From the Library: Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution
Everybody's talking about Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution. Sara Marcus spent the last five years researching for this book which Kathleen Hanna describes as "the first meticulously researched book about Riot Grrrl."
The personal and detailed accounts of concerts, meetings, tensions, and friendships make it clear that this book was well researched. Girls to the Front begins with a Bikini Kill concert on the evening of April 4, 1992, and wakes up in the morning to introduce us to the young feminist revolutionaries taking over the streets of Washington DC for the March for Women's Lives on April 5th. We follow Kathleen Hanna as she gets onto a Seattle-bound bus, on her way to meet Kathy Acker in 1989. We learn that Riot Grrrls used magic markers to draw stars and hearts on their hands, which helped them to identify each other in public. We sit in on Riot Grrrl meetings and experience the frustrations over sexist media portrayals of the movement. And we read about Mary and Erika, two zinesters who made Wrecking Ball, a zine which they used to acknowledge the fact that many white girls in the Riot Grrrl movement were ignoring issues of race and class.
Marcus writes about what she learned from Riot Grrrl: that emotional challenges often result "not from personal failings but from political and social forces" and that through fighting these forces, one can "change the world for real". In the years that have lapsed since her connection with Riot Grrrl, she notes that she kind of lost track of this enthusiasm. But through researching and writing this history of Riot Grrrl, she finds herself reconnecting with her convictions. And through reading this book, it seems that lots of us are reconnecting with ours.
One thing's for sure: this book has prompted lots of women who were involved with the movement to start talking about it again. Johanna Fateman reviewed the book for Bookforum. Jessica Hopper praised it on her blog, stating that she hopes this book will open the door to future Riot Grrrl scholarship. And Tobi Vail recently responded to the book, and concluded her review by stating that punk rock feminism is not dead, and that Riot Grrrl belongs to anyone who needs it:
If you are interested in starting a young feminist movement rooted in your generation, my advice to you is not to let anyone stop you. People will laugh at you. Ignore the sound of their voices and listen to your own. Scream if you have to, even if you think that no one can hear you. If you are actually threatening the status quo you will not have the approval of the status quo. Call it whatever you want, the point is to fuck shit up. This is true for feminists of all ages and eras by the way.
Marcus is about to start her book tour, complete with appearances from Jessica Hopper, Anna Oxygen, Kathleen Hanna, Mirah, and Tara Jane Oneil, among others. Girls to the Front is very likely coming to a city near you, and I don't think you'll regret taking part in this Riot Grrrl revival. Check out the complete events list here. The upcoming Bitch podcast will feature an interview with Marcus by Bitch contributor and Page Turner blogger Ellen Papazian, so stay tuned!
And if you're in Portland, stop by our library to get your hands on a copy of Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution.
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