Dirty girls

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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.

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