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Riot Grrrl Author Breaks Down Movement History at Quimby's

By Jon Graef in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 22, 2010 6:40PM

Perhaps it’s unusual, if not necessarily ironic, that a movement with as clear goals as Riot Grrrl had would be misunderstood in the context of rock history. After all, how could anyone who read the bomb-throwing declarations in the Riot Grrrl manifesto, published by Bikini Kill singer and Riot Grrrl icon Kathleen Hanna in 1991, think that anyone was being vague?

The misconception about Riot Grrrl that author Sara Marcus tries to clear up isn’t about the movement’s intentions; rather, its reach.

In a recent interview on the Hit It or Quit It podcast, Marcus explained that one reason she wrote her just-published book about Riot Grrrl, Girls To The Front, was to refute what she saw as Riot Grrrl revisionist history amongst music critics. Namely, the idea that the movement was about “just a bunch of bands—just an idea of girls playing music.”

Of course, there were girls and women playing music, in punk-influenced groups like Heavens To Betsy (whose Corin Tucker would later go on to front Sleater-Kinney), Bratmobile and Bikini Kill. But, in addition to creating music, they also organized political meetings, published fanzines and otherwise engaged in previously unheralded behind-the-scenes work. Front’s main aim is to contextualize the emergence of a woman-led in what is described as a pre-Internet, feminist-unfriendly time period.

Expect Marcus to go into even greater detail about Riot Grrrl and its history at Quimby’s bookstore in Wicker Park, where she is scheduled to conduct a reading from Front. Following Marcus’s reading is a conversation with Hit It co-host and Chicago Reader journalist Jessica Hopper.

Sara Marcus reading, Sat. Oct 23rd, Quimby's Bookstore, 1854 W. North Ave, 7 p.m., free.