What to make of a Riot Grrrl? A snapshot of feminism and high school in the 1990s

Shot in 1996 by the then high-school student Michael Lucid on a handheld camera at his school in Santa Monica, California, Dirty Girls was released and screened around Los Angeles in 2000 before gaining popularity on the internet in 2013. The film centres on a group of teens deemed ‘dirty girls’ by their peers for their rejection of school social norms – especially their purposely unkempt, grunge-influenced style. Identifying as part of the Riot Grrrl feminist punk movement of the 1990s, the girls share their perspective on capitalism, feminism and rape culture in their self-published zine, mostly to the mockery of their classmates. A microcosm of the high-school social experience familiar to many, Lucid’s film is also a window into the early days of third-wave feminism, before many of the ideas that the ‘dirty girls’ embraced gained traction in mainstream culture.

Director: Michael Lucid

Support Aeon

‘I am a friend of Aeon because I value freedom ... freely provided, intelligently presented information liberates us all.’

Roland M, USA, Friend of Aeon

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.

But we can’t do it without you.

Give now

Idea/Self-Improvement

When will I be me? Why a sense of authenticity takes its time

Elizabeth Seto

Video/Family Life

Shaggy bear story: a German filmmaker grapples with his dear grandfather’s Nazi past

8 minutes

Essay/Neuroscience

The theory of mind myth

Even experts can’t predict violence or suicide. Surely we're kidding ourselves that we can see inside the minds of others

Robert Burton

Idea/Social Psychology

Cruel to be kind: should you sometimes be bad for another’s good?

Belén López-Pérez

Video/Childhood & Adolescence

Confronting the quintessential high-school question: be yourself or conform to the group?

19 minutes

Essay/Social Psychology

In extremis

As Hannah Arendt argued, there is one common thread which connects individuals drawn to all kinds of extremist ideologies

Nabeelah Jaffer