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This Saturday, Houston’s beloved Wild Moccasins kick-off another tour at Fitzgerald’s with LIMB.  No doubt people will be dancing and having a great time, the place will be packed, and it’s almost guaranteed that someone out there is gonna …

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Sara Marcus: Girls to the front (A Moment, A Movement)

Submitted by @BrittanyBly on April 11, 2012 – 3:40 pmNo Comment
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Kwame M. Anderson

When one speaks of a movement, what is most important? The effectiveness of any movement is the impact, an impact deftly expressed by Sara Marcus in her book “Girls ToThe Front.” Marcus adds the riot grrl movement to the annals of history, she leaves the document to be examined, to be analyzed for future generations, and sure that comes with its challenges, but the reward is the acknowledgement that what to some may have been a fleeting moment, a hearsay, a bookmark, was real, and what exists now is in some way because of what was.

“In terms of putting the book together itself, it was a challenge in the internal process,” notes Marcus. “I think a lot of the problem was…I think the biggest challenge was balancing my desire, both a political and aesthetic one, in having the book reflect how multiple and varied the movement had been with the demands of writing a book that maintains some semblance of a single narrative ark that readers can follow and that keeps them turning the page until the end of the book. That was the biggest conundrum for me, because in a lot of ways if I could have written the book that I ideally had in my imagination, it would have probably been this collection of bound pamphlets that could have been read in any order that didn’t necessarily fit together …like every  link was interested in confounding the idea that you’re gonna tell one story and it was going to encapsulate all these people, and the few people who are named in the book can stand metonymically, all of this I was trying to get away from, but at the same time being constantly reminded by my editor that I had a responsibility to make something that people could actually read.”

“Girls To The Front” manages the difficult task of speaking from within the movement, but having the luxury of hindsight to analyze the movement. After all, Sara Marcus was a Riot Grrl, she was a part of the movement, she comments on the flaws, the misconceptions of the players, she never comes across as judgmental, her sentiment towards the movement, and most strikingly, the girls, their feelings, their motivations, their reasoning, is the most endearing and admirable quality of the book, she’s not writing about these girls, she was one of these girls, she’s examining herself in them, through them, because of them, it gives the book the perspective the movement was never allowed, because it was always represented by and not from. Riot Grrl brought women’s issues to the forefront, issues of self- identity, sexual identity, and eventually class and race identity, it was what Public Enemy was to young blacks in the late 80’s, it made one question not only how they were seen, but how they wanted to be seen, it allowed girls to speak to, about, and for girls, many of those discussions shaped the women many of the girls became.

“Being involved in Riot Grrl in the 90s as a teenage girl was really my consciousness of racial and class oppression in the U.S. and by reading zines and having these discussions at meetings, even though the meetings in DC, at that point, that I was attending were made up primarily of white women from mostly, at that point, middle class backgrounds, it was a real searching and honest attempt to think through our privileges, and layers of privilege in addition to becoming aware of the disadvantages that came into being female and possibly queer to recognize at the same time we held layers of advantage in society, and this was my introduction to these incredibly important ideas, I found it incredibly important to my political development, in high school I read the Angela Davis book that you mentioned (Women, Race, and Class) and we were all reading bell hooks, and critiquing our organizing and questioning what we could do differently, and asking the questions, which at 17 or 18 is not clear to me how much we would have ought to have known how to do at that point in our development, but I think just the fact the movement was a framework for people who had largely come together out of social affinity, and you came to the meetings based out of who you already knew, and it wasn’t purporting to be some sort of mass movement organizing project that had its outreach all figured out and so forth.”

The wonderful thing about any movement, is the denial of stasis in function, idea, or attitude, the wonderful thing about being young and in a movement, is that anything is possible, anything can happen. Riot Grrl opened a lot of minds to concepts that may not have been questioned were it not for its zeal, its anger, its refusal to be labeled, and even, in some ways its lack of centrality. It was not about what you were, but what it could become. That is why you should read “Girls To The Front”, that is why it matters. We are not in an entirely different world, but our reaction to that world has been shaped by our ideas. I constantly think of the world my daughter will grow up in, but I have more to say to say to her than my father had to say to my sister. Much of that is because of Riot Grrl, and the world that it opened up to me. But, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

“I think that it’s important that somebody in our culture is saying, ‘Hey, we’re going completely backwards.’ Look at the current political discussion in our country right now. It’s worse than it was 20 years ago, the things that are up for debate, the things that up for being rolled back, are things that were considered solid political victories in the 70s and 80s, and here we are 30 years past that… and that is something that I see being mirrored in something you said earlier in sexiness and attractiveness as crucial values to be projected by female performers, perhaps because of the increasing visuality of our culture, how someone’s physical appearance has become more essential to them making it, on any level, than was true 20 or 30 years ago, and the pressures for women, in particular, to live up to certain beauty standards have more not less extreme than the period I wrote about in the book.”

Sara Marcus will be discussing her book April 17th at 7PM in U of H’s Cemo Hall (48000 Calhoun Road) View Map · Get Directions

The event is sponsored by Girls Rock Camp Houston and UH’s Women’s Resource Center

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