Riot grrrls castrate “cock rock” in New York
by Marisa Ragoneses Off Our Backs, May/Jun 2002
On April 1st Riot Grrrl New York City protested K-Rock radio station in New York City for their sexist programming and their 99.12% male-dominated playlist. Our report was written by Marisa Ragonese, a self-described “homicidal dyke feminist,” who is currently organizing a conference for feminist activists. For more information, see http.,Il faar.pathbot.com, or email Marisa at manXhate@aol. com. Anyone who’s ever had the pleasure of meeting me, even briefly, knows that I am one of the true, the few, and hopefully, not the last: I am a radical feminist punk-rock dyke activist/aspiring academic separatist riot grrrl; or, as Sandra Cisneros put it: I’m a man-hating devastating bogeywoman lesbian. For real. I’m one of those wimmin who doesn’t want a bigger slice of male-dominated pie-I want a different pie, I want a bigger piece of it, and I don’t want to cook it. Period. It was thus surprising to many of my activist friends when my favorite radical feminist activist group, Riot Grrrl NYC (who I’ve been working with for three years now) took up the decidedly liberal feminist project of challenging New York City’s most popular hardrock station (and the home of Howard Stem) 92.3 K-Rock, and, specifically, K-rock’s 99.12% maledominated playlist. After a DJ broke a C.D. of one of the only girl bands they had granted airtime to several months ago-and on the air, no less, we decided that they meant business, and so did we. Criticism of our planned protest ranged from friendly, rather innocuous exclamations like “K-Rock? Don’t waste your time!” or “Don’t do that to yourself-they’ll never change” to the hostile accusations from girls on our riot grrrl listserv and wimmin I had forwarded the rally info to, to the more insidious remarks like, “I am a lesbian and a feminist but I am NOT a manhater… I remember when Riot Grrrl and feminism wasn’t about manhating!” or “It’s not K-rock’s fault that they don’t play women. They’re just responding to demand.” Well. As feminists, I hope that we can spot the obvious flaws of these arguments-like, as a friend of mine asked me, do you all remember man-loving lesbian feminism? And, if there ever was one, does any selfrespecting feminist see a need for a comeback? Oh, yeah: and everyone knows that large corporations who refuse to incorporate wimmin into their businesses are totally innocent of any sexist wrongdoing, right? My point is that the various accusations leveled against riot grrrl for being either too “militant” or “mainstream” in our decision to protest K-rock on April 1st smack of a sexist backlash determined to prevent girls and wimmin from organizing around sexism-in the name of “progress,” fairness, or even feminism. I observed this backlash at the planning stage, publicity stage, while the action was going on, and in the various feminist responses to the action. And the backlash to this specific action was so pervasive not only because backlash is such a widespread phenomenon in the feminist left (throughout various feminist activist movements, scenes, and the academy) but because the mainstream is a place in which a more general backlash to feminism thrives. All of this adds up to K-Rock as an ideal target for some riot grrrl action. By now you’re wondering what riot grrrl actually did at 92.3 FM K– Rock. Well, we arrived at their headquarters/studios on 57th street in Manhattan at 11 am on 1 April, 2002, armed with literature to educate the lay-person about wimmin in music, home-burned mix CD’s of some rocking girl bands that fit in with KRock’s genre, pink balloons that said “Play Women at K-Rock!” and a huge-mock postcard addressed to KRock, containing words to a little musical telegram we had made up just for the occasion. Four of us found our way up the K-Rock’s office (past the security guard) and triumphantly announced to the mean-looking receptionist that we had a musical telegram for Julie Slater, the only female DJ at K-Rock, and the one who happened to be on the air. Julie came out; we sang to her. We asked her if she would mention us on the air (that is, if she would let people know that some protestors were outside, demanding that K-Rock play a girlband). Julie obliged, and for the rest of the day, with our larger group chanting and singing, handing out hundreds of flyers and generally having a ball, KRock couldn’t help but talk about us. True, most of what they said was nasty, sexist, homophobic, and generally irritating. The management did, however, order that DJs Cane and Cabbie put us on the air to talk about why we were there, and those same DJs came down from their offices to do a call-in, in an attempt to “make fun of us” on the air by reading our signs (“CASTRATE cock rock!” “We Love Girl Music!” “Screw Your Boys Club!”) and providing their listeners with a riot grrrl protest sound-byte (“You’re not progressive! You don’t rock! You’re just a bunch of jocks with cocks!” ” 1,2,3,4 sexist radio is a bore!” and “You’re teaching girls that women suck … we won’t give in we won’t shut up!”). We, of course, we’re completely thrilled with our good luck; we had identified our goals earlier as reaching out to girls who listened to K-Rock, and letting KRock’s maltreatment of girls who ask the station to play women on the radio speak for itself. We were winning. Our winning streak continued when, after hours of postponement and snide comments, we heard from the portable radio we had with us (tuned to K-Rock) some glorified white boy interns came down to fetch what they thought were going to be the helpless victims of Cock Rock’s April Fool’s day joke. I am proud to say, despite taunts, homophobic and sexist attacks, an overgrown frat boy of a DJ throwing things at us and calling my pink-loving femme self and my eyeliner-wearing partner-in-crime “bulldykes,” and Cane and Cabbie’s attempts to drown out our feminist voices while we were on the air with a track of a woman’s orgasms, we plowed right through them and sent messages to the girls listening to KRock. It’s not everyday that we can create a scenario that puts manhating dyke feminist riot grrrls on a major radio station that enjoys a massive audience. Reaching out past the DJs, past the mainstream backlash, and past the “feminist” “progressive backlash,” we told those little girls listening: “K-Rock doesn’t play girls because they say we suck… so girls: pick up guitars, start girlbands, jam the airwaves with requests for girlbands, check out bikini kill, the butchies, morgan storm and pro-girl and queerfriendly record labels like Mr. Lady.” And, if only for a minute, those girls listening to the radio enjoyed a larger context than a world in which K-Rock rules. For just a minute, those girls weren’t Howard Stern’s next naked guest (or victim) sucking up sexism-loving it-those girls were the next rock stars or antirock stars or feminist activists or manhating dykes. Those girls may be the next revolution, and for those five minutes, we treated them like human subjects, like the revolution. And for five minutes, we were revolutionaries, too.