In The Spitboy Rule: Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band, drummer Michelle Gonzales details the history of Spitboy, an all-female, feminist hardcore band formed in San Francisco that toured the world in the ‘90s. Spitboy's lyrics focused primarily around women's issues, but as the band evolved, Gonzales grew more comfortable asserting herself as a Xicana, too, and the band's output began to reflect intersectionality more. The band named their third album release “Mi Cuerpo Es Mio”—or “My Body is Mine”—and recorded a split LP with latinx hardcore band Los Crudos in 1995.
Gonzales’s new memoir illuminates that seldom-spoken time in punk history when Nirvana was not yet a household name and punk was still just another four-letter word to most people. The book also offers an important perspective on the narrative of feminist musicians of the ‘90s, a history which is often told only via white women and female-fronted punk bands are all labeled as riot grrrl. In the memoir, Gonzales describes how she felt like an outsider as a Xicana feminist in the mostly white, mostly male music scene of hardcore punk but also felt similarly estranged from the major feminist movement in punk at the time. Spitboy wasn’t riot grrrl or grunge; their music was harder, faster, more technical. Lyrically the band was tackling similar subject matter as their riot grrrl contemporaries, but their music and their politics were different. Much of this friction was a result of what she refers to as her “coming out as a person of color” in the willfully colorblind 90s punk scene.
Gonzales’s insistence that her genre was hardcore rather than riot grrrl was met with pushback from all sides. She says that her presence as a radical, feminist of color in the punk scene was discomforting to many. Status quo is still status quo even in a subculture that prides itself on rebellion and resistance. In mapping out her identity both musically and personally in uncharted territory, Gonzales chronicles a critical moment of change in the Bay Area punk scene and we are lucky to have access to it now.
Gonzales is an excellent storyteller and tour guide through this lesser-known territory of 90s music history. Her resilient love and affection for her Spitboy bandmates are one of my favorite things about the book, emphasizing their egalitarian tour dynamic well above any gossip or arguments. Stories of epic road trips, high-intensity punk shows, and dealing with sexist fans are told with phenomenal good humor and the wisdom of hindsight inserted wryly into the narrative. While Gonzales’s life and history are singular, her story is infinitely relatable to those of us that have felt outside of our own culture, or subculture.
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