Renee Tantillo

In the late 1980s and 1990s, Renee ‘Ne’ Tantillo started skateboarding and became a Riot Grrrl. She was featured in a Venture Trucks ads as an “average kid” in the September 1987 issue of Thrasher, but the ad itself was a contradictory mess. It reads, “Who the hell are these little dudes? Where’s the pros? Well, boys, I’ll tell ya. They’re out there.”

In a selfish way, I’m grateful that Venture chose to bracket “female” beside Tantillo’s name, but I still find it a weird way to promote skateboarding to women, especially considering the ad’s byline. I could understand why Tantillo was motivated to be part of the Riot Grrrl scene.

The Riot Grrrls had local meet-ups and ‘zine exchanges in cities across the U.S., and it was a rallying network for women to feel strength in their identity and own it, rather than allowing external forces to dictate. In 1991, Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill responded to the question “Why Riot Grrrl?” by saying, “BECAUSE we are angry at a society that tells us Girl = Dumb, Girl = Bad, Girl = Weak.”

There is one sweet photo of Renee skateboarding, which is contained within Issue #4 of the Riot Grrrl ‘zine Gunk (1993 or 1994) by Ramdasha Bikceem, a fellow skateboarder! Tantillo is also quoted in Issue #1 of Gunk (1990) with some skateboarding advice. She suggested, “If guys ask you what trick you can do, make up real long fake names to tricks (that don’t exist), Pause, then Smile.”

Tantillo was interviewed in Hillary Carlip’s book called Girl Power: young women speak out! (1995) about her skateboarding progress. “When Renee Tantillo, from Allston, Massachusetts, was sixteen, she was encouraged by male friends to skate to her full potential: … By the time fall rolled around, some of my guy friends were much more confident of my abilities than I was and encouraged me to drop in to the four-walled ditch we hung out at, called ‘the bowl.’… Thus, my long-lived passion for skating ditches was born.”

In a book by Stephen Duncombe called Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture (1997), Ne Tantillo is acknowledged for her contributions to the Riot Grrrl movement and various ‘zines. In issue 6.5 of Riot Grrrl (1991) Tantillo writes, “There is no particular agenda or pledge or motto… There is no singular allegiance to any one’s thought. There is no structure to follow, only what you build yourself.” Tantillo felt that Riot Grrrl was a “river of ideas and perspectives flowing through our minds; a tributary with a swift current rippling over and around obstacles, pouring into an ocean, not to become part of the tide, but to change the tide.”

Tantillo is quoted again in Riot Grrrl as saying, “I should feel comfortable to carry myself as I please, where I please, and when I please… I will project the strength and anger I feel… I am not pleased to have my sex ridiculed, to be seen as an item, not a free thinking being. I am not ‘asking for it’ by existing in a space that is rightfully mine, the world.”

It appears that Tantillo moved across the country a few times, as she was born in Houston, Texas (where the Venture ad places her), spent some teen years in Massachusetts, and over to Washington, DC where she was part of small staff of salaried workers at the legendary Dischord Record label for a time. Besides the ‘zines Riot Grrrl and Gunk, she also contributed a poetic feature to the ‘zine Flipside 73 (1991 July-Aug).

Renee Tantillo continues to be a creative force, designing fantastic metal sculpture and ink block designs on fabric. Her Instagram page shares that she is an artist, welder, biker, punk, and skater! @artefactory.fe

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