Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution
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Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution

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3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  2,316 ratings  ·  227 reviews
Girls to the Front is the epic, definitive history of Riot Grrrl—the radical feminist uprising that exploded into the public eye in the 1990s and included incendiary punk bands Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy, and Huggy Bear. A dynamic chronicle not just a movement but an era, this is the story of a group of pissed-off girls with no patience for sexism and no int...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 28th 2010 by Harper Perennial
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Jason Koivu
REVOLUTION!!!

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GIRL STYLE

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NOOOOWWWW!!!!!!

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So began the primal scream of a frustrated girl, an angry band, a feminist movement.

Girls to the Front is about the Riot Grrrl movement of the early '90s, and when you speak of Riot Grrrl, you speak of Kathleen Hanna and her band Bikini Kill. Hanna released her rage against the sexism that surrounded her through music, discovering a sort of cadre of like-minded girls in Olympia, WA, some of whom were already entrenched in grassroots feminist punk ideology....more
Alexis
Feb 01, 2011 Alexis rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
I felt profoundly disappointed by this. I feel almost as if I had another expectation of what Riot Grrrl was, and this book sort of killed it.

Sadly, I felt like there was a structural problem to this book. The author was either too in love with the subject, or she wasn't removed enough from the activities. There was a tonal problem to what was written here.

I also felt that the book had way too much of a focus on Kathleen Hanna, but again, I think that's because I expected her to be chronicling s...more
Ciara
i was nervous but excited to read this book. i bought it six months ago & kept putting it off because i wanted to be able to really relish it, & i kept thinking i should read my library books first. & i always have a new library book. but i finally read this last week & it was awesome.

first of all, i'm not going to pretend that this is perfect book. all historical accounts are subjective, even when they were written by people who were actually there or extremely passionate &...more
いんたねっと
1. I decided to read this book because I am very interested in Riot Grrrl culture and the feminist revolution in the 1990's. It interested me because it was written by a woman who was a part of the revolution and gave first hand recounts of what happened, as well as interviewed some of the girls who were at the front lines of the revolution.

2. This book completes the "Books that teach you about a different time in history" category because it is about events that happened in the 1980s and 90s. I...more
jess
Tobi Vail has discussed this book here and here.
Johanna Fateman has discussed it here.
Allison Wolfe discussed it here.

I found all of their reviews and insights to be a great supplement to the actual book, since Sara Marcus worked on this book for five years, researched the hell out of it, but didn't cover everything or get it all right. You could say that no one could cover everything or get it all right, and ok, that's true.

I have really been soul searching over the last two weeks, trying to...more
Kate
"Every Girl is a Riot Grrrl."

Was the message of this book that I could relate to. I graduated from high school in 1999 in a very small town in upstate New York. My cousin Jeff, who was 3 years older than me, introduced me to hardcore punk rock and skating music, and I gobbled it up. I loved the energy of the mosh pit, the political rants, plus, I could throw elbows and slam dance with the best of them. However, after one particularly rough show, I ended up with some broken toes and that's when I...more
Krista Danis
Love. Sarah Marcus illuminates the Riot Girl movement as an undefinable subculture of young women that were unsatisfied with cultural and subcultural power hierarchies that cultivate and accomodate violence against women. Picking what they wanted from second wave feminist theory and leaving the rest, Riot Girls insisted that the personal is the political. "If you're angry or confused or depressed about things that are totally unfair, is it really your reaction that's the problem?" queries Marcus...more
Madeline
Jul 29, 2011 Madeline rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Madeline by: Sound Opinions
1. Girls to the Front has a lot of issues. That's fine. Or it could be fine. I mean, in theory. But Girls to the Front also has a lot of problems, and ends up being totally disappointing and weirdly tone deaf. (Oh God, is that even acceptable in a discussion about a music book? Ugh. Probably not. Sorry, everyone.) OKAY, to be fair: maybe it is less "GttF has a lot of problems" and more "I have a lot of problems with GttF."

2. Whenever there's a, like, a feminism contest - you know what I mean, "t...more
Ananda La Vita
For a book claiming to be "the true story" of the Riot Grrrl movement, its author Sara Marcus is negligent with the facts, at least when they pertain to me. Marcus knowingly understates the degree of violence I experienced at home, and even substitutes another person for me as the protagonist in a key scene. Why? I can't explain the first error. She knew the facts but ignored them, which I find extremely irresponsible and insensitive. As for the second error, she admitted to me later that it was...more
Meg
3.5 stars. I really enjoyed this book and it made me reflect a lot on my own adolescence (just a tiny bit too late to be part of the Riot Grrl movement) as well as on youth and social movements in general. The author did really exhaustive research through interviews, video footage, zines, letters, and mainstream media coverage. She does a great job connecting the Riot Grrl movement with what was happening on the larger political and social scenes, which really puts the story in context. She also...more
Amanda
This is a good introductory book to use if you are teaching Intro to Women's Studies or a class focusing on the Third Wave of Feminism. Overall, this book was very detailed and thankfully didn't put the emphasis that the Riot Grrl movement was created/maintained by one person. The author makes SURE that we realize and understand that it took a combination of women's efforts that made Riot Grrl what it was. The history of Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, the writings on skin, the popularity of the zines,...more
Erica
Jul 01, 2010 Erica added it
Very much recommended to anyone who wants to know more about riot grrl or anyone who likes reading about grassroots movements or anyone who enjoys books like Our Band Could Be Your Life. OBCBYL is the obvious comp here, but whereas that was about individual bands, in Girls to the Front Marcus examines the riot grrl movement as a whole, concentrating on individual girls participating as well as those in well-known bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile, so there's a lot of non-music stuff in here...more
Jessica Silk
Oct 08, 2010 Jessica Silk rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: punks, feminists
I would say that my experience of reading the book made me love it the most. It felt like reading one of those books about seminal punk and/or hardcore bands--except that I could actually identify with the key players! I had that "introduction to zines" feeling where I felt giddy reading about the similar experiences and processes of strangers.

While the beginning of the book seemed like mostly cheerleading Kathleen Hanna and the Riot Grrrl movement, Marcus covers many of the negative aspects of...more
nicole
Jan 18, 2011 nicole rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
It was much harder for me to connect with this book than I thought it would be. I always thought I had something in connection with this group of women who were into music and political change. I grew up reading Sassy, even though I was much younger than the intended demographic, and listened to Tori Amos and wrote a journal cataloging my motions and injustices suffered. But my definition of being a feminist is so far removed from their experience that it sort of took my breath away. It actually...more
Carlos
A writer's attempt at Social History and its not a bad attempt. Its certainly not written by a historian, her notes are extremely short, although she did do a lot of interviews. A book with a lot of notes is something like "The Origins of the Urban Crisis", that thing had 100 pages of just citations!
She said she spent 5 years on this topic and it shows. Its a well written prose, that doesn't delve too much into the aesthetics of the music, although she does do that at times. Less about "why i t...more
Laurie
I thought that Marcus did a great job of interweaving the political and cultural sentiments of the early 90s with the personal stories of a wide array of girls involved in this movement. Previous accounts I've read about Riot Girl mostly focused on the bands that sprang out of the movement and their stories, but this book does a great job of highlighting the other writers, organizers, activists, and general participants. The story of Riot Girl is both inspiring and discouraging, much like any sh...more
Rachel Bussel
Girls to the Front is an excellent history of a very specific time period that gets covers punk rock, feminism, media, politics and teenage girls and where they intersected to form Riot Grrrl. I only heard about Riot Grrrl and the associated bands long after they were over, and so often in the context of how it fell apart. Sara Marcus takes readers into the story from both a very personal perspective, letting us get to know not only the band members but the girls who got involved on a very intim...more
Nathaniel Taintor
I hadn't thought about Riot Grrl much in years, but reading this book I was reminded how much I loved the whole subculture that sprang up around Riot Grrl in the early 90's and how much impact that scene has on my politics for many years. I moved to DC in late 1992, drawn by the energy and potential of the DC punk scene. Soon enough it became apparent that what defined the scene in a lot of ways was the Riot Grrl movement and the reactions to it - even people who had a long and interesting histo...more
Deborah
I was born a few years too late and hundreds of miles too far away to have been involved in Riot Grrrl, but I do remember reading about Bikini Kill and Bratmobile and zines in Sassy magazine. I didn't really understand Riot Grrrl when it was happening, or even years later, although I do have a few Sleater-Kinney tunes in rotation on my iPod. This book confirms that Riot Grrrl was a pretty messy, convoluted movement, but with sincere intentions. I liked reading about the start of it all. Part of...more
Christopher
Cool Schmool.

Sara Marcus lavishes as much attention on the zine writers as much as Kathleen Hanna or the members of Bratmobile (whose on-stage demise feels utterly heartbreaking), as well she should. I happened to read this the same week Daniel Tosh suggested that it would be hilarious if a female heckler in his audience would get gang raped by his very male, very macho audience, and so I got to read women explain, AGAIN, to men how real a threat rape is to their lives, how constricting that co...more
Kristina A
It’s pretty rare for me to read an entire nonfiction history from front to back, but I had to read this book. The topic is close to my heart, and there has not been much written to document the Riot Grrl movement, which continues (in my opinion) to be under-rated and dismissed.

Reading this took me back. I never considered myself a riot grrl (frankly, I never considered myself cool enough), but the music and zines were absolutely vital to my development as feminist. Marcus’s book really captures...more
Ami
Jan 17, 2011 Ami rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
It's basically completely unfair for me to pretend that my five star rating of Girls to the Front would translate to reading pleasure for anyone--it's completely rooted in my obsession with the riot grrrl movement and my complete and total disappointment for having missed the whole thing in my dumb suburban town. So please take this with a grain of salt.

A main takeaway for me is this dichotomy between the desire for privacy and the desire to connect with and create for a specific audience. Kath...more
Amy
I missed out on Riot Grrrl by *thismuch* -- though I was a junior in college in 1991 and would have been ripe for the picking, zines and girl-punk didn't make it to Kalamazoo right away, apparently. I found my way to it a couple years after most of the cool stuff happened, when I moved to Chicago in 1994 and started going to Quimby's and Women & Children First, where I bought the very first issue of Bitch and a 7" of "There's a Dyke in the Pit."

I joined Women's Action Coalition, performed w...more
eva
it's hard for me to rate this - ask me tomorrow & it could be a 4. i think riot grrrl can only be done justice by someone who, like marcus, had/has a strong personal investment in it - but this personal investment is also what makes the book occasionally annoying, shortsighted, and gossipy. but then again, riot grrrl itself was occasionally annoying, shortsighted, and gossipy, so maybe this book is more genius than i thought.

i do wish it hadn't focused so tightly on a very specific time fram...more
Renee Valdez
I really enjoyed this. Riot Grrrl is very close to my heart. This review comes with that bias.

This book documents the movement that coalesced around the Pacific Northwest and the East Coast of the U.S. It explores the movement's feminist underpinnings and gives you an idea of how this revolution spread across the U.S. (with some mention of the U.K.). A story of zines, pen pals, bands, organized groups and, later, mass media paints a picture of how this movement was able to make its mark.

I think...more
Melissa
I really liked the rhythm Sara Marcus used in her writing for Girls to the Front - sometimes the words felt like song lyrics, other times like a prose poem. Very appropriate to a history about a feminist movement that included music and zines as outlets. I knew tangentially about Riot Grrrl in the early 1990s. I agreed with what sentiments I knew about - about objectifying women, treating them as substandard, pro-choice, pro-equal rights, pro-gay rights - but really didn't get the music aspect a...more
lola
I really love that this book exists and I think Sara Marcus did a spectacular job of trying to keep the many characters evenly represented and represented as themselves as themselves--as I read I could feel a careful hand keeping everything balanced and from that, real justice being done to the story. That being said, fucking Jessica Hopper, what an asshole!

"She tried to plan a slumber party anyway, hoping that it would bring back the old spirit. But on the appointed night, the DC area was paral...more
David Lester
An extremely well researched and written account of the significant social movement called Riot Grrrl. Sara Marcus brings you into the meetings and dramas that unfolded as the years passed and a movement buckled under its own success. We meet the better-known agitators and many of the individuals who had their lives changed and inspired. Marcus shows the importance that bands played in bringing people together for issues that went well beyond the music. This is an important book about feminism,...more
Molly
I could write a book called "How Bikini Kill Saved My Life," but it wouldn't be very original. Marcus has done much better, writing about the women you want to be your best friends as if they really are.

I was born about 20 years too late for riot grrrl -- although I like to think that the way I shaved my Barbies' heads as a kid was my contribution to the movement -- and yet these bands and those zines were formative for me, too. Look, I know a lot of people don't get the music. My ex-husband, f...more
ONTD Feminism
Really in depth history of the riot grrl movement, it's my favorite of the books available but still kind of...pedestrian. I was hoping there would finally be a book about riot grrl that didn't posit everything in relation to Bikini Kill's evolution.
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