Girls to the Front by Sara Marcus

The most relatable book you’ll ever read.


Rowan Bean, Occansional Staff Writer

Have you ever read a book that made your confidence just skyrocket? If I’m being honest, I’m not much of a reader; I find it hard to finish a book because I always lose interest. This was not the case when I read Sara Marcus’ Girls to the Front. This is a book about feminism in the 90s, music, and sexism. It tells the true story of the era of Riot Grrrl and the impact it had on the world. When we had reading assignments in Mrs. Swander’s class, I didn’t use the sticky notes we received that often. However, in this book, I have one on almost every other page. This book highlights the struggles of being a woman. How even though it’s been 100 years since we’ve “received our rights,” we’re still fighting for them. If you are a girl and want to feel heard, read this book. 


“Keep your laws off my body” – a slogan that was used in the feminism movement, Riot Grrrl. A majority of the book focuses on the We Won’t Go Back March for Women’s Lives protest on April 5, 1992 in the National Mall in Washington DC. It was the largest women’s rights demonstration in American history. Thousands of women gathered in front of the Capital Building where the Supreme Court was about to consider the constitutionality of a Pennsylvania law that limited access to abortions. This protest was the spark of the Riot Grrrl revolution. 


A theme that I love about this book is it highlights how much society has an impact on young girls. We get told from a young age that we can do whatever we want. But then we grow up and realize that isn’t true. We can do everything except wear that shirt because “it’s too distracting,” except choose that career because “it’s a man’s job,” except stop shaving our legs, except go out by ourselves. 


What Riot Grrrl stands for is you can be whatever you want, and screw anyone who thinks otherwise. The book is full of raw stories and can be explicit from time to time. At one point, the book states: “The media tells you that in order to be a woman you have to be tall, thin, blonde…” (pg.152), and continues to explain how society is shaping the “perfect” woman. Riot Grrrl responds to those messages with explicit photos of women’s natural bodies. They exploit themselves, in a good way, to the world and say “this is what women actually are like and up yours if you think this isn’t perfect.” “Riot Grrrl showed me there were other girls that thought that to be a woman, you didn’t have to be like the cover of Cosmo” (pg 238). What I love about the Riot Grrrl movement is it creates awareness about hard subjects. For example, girls tell stories of sexual abuse. They bring the topic to the light and basically say, “Hey, this happened to you, it isn’t okay, and you shouldn’t have to deal with it like it’s nothing.”  


Many people believe that being a feminist means you hate all men. However, that’s not true. This book has taught me that feminism is about equality. It’s about being treated with respect and not giving into the stereotypical comments we are given by society. It taught me that I have a voice and it deserves to be heard. Sara Marcus writes about the topics that everyone is too scared to talk about. She writes about Kathleen Hanna–a main advocate of Riot Grrrl–who speaks about issues to make them a normality. Issues like sexism, rape, equal health care. Issues that even 30 years later, we still can’t talk about because it is subject to controversy. 


What I got out of this book, I can never thank Kathleen Hanna or Sara Marcus enough for. This book sparked my passion for feminism and activism. It taught me about an era that was so revolutionary for women, and I never even knew about it. I think we need to bring Riot Grrrl back. We are still fighting for basic health care for our own bodies. We are still fighting for issues that should have been resolved decades ago. This is a revolution that makes change. This is what the world needs.