Tank Girl = Riot Grrl? Explorations of Tank Girl as Third Wave Feminism and Punk Grrl Culture
Julie Gardner

Is Tank Girl, rebel in pantyhose, hijacker of tanks, and punk fashion queen, a feminist?  Rachel Talalay’s 1995 film Tank Girl is a cinematic infusion of comic book cult-ure, rebellion against white male supremacy, and chaos.  In this paper I explore the feminist as well as anti-feminist ideas perpetuated within the film, including the sexualization of power, popular stereotypes of women, portrayals of masculinity and femininity, and racial oppression.  While Tank Girl appropriates the phallic canon on her tank as she straddles it, kills an enemy male with her legs for commanding her to perform oral sex on him, and fights throughout the movie against the white men in power, she also propagates stereotypes about women that are decidedly anti-feminist.  For example, the film shows multiple scenes which effectively support and promote the sexualization of power, something feminists have been trying to change.

By looking at the ways in which the Riot Grrls of the 1990’s subverted gender norms and patriarchy with radical actions and concepts, I will demonstrate that Tank Girl can be read as an outgrowth of the Riot Grrl anger and spirit.  In Tank Girl, I explore the possibilities of a union between two socially disenfranchised groups; namely women (as represented by Tank Girl and lovable sidekick Jet Girl) and racial minorities (represented by the African-Americanized half-man half-kangaroo mutants known as the Rippers).  Is the film a call to unite and mobilize marginalized people in the fight against the dominant hegemony?  If so, is it successful?  Tank Girl offers an opportunity to investigate the relationship between third wave feminism and punk grrl culture, as well as the connections between socially disadvantaged people in American society.