I wanted to like this book more than I did. As a member of the generation that was too young for riot grrrl or other 90s 'angry women' musicians at thI wanted to like this book more than I did. As a member of the generation that was too young for riot grrrl or other 90s 'angry women' musicians at the time, but who listens to and appreciates them now, I was hoping to find some insight into the cultural context of this music, and perhaps some feminist analysis of the relationships between different models of girl-oriented music. But while Girl Power pieces together a decently complete sketch of the period, its analysis is pretty shallow, and not infrequently seems to contradict itself. I didn't get a whole lot out of reading this that I hadn't already considered or figured out on my own.
In Meltzer's defense, this is messy, shifting, baffling ground, hard to make coherent sense of. Ultimately her question seems to be, Did the riot grrrl movement succeed in pushing forward the space for women and feminism in rock/pop music, or is its legacy so diffuse, warped, or watered down that it makes no difference? Making a definitive argument for either option is difficult, both because it requires making a judgment about the current music scene and because the field of popular music is simply so much to process. Meltzer makes an effort to connect the issues and tactics of riot grrrl to other parts of pop music and culture, but when she steps outside of the part of the culture that she knows through having lived it, she seems to be replicating tired lists of talking points. Her description of the experience of riot grrrl itself is a lot more compelling than her rather thin exploration of wider cultural relationships, in which she name-checks a lot of major 90s female musicians without going in depth. When Meltzer ultimately comes down on the side of riot grrrl having had a pervasive, persistent influence despite, and in fact through, being co-opted for commercial purposes, I felt like she still hadn't really examined the linkages between pop and underground.
Maybe it's just because I am still a naive angry young person right now, but I found the measured optimism of Meltzer's conclusion, in which she comes around to seeing 'girl power' as positive, kind of unsatisfying. Sure, the Spice Girls and their version of 'girl power' weren't 100% bad for the girls who listened to them (I should know, I was one); and today's music scene may offer more room for women to make music without being solely focused on gender through some trickle-down-feminism effect. But I for one feel a decided lack of anger and grit and politics and loudness in contemporary female-created music, and I'm not sure that "girl power has planted the philosophical seeds" for today's girls to create real power and change, as Meltzer concludes. I have no desire to get nostalgic about an era I never lived, but it can be frustrating to belong to a generation whose manifesto is to have no manifesto. This may be more about me than about the book, though....more
I was in preschool when the original Riot Grrrl movement went down, so the perspective of someone who was actuallyMade me want to start a girl riot.
I was in preschool when the original Riot Grrrl movement went down, so the perspective of someone who was actually there might differ. From where I am reading this in 2011 as a Gen Y female (and feminist) STILL living a world full of anti-feminist anti-woman backlash, riot grrrl is immensely inspiring, and Girls to the Front seems like a very well-written, well-rounded history of it--both passionate and informative, intensely readable.
But the great thing is that this book is not just a cut-and-dried description of something that happened and ended and is over. Because even if 90s riot grrrl fell apart eventually, the tools, the idea, the spirit, are still relevant. Reading this made me want to get up and do something--start something--make something. Which is completely awesome....more
Not so much a straight memoir as a series of reminiscences; there are lots of lacunae here, but that's only fair considering that it's her life. It'sNot so much a straight memoir as a series of reminiscences; there are lots of lacunae here, but that's only fair considering that it's her life. It's just fascinating to get a glimpse into Kim Gordon's mind. ...more