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

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  6,572 ratings  ·  431 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 in ...more
Paperback, 367 pages
Published September 28th 2010 by Harper Perennial
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Jason Koivu
Jun 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, music






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.
According to the library print-out left inside this book, in 2013 someone else checked this book out along with Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive, The Riot Grrrl Collection, and How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You.

I want to know that person.

I was a smidge too young when Riot Grrrl was a thing that was happening. In fact, by the time actually I heard of it, it was essentially over and one of the letter 'r's had been dropped from the second word - I always se
Sep 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010, ladyish
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
Jan 31, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Apr 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 & knowledgeable about
Dec 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
You would think that the author of any "true" story would not cherry-pick and distort the truth, but that is exactly what Sara Marcus did. As a contributor to her research and analysis for the book, and as a character in the story, I was surprised later (despite rounds of corrections) to see the extent to which she went on to simply ignore my first-person accounts and instead, filter them through what she apparently believed was true or was easier for her to write. Painful, sometimes traumatic, ...more
Jun 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
May 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Julie Ehlers
Reading Girls to the Front made me realize how little I really know about riot grrrl. In my defense, during the years portrayed in this book, I was attending a suburban Catholic university with a conservative administration and a mostly conservative student body. The fact that I read Gloria Steinem and listened to Tori Amos made me more radical than about 97 percent of the people there. So really, most of what I know about riot grrrl I learned from Sassy magazine.

For this reason, I found this bo
Nov 29, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, music
"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
May 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016
I wanted to like this because it sounded interesting – feminism, the 90s, awesome girl bands, youths! – but the book dragged on and on as if to fully capture the painful experience of the riot grrrl's inexorable decline.

Still, because I love reading about strong, independent females creating art, speaking up, and taking action, I was going to give it three stars, even though the writing was subpar:

"Sure, she wouldn't mind getting somewhere with her art. The guys she hung out with in Seattle, f
May 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
I admit, I'm a millennial (born in '88), and I tend to look back on the 90s with nostalgia... especially events or trends in the early '90s that I don't quite remember. Riot grrrl and the wave of grunge-punk rock that came out of the PNW is one of those things. Especially being a girl who enjoys going to rock shows, has had more than one 'bow to the face or gotten mowed over standing next to increasingly violent pits, I appreciated the riot grrrl movement and what they stood for all those years ...more
Krista Danis
Mar 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 13, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jessica Silk
Jul 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I was pretty much the right age for this when it was happening, but I was a weirdo in a small Southern town and my favorite bands in the early 90s were REM, the Indigo Girls, and Sly and the Family Stone. Never really got closer to riot grrl than my Sassy Magazine subscription, my Doc Martens, and my Hole tape playing on the white plastic boombox in the bathroom while I straightened my hair every morning before going to school until I finally got fed up and decided that if people didn't like my ...more
Jun 28, 2010 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
Sep 06, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jessica T.
I'm extremely conflicted. This is a great book if you're looking for information about the riot grrrl phenomenon that happened in the early 90s... It's very informative (blah blah blah). I had issues with the dogma. I understand what most of us have gone through and/or are dealing with (rape, molestation, sexual harassment, body image) but by alienating males that are sympathetic to the cause you end up acting just like your abusers. Also, why wouldn't you try to use the media to get a broader m ...more
Jayne Lamb
Perfect moment in time.
Jan 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016, borrowed
Some inspiring moments, some disparaging moments, not enough music talk for my tastes. All at once a look at how much has changed in 25 years, and how very much still needs to be done.
Apr 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Even though this took me too much time, I'm so glad I've read this. ...more
Randall Bleichner
Dec 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
Enjoyed the content but didn't care for the writing. The factual inaccuracies made me doubt the validity of the author's research. ...more
Jan 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 with
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