Many men and women perceive riot grrrl as the entire scope of female involvement in punk music, or at least as a kind of transition from The Dark Ages of Sexism in Punk Rock. I know this concept sounds ridiculous because of, let’s see, X, the Slits, Polystyrene, Poison Ivy, and every other woman who decided to start a band in 1976, but it’s actually a pretty common attitude—especially within younger generations—and I would venture to say especially within the zine community. How often in 2011 do you see the cut and pasted “Revolution Grrrl Style Now” on the pages of zines by young women? It’s an example of stagnation in the dialogue about feminism in punk. But it certainly wasn’t their fault that riot grrrl was exploited by the mainstream media and subsequently reduced to this catchphrase and marketing image. It was a movement of young, white, middle class women whose poster child was an attractive, young, white woman. How could someone not capitalize on that?
From the Back of the Room is a documentary that spans over thirty years and seeks to overcome this gap in dialogue by looking at feminism coupled with issues of race, class, motherhood, and gender. Oden interviews Chris Boarts-Larson of Slug and Lettuce, Lisa from Oroku, Maygun from Profane Existence, Cristy C. Road, Anna Joy Spring from Blatz, Condenada, Laura from Kylesa, Annie from the Soviettes, and over thirty others. The execution and presentation is excellent. The scope is a fantastic sample of women who felt outside of, or indifferent to, the concepts of feminist punk in the ‘90s and women who have specifically and adamantly decided to play music with other women for political or personal reasons.The director’s evenhanded presentation of these experiences is a mirror image of the complexity of feminism itself beyond the parameters of just DIY scenes and punk music—which means it’s a genuine and authentic exploration where a dogmatic agenda could so easily be found instead. – Katie Dunne (From The Back Of The Room Productions, 4516 Blagden Ave., Washington, DC20011)