With “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!” X-Ray Spex unwittingly helped birth a movement

With “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!” X-Ray Spex unwittingly helped birth a movement

In Hear ThisA.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, as Bikini Kill reissues one of its old LPs, we’re highlighting our favorite riot grrrl bands.

Strictly speaking, X-Ray Spex is a British punk band, not an American riot grrrl act. That being said, it’s hard to talk about Riot Grrrl without talking about the band’s 1977 single, “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!” Though X-Ray Spex frontwoman Poly Styrene says the track is more anti-capitalist than it is feminist, it’s become synonymous with the riot movement. A lot of that has to do with its opening line—“Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard / But I think, oh bondage, up yours!”—but it’s easy enough to draw a direct line from Styrene’s guttural wails to similar sounds and sentiments delivered 15 years later by riot grrrl icons like Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna and Bratmobile’s Allison Wolfe and Molly Neuman. Whether she intended it or not, Styrene planted the seed for a movement that would take root and blossom more than a decade later.


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