November 24, 2013

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RED Hearts: Girls to the Front

girls to the frontRED Hearts are guest posts on I Heart Daily from the authors of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today.

Today’s RED Hearts post is from RED author Olive Panter, 23, in Brooklyn, NY who recently read a book that was a call to arms for her — and maybe you:

I read Girls To The Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution by Sara Marcus over the course of four days. Every day since I have been forced to proclaim it perfect to anyone who stumbled into my path. I found myself gesturing to the book as it sat next to me — this worn-out stained library copy, published in 2010 — amazed at how it was exactly the right punctuation to the point I was currently making.

Here’s the point: Most girls and women have had something bad happen to them because they are female, whether that was something life-altering or something that just felt kind of wrong. It’s acknowledged but rarely confronted.

This is why I think Girls To The Front should be mandatory reading for everyone, male or female. Sara Marcus does an incredibly good job of laying out the movement from its start 20-some years ago to its supposed finish.

Riot Grrrl has been mostly labeled as a musical genre, rather than a political revolution. But as third-wave feminism, it encapsulated something singular and deeply important. These were alienated and confused girls — mostly teenagers, whose sadness masked their anger (and vice versa) — who were taking control of their bodies and gender relationships, in a world that didn’t particularly respect either. Girls shouted their views from their beautiful, caustically intelligent collaged pamphlets. They cobbled together (great) bands, using immersive media that could explain what was wrong, with language and noise and cut-and-paste pieces. And all of this sprang from regular all-girl meetings that were part-counseling, part-activism.

The problems and feelings Riot Grrrls dealt with have never gone away. There is inequality, there is fear. There is hate, there is love. That’s why Riot Grrrl stuck and has amassed new generations of fans. It’s why so many people turn to those resonant Bikini Kill and Bratmobile songs again and again.

But what’s gotten lost is the foundation of Riot Grrrl: ten girls sitting in a room, telling the stories that keep them up at night. As a result, they wind up feeling less alone and more powerful. So much of the movement’s essentials just haven’t been handed down to girls who weren’t the right age, in the right time, in the right city.

We should all read this book and confess what we think is just ours. Start new zines or start new bands or something. Leave tangible things for someone who feels alone to stumble onto. P.O. boxes are due for a comeback. At the very least, read it and know it actually happened. We gotta do this again, keep doing it. Double dare ya. Triple dare myself. Maybe it can save some of us.

RED Hearts guest poster Olive Panter is an author of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today, which is out in paperback.

 

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