Rebel Girl is a riot grrrl* anthem by the feminist punk band Bikini Kill. The song was first released in 1993 as the 6th track of Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah, the Bikini Kill side of a split album. Though the song never made it into the charts, many consider “Rebel Girl” to be one of the most iconic punk songs of all time.
Giving voice to a queer perspective, “Rebel Girl” is all about unconditional love and affection towards another woman — a topic that’s almost never been tackled by any other band at that time and place. By expressing a clear attraction towards this woman, the narrator reinforces the idea of feminist solidarity and sisterhood. In this context, “Rebel Girl” delivers a powerful statement against the patriarchal ideology of female rivalry.
The band’s lead singer and songwriter Kathleen Hanna tells the inspiration behind “Rebel Girl”: “I was really influenced by the idea that identity is fluid. [But] it’s also that childhood, sexy feeling of having a crush on someone, where you don’t really understand what’s happening.” This act of reflecting back on childhood and reclaiming girlhood is one of the key elements of the riot grrrl movement. By reclaiming girlhood, riot grrrl songs like “Rebel Girl” offer an escape from the obligation of being a woman according to the patriarchal norms and continue to inspire future generations.
*riot grrrl: a feminist punk movement that started in Olympia, Washington in the early 90s. Riot grrrls made music, distributed zines, and used other creative outlets to talk about issues like domestic abuse, discrimination, sexism, racism, and sexual violence towards women.