Recently, GRRRL GANG MANILA, a feminist collective inspired by DIY ethics and punk aesthetics, celebrated its first anniversary in the Philippine capital. A long discussion of women’s issues, a film screening, spoken word performances and art exhibitions, and then hours of outspoken and confidently excellent music, brought together a frankly impressive gathering of young Filipinos fighting for women’s rights at a crucial moment in their country’s history.
We caught performances by the magisterial Joee & I, a member of Heresy, a multi-talented all-female art and music collective, La Loba Negra, which gave the crowd an hour of surf guitar and military drums, and The Male Gaze, the riot grrrl band that was formed within Grrrl Gang itself.
Performing in Girl Scout uniforms adorned with feminist pins, they offered an indirect but explicit rebuke to the conservatism of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has overseen a drug war which has taken thousands of lives. As other members rolled around or danced into the (large, happy) crowd, the guitarist repeatedly yelled out, “I haven’t slept in thirty hours!” It was unclear if she was joking or not.
It’s not a coincidence that Grrl Gang formed under President Duterte, who has often been accused of misogynistic comments. Mich Dulce, founder of Grrrl Gang and the singer for The Male Gaze, said she realised the importance of organising in the Philippines when she saw a sign at the Paris Women’s march that said, “Against Trump, Putin, Duterte.”
After the show, we caught up with Mich to talk about what Filipina feminism means today.
How and why did Grrl Gang come about?
Mich: Well, I myself became a feminist through music. I was really into bands like Bikini Kill, Le Tigre and Bratmobile. And I feel like if a really sheltered girl like me, from a Conservative Catholic family in the Philippines, could be touched by these bands from all the way in the First World, there’s no reason that other forms of creative protest can’t do that for other women.
But for my generation it was sort of hard to learn about feminism and discover what it all meant. There weren’t a lot of welcoming spaces or safe groups that you could just learn and join. Feminism is not new to the Philippines – feminist spaces exist. But looking at what was happening worldwide recently, we decided to create something really accessible for anyone curious, and ended up attracting inspiring friends and collaborators that often shared our interest in learning, in discourse, and in creative protest.
Read Vincent Bevins’ complete interview with Grrrl Gang founder Mich Dulce on Dazed Digital.
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