellow riot grrrls my age out there!

      Liked by 1 person

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