Women of the 1990s riot grrrl movement built a supportive culture where they could be creative and speak out about their beliefs and needs.
Nearly 20 years later, many of those same women are coming together again to support Natalie Cox, one of the original riot grrrls, who is living with an aggressive cancer called angiosarcoma.
“When I met Natalie, I was searching for feminism and she just embodied it,” said Michelle Noel of Olympia, who met Cox in the early ’90s. “She didn’t need a community of people talking about feminism to embody it. There was this unspoken thing that girls are each other’s competition. Natalie didn’t let that stop her.”
Cox, a former Olympia resident, is prominently featured in the documentary “Don’t Need You,” being shown tonight at the Capitol Theater to raise funds for her treatment.
“It dawned on me that I’m hanging fliers that say ‘Don’t Need You’ while asking for help,” said Noel, who is organizing the benefit with the Olympia Film Society. “That must seem funny, but it’s not. That’s a lyric of a Bikini Kill song; it was talking to the dominant culture, talking about how girls are forming a community and we don’t need to be treated the way we’ve been treated.
“What riot grrrl gave me was a feeling of community and a feeling of belonging, so it makes perfect sense to me to show a riot grrrl documentary when we do need help.”
Philadelphia filmmaker Kerri Koch donated DVD copies of “Don’t Need You” for the benefit, which also will include a beer garden, a bake sale and more films, as well as posters and memorabilia from the riot grrrl movement.
Hundreds of people have been hosting events and giving time and money to support Cox since her cancer diagnosis last summer. A benefit concert with The Need and Bangs is set for Thursday in Olympia.
“I guess that’s what happens when you live generously and participate fully in life,” Noel said. “People want to give back to you.”
Cox lived in Olympia and Seattle in the 1990s and early 2000s. She booked shows and played drums and bass in a number of local bands, including The Old Haunts, The Slatternlies and Neon Panda. She now lives in England with her husband, Dee Quantrill, and their 3-year-old son, Dillon.
During her time in Olympia, Cox also worked at Kill Rock Stars, Rainy Day Records and the State Theater, which was a dollar movie theater at the time. “I think of her wearing her little vest and bow tie sitting in that little box on Fourth Avenue,” Noel said.
Most of the interviews in “Don’t Need You” were filmed by Koch at the first LadyFest in 2001. Koch wanted to document the powerful positive effects of the movement, which is best known for its connection to the punk music scene of the 1990s.
“Women started having bands, having all-girl shows, having all-girl record labels, making zines,” Koch said. “It was more than just a musical movement. It was a political movement.”
The film includes footage of bands such as Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and Heavens to Betsy and offers a look at rare materials from the riot grrrl era — many of them thanks to Cox, who gave Koch and company access to the Kill Rock Stars archives.
“Natalie was there in the trenches,” Koch said. “What the movement was trying to do, she was still doing 10 years later. She was doing active work with the record label and getting women bands out there and keeping the heart of the movement going.”
Cox is also a craftsperson, gardener and cook — living in the spirit of Olympia’s do-it-yourself culture, Noel said.
“If she has an idea, she just does it,” Noel said. “Nothing could ever stop her.”