In the early '90s, punk girls improvised new forms of feminist agitation
Girls to the Front:
The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution
by Sara Marcus
$14.99 List Price
I spent my late teens and early twenties in the orbit of the Riot Grrrl movement, a '90s third-wave-feminist punk subculture that spat out the image of girlhood in raw experiments in political activism, music, art, and self-invention. I've only recently come to accept the term "Riot Grrrl" as the proper designation for that strangely chimerical underground. At first, I dismissed the term as too specific—Riot Grrrls attended meetings, I didn't. Then, within a year or two, younger girls were drawn to portrayals of the movement in the mainstream press, and the name was abandoned to them. But while I say that my scene wasn't exactly Riot Grrrl, its overlap with this iconic movement has placed my subsequent work—especially my band Le Tigre—within a lineage I wouldn't want to deny.
Any stab at defining Riot Grrrl still feels dangerous. In its self-mythologizing rhetoric, the revolution belonged to all girls but couldn't be owned or represented by any one. Its work was done in secret, in incremental and internal acts of resistance, as well as publicly through songs, zines, gatherings, and, as a 1992 tour flyer for the bands Bratmobile and Heavens to Betsy announced, "new aesthetics and ways of being." Now, Riot Grrrl struggles to be heard over almost two decades of associations—its influence detected in the emancipatory vibe of female-fronted tween pop and the periodic ascent of a woman rock star. But in the original anthems of Riot Grrrl, "Girl Power" was not the can-do sound track of gymnastic routines. It was the power to confront a rapist, an urgent challenge to the systematic
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