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Michelle Cruz Gonzales


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Michelle Cruz Gonzales was born in East LA in 1969 but grew up in Tuolumne, a tiny California Gold Rush town. She started her first band in that small town at the age of fifteen and moved to San Francisco two years later. She played drums and wrote lyrics for three bands during the 1980s and 1990s: Bitch Fight, Spitboy, and Instant Girl. In 2001 and 2003, she earned degrees in English/creative writing from Mills College, where she also minored in ethnic studies. Michelle has published in anthologies, literary journals, and Hip Mama magazine. She teaches English and creative writing at Las Positas College, and she enjoys reading her work and lecturing at colleges and art spaces around the country. She sings and plays drums in an English department band, loves to sew with her mom, even though she never thought she would, and she’s at work on a satirical novel about forced intermarriage between whites and Mexicans for the purpose of creating a race of beautiful, hardworking people. She lives with her husband, son, and their three Mexican dogs in Oakland, California.

Check out The Spitboy Rule study guide HERE!

Women of Rock Oral History Project Interviews Michelle. Watch the video below!




Tacos & Punk: Discussing What Women of Color Face in the Local Scene on KQED Arts

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Check out Michelle at the November 4th, 2015 Punk Rock Panel in Oakland, CA with Jello Biafra, Penelope Houston, Nicky Garratt, & John Robb

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The Spitboy Rule: Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band
Author: Michelle Cruz Gonzales • Foreword: Martín Sorrondeguy • Preface: Mimi Thi Nguyen
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-62963-140-0
Published: 04/01/2016
Format: Paperback
Size: 8.5x5.5
Page count: 144
Subjects: Music-Punk/Memoir
$15.95


Michelle Cruz Gonzales played drums and wrote lyrics in the influential 1990s female hardcore band Spitboy, and now she’s written a book—a punk rock herstory. Though not a riot grrl band, Spitboy blazed trails for women musicians in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond, but it wasn’t easy. Misogyny, sexism, abusive fans, class and color blindness, and all-out racism were foes, especially for Gonzales, a Chicana and the only person of color in the band.

Unlike touring rock bands before them, the unapologetically feminist Spitboy preferred Scrabble games between shows rather than sex and drugs, and they were not the angry manhaters that many expected them to be. Serious about women’s issues and being the band that they themselves wanted to hear, a band that rocked as hard as men but sounded like women, Spitboy released several records and toured internationally. The memoir details these travels while chronicling Spitboy’s successes and failures, and for Gonzales, discovering her own identity along the way.

Fully illustrated with rare photos and flyers from the punk rock underground, this fast-paced, first-person recollection is populated by scenesters and musical allies from the time including Econochrist, Paxston Quiggly, Neurosis, Los Crudos, Aaron Cometbus, Pete the Roadie, Green Day, Fugazi, and Kamala and the Karnivores.

Praise:

The Spitboy Rule is a compelling and insightful journey into the world of ’90s punk as seen through the eyes of a Xicana drummer who goes by the nickname Todd. Todd stirs the pot by insisting that she plays hardcore punk, not riot grrrl music, and inviting males to share the dance floor with women in a respectful way. This drummer never misses a beat. Read it!”
—Alice Bag, singer for The Bags, author of Violence Girl: East L.A. Rage to Hollywood Stage, a Chicana Punk Story

“Best punk memoir that I’ve ever had the privilege of reading. In a punk scene dominated by middle-class, white males, you can’t forget Spitboy, four brave women playing music with the intensity of an out-of-control forest fire. Gonzales’s involvement and presence in the punk scene, in particular, was significant because she represented a radical, feminist person of color, and she reflected a positive change in the scene for the Bay Area. Her memoir, chronicling her unique experience and perspective, occupies an important moment in the punk saga. This is a must-read for anyone still dedicated to social justice and change.”
—Wendy-O Matik, author of Redefining Our Relationships: Guidelines for Responsible Open Relationships

“Incisive and inspiring, Michelle Cruz Gonzales’s The Spitboy Rule brings the ’90s punk world to life with equal parts heart and realism. Her story becomes a voyage of self-discovery, and Gonzales is the perfect guide—as she writes in rapid-fire drum beats about epic road tours, female camaraderie, sexist fans, and getting accused of appropriating her own culture.”
—Ariel Gore, Hip Mama

“Michelle Gonzales’s punk rock account is inspiring on many levels. For outsider artists, women musicians, or anybody who has ever felt the desire to forge an identity in uncharted territory, this book is detailed, heartfelt, and historically important. Briskly told in clean, conversational prose, The Spitboy Rule is an entertaining read and functions as an important historical, critical, and sociopolitical document of pre-internet DIY music.”
—Jesse Michaels, vocalist for Operation Ivy and author of Whispering Bodies



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What Others are Saying

spitboyNot a Riot Grrrl Band: Musician Michelle Cruz Gonzales Sounds off on Punk Feminism
by Kitty Lindsay
Los Angeles Review of Books
February 3rd, 2018

The Spitboy Rule is as much a critical historical text as it is an intersectional exploration of personal identity. What do you hope resonates with readers?

The ideas about identity, and the gentleness with which I tried to approach writing about identity and the understanding that I try to have for the other people who were kind of navigating my identity with me — even though we didn’t all realize that was happening.

The fact that Spitboy was an all-female band that could easily be erased from history, especially since we weren’t a Riot Grrrl band; but we existed. When I first started writing the book, I just wanted to write about Spitboy; the experience of being in a feminist band and being the only person of color in that band. As I got about half way through writing it, Carrie Brownstein’s book [Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl] came out and Kim Gordon’s book [Girl in a Band] came out, and I realized I had to make sure that everyone understood that Spitboy was not a Riot Grrrl band, but that we were around at the same time and we were just as important.

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spitboyThe Spitboy Rule: A Review
por: Wenceslao Bruciaga
Por radeg-v66
Mayo 24, 2017

"“Spitboy es la mejor banda a la redonda integrada sólo por chicas. Ellas se mean sobre todas las bandas de Riot Grrrls que se me vengan a la cabeza. En tan sólo sus uñas postizas contienen más poder que los cuerpos de Courtney Love, Kathleen Hanna y Kat Bjelland todas juntas… Aquella noche, esas cuatro mujeres, dulces y encabronadas, ingeniosas y entrañables, se robaron mi corazón no sólo por su inspiradora bilis sino por su sanguinaria franqueza. Porque ellas tienen las cosas muy claras: odian el sexismo pero no a los hombres…“ Reseña de un concierto de Spitboy en Londres de Lucy Sweet para la Melody Maker- 10 de abril de 1993."

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spitboyThe Spitboy Rule: A Review
Trust Magazine (Germany)
November 2016

The author played drums in the 1990's female hardcorepunk band Spitboy (and also in Instant Girl and Bitch Fight) that had the focus on women issues but where not angry man haters. Back then she called herself Todd. It is one of the many „I look back at my band history and tell some story's“ books that are coming out and will come out in the future. But this one is different because Michelle is a Xicana (her not speaking spanish was not helpful in finding a identity) in a otherwise white dominated scene. This books gives insight in how she tried to find herself, single raised by a drug addicted mother coming from a poorer background than most of the people she was dealing with in the band and the fans. This is a good read if you are into these kind of narrative, how bands function, tour and other anecdotes. They did tour internationally and did release a few records, so plenty of story's to tell. Why they where not a riot grrrl band and what controversial that included. You „meet“ many protagonists/ bands from back then that where in the scene and where somehow also part of Spitboys history. 135 pages divided in 21 chapters make this a entertaining and never draggy read. Her identity search is probably the central theme of the book but is not dominating, it seems she found herself now as a grown women -  she works as a teacher and author,  is married and has a kid. The foreword is written by Martin Sorrondeguy plus a preface by Mimi Thi Nguyen. Fully illustrated with photos and flyers. Now, what is the "Spitboy Rule“? You'll find out when you read the book....

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spitboyThe Spitboy Rule: A Review
By Jimmy Alvarado
Razorcake
August 25th, 2016

"Spitboy was a Bay Area hardcore band active in the ‘90s. They sported an all-female lineup, a rarity in a scene long known just as much for being a hotbed of testosterone as for being the hotbed of creativity that produced, among other things, what became known as “alternative” rock."

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spitboyFrom Punk to Professor: Livermore Teacher Details Journey in New Memoir
By Angela Ruggiero
East Bay Times
October 8th, 2016

"Clues in Michelle Gonzales’ college English class hint there’s a deeper story: the dark hair with red highlights, black-rimmed glasses and tattoos peeking out from behind the professor’s sleeves.

Most of the Las Positas Community College students are too young to know that the woman at the head of the class was a hardcore punk rock star in a groundbreaking all-female punk band in the 1990s..."

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spitboyThe Spitboy Rule: A review
Milo and the Calf
September 20th, 2016

This is a powerful story, which captures a time and place in the punk rock world which few others have documented. I’m so glad I was privileged enough to know Michelle, and the other Spitboy women, and I’m so glad she wrote this book.

Recommended.

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spitboyThe Spitboy Rule: A review
By Steve Scanner
Scanner Zine
September 23rd, 2016

Without a doubt, this is much more than just a band biography. It is as much a book about self-discovery, female camaraderie and personal politics as it is about a female Hardcore Punk band doing things their own way and succeeding at it. I am sure plenty of people could find both inspiration and confidence after reading this book - and that extends beyond people of colour and females to encompass any and all who feel marginalised by society or intimidated by their local Punk scene. If that’s not the mark of success for a book, I’m not sure what is.

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spitboyThe Spitboy Rule: 5 Books That Will Transport You to Yesterday’s Creative Cities
AFAR

California’s Bay Area was a punk-rock mecca for young kids across the United States in the early 1990s. The Gilman Street all-ages performance space in Berkeley, which epitomized the do-it-yourself ethic of punk rock, nurtured the underground scene. Bands that went on to stardom, like Green Day and Rancid, played their first shows at the youth-run center.

Michelle Cruz Gonzales, drummer from seminal feminist band Spitboy, has written a heartfelt memoir about the trail-blazing band that “rocked as hard as men but sounded like women.” The Spitboy Rule is an inspiring story of self-discovery by a proud Xicana [Ed. note: Gonzales’s use of the alternative spelling of “Chicana” is a nod to indigenous roots of the Chicano/a political identity] artist and a defiant look back at the San Francisco punk rock underground that continues to inspire outsider youth and musicians around the world.

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spitboyThe Spitboy Rule: A Review
by Nina Melissa Bautista
The Establishment
June 30th, 2016

Spitboy is sometimes lumped in with the Riot Grrrl movement, but they preceded and really sat outside that trend at the time. This was partially due to a perceived rift with that scene, though Gonzalez clarifies in The Spitboy Rule this was never about any actual animosity between Spitboy and the bands associated with Riot Grrrl. Gonzalez explains how this started. At a show in Washington, D.C., just as Spitboy’s set was beginning, Gonzalez took the mic and made the announcement that the band didn’t expect men to stand in the back of the room (a common request from Riot Grrrl bands at the time, to allow their female fans the best and safest experience they could have at their shows), and concluded by saying, “We’re not a Riot Grrrl band.” The room went silent, and though Gonzalez and her bandmates had no enmity with the movement led by bands like Bikini Kill, the myth began to spread from that show that they did.

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spitboyThe Spitboy Rule: A Review
by June Sawyers
Booklist
July 21st, 2016

Not your typical punk band, Spitboy was ahead of its time, a feminist band that eschewed random sex and drugs and defied expectations in other, more mundane ways. Given their choice of music, fans just naturally assumed they were angry, so they were surprised by how “nice” they appeared. Now the band’s drummer, Gonzales, has written a memoir about punk from a female perspective. The only person of color in the group, she tells a tale of sexism, class issues, and racism. As for many women her age, the all-female band the Go-Go’s were an inspiration. “Then I heard the Clash,” writes Gonzales. “That was it. I was going to be in a punk band . . . that stood for something.” Gonzales grew up on welfare, raised by a single mother in California, and punk was the music that spoke to her. She wanted to write songs with female themes for a band that would rock as hard as men. Gonzales taught herself to play drums as a teenager and became accustomed to hearing sexist comments (“You hit hard for a girl,” etc.). Gonzales writes about feeling confused and discontented as a woman of Mexican descent who doesn’t speak Spanish and as a member of an otherwise all-white punk band. Fans of punk music no matter the gender are sure to find this memoir of interest.

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spitboyThe Story of Feminism in 33 songs
by Kate Wadkins
Pitchfork
August 2016

"What Are Little Girls Made Of?"

(1995) When Spitboy penned the title of this sludgy, dissonant track, they turned a facile nursery rhyme on its head. Their answer to the question was unexpected: “I am what’s left over.”

The first track on the San Francisco band’s split LP with the Latino punks Los Crudos, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” enumerated the Madonna/whore complex in a fresh, slightly frightening way. “I am pink, I am weak/I am red, I am whore,” singer Adrienne Droogas screamed, growing increasingly staccato. “Swaddled in red like a target/I am your sacrifice.”
Formed in 1990, Spitboy paved the way for women in hardcore as they railed against structural sexism. They toured extensively in their six years together, much of which is documented in drummer/ lyricist Michelle Cruz Gonzales’ excellent recent memoir, The Spitboy Rule: Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band.

Listen: Spitboy, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”
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spitboyThe Spitboy Rule: A Review
by David Nilsen
Fourth & Sycamore
June 2016

"As a Mexican American in a predominantly white town, Gonzalez knew from a very early age what it meant to not fit in, to look different from the people around her, to be political by her very presence. This didn’t change as much as one would hope when she entered the punk scene. Even though punk was a movement of outsiders, it was still almost exclusively white and male when Gonzalez and her Spitboy sisters entered the fray around 1990. They had enough to push against as a band of women in a very male scene, but for Gonzalez, the only band member of color, this was doubly felt. While not the sole focus for Gonzalez in this book (or at the time of the events), the subtle racism she experienced, mostly of the sort that sought to erase her racial identity rather than mock or vilify it, is addressed throughout with honesty and insight, as is sexism the band dealt with..."

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spitboyLiberation Land
by Tessa Solomon
Daily Iowan
June 23rd, 2016

Her collection of essays delves into Spitboy’s conception and rise in San Francisco, a journey that entangles her numerous identities: punk, feminist, and Mexican-American. Loosely chronological, it begins with her childhood in a small California town plagued with racism and classism, an upbringing and environment that — despite longstanding cultural barricades — eventually led Gonzales to hard-core.

“The punk boys kept saying they were going to start a band, but they never did,” Gonzales said. “They would tell us, ‘Girls can’t play music.’ Well, we were doing it, and they weren’t.”


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spitboyRevisiting Spitboy and Talking Punk Memoirs With Michelle Cruz Gonzales
by Tobias Carroll
Vol. 1 Brooklyn
June 16th, 2016

The Spitboy Rule isn’t structured like a traditional music memoir — you focus more on individual moments and scenes rather than a straightforward chronological progression. When did you arrive on this as the best way to tell this story?

I didn’t want the pieces to be organized totally linear, and straightforward, and chronological would have been nearly impossible to write because memory doesn’t work that way. After writing the first six or so pieces and posting them on my blog, I realized it should be a book, so I looked at what I had, and made a list of all the other topics that I wanted to cover. I also knew that there were some themes that I had to address: women in music/punk, being the only person of color in the band, sexism in the scene, and so on. After working from the list I reviewed what I had and looked at where there might be gaps. Since Spitboy toured so much, and overseas, I also knew that I wanted to write a bit about each tour too.

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spitboyMichelle Gonzales's New Memoir Details Punk History Through a Xicana Feminist Perspective
by Nancy David-Kho
Midlife Mixtape
May 12th, 2016

Michelle Gonzales and I met when we were castmates in the 2013 Listen To Your Mother show in San Francisco. Sure, her sexy boob tattoos hypnotized the audience, but it was her story about joining her son in his elementary school talent show that hooked them (and me) for life. Michelle’s got a new memoir out about her life as a Xicana punk drummer for the punk band Spitboy and I asked her to make us a mixtape inspired by her book, The Spitboy Rules

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spitboyMichelle Gonzales's New Memoir Details Punk History Through a Xicana Feminist Perspective
by Sara Century
Bitch Magazine
May 10th, 2016

"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... "

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spitboyFeministing Reads: The Spitboy Rule
by Chanelle Adams
Feministing
April 25th, 2106

"Many of us have dreamt of starting a badass girl band. Few of us have been as public and reflective about the process as Michelle Cruz Gonzales, who had no idea picking up a guitar in rural Toulumne, California would lead to a life-long journey in punk feminism.

So who better than to write about the complex topics of authenticity, creativity, and race in feminism than Gonzales, known professionally as Todd, the Xicana non-riot grrl drummer from Spitboy?..."

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spitboyThe Struggles and Victories of a Xicana Woman in a Hardcore Band
by Leilani Clark
KQED
April 10th, 2016

"I first saw the East Bay feminist hardcore band Spitboy in 1993. I remember the moment the four women, the only ones on a packed bill, took the stage at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma. Wearing ripped shorts, combat boots, Converse and worn tank tops, they were tough, intimidating, and mind-blowing with a driving, abrasive sound I’d never heard women produce before. Sure, I loved punk rock. But I’d never seen it done like this. Spitboy’s lead singer Adrienne sang about gender oppression, sexual violence, and the mismeasure of women in American society like a no-holds barred assault. It was exhilarating, hardcore, and life-affirming;  I loved every second.

I idolized Spitboy from that day, adding them to a stable of bands that would inform my experience as a young feminist woman fronting an (almost) all-girl band a few years later..."

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spitboyMessage First: Author and Spitboy Drummer Michelle Cruz Gonzales on Punk, Privilege and Perimenopause
by Karin Spin
Hip Mama

"...On the other hand, for me, playing music when I did and writing now serves the same creative purpose for me. I don’t necessarily like one more than the other. I do think I was always more of a writer than I am a drummer. I wrote about half the lyrics in the band, then went straight from doing that to college to study writing. I always liked English more than anything else, like in high school for example. So I do think that I was always more of a writer than a musician.

And I don’t feel weird about that. Spitboy wasn’t trying to be virtuoso musicians; that wasn’t our aim. Spitboy was a band with a message. We were message-first, and music was secondary to the message. Music was the delivery vehicle for the message. Thinking about where I went from there to become a writer, it makes sense. The message is still the thing that’s most important to me..."

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spitboy#LatinoLit Review – The Spitboy Rule: Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band by Michelle Cruz González
by Charlie Vázquez
Latino Rebels
April 1, 2016

This slim and mean volume of punk memoir brought me back to my years on the West Coast, when I befriended filmmakers and musicians from the Bay Area punk scene who’d moved to Portland in 1989, where I was living at the time. They introduced me to the smoldering punk underground that was thriving in San Francisco when they moved back not too long afterward, as Operation Desert Storm terrorized the networks and protests of No Blood for Oil! filled Portland’s streets and avenues.

Xicana-identified musician Michelle Cruz González joined Spitboy at around that time, an all-female punk group committed to confronting the rampant misogyny plaguing the underground and society in general...
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spitboyMichelle Gonzales Cruz talks about The Spitboy Rule
by Robyn Takayama
La Raza
March 28th, 2016

When Michelle Cruz Gonzales read excerpts from The Spitboy Rule: Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band this summer, she took me back to the early ’90s when I was in school at UC Santa Cruz, first heard seminal Bay Area band Jawbreaker, and discovered my church being sandwiched between the stage and the edge of the mosh pit. I learned about veganism and institutional racism, anarchy and “No Means No!”, how to skank and how to bleach my hair before using Manic Panic hair dye.

All I knew about Spitboy was their rad logo on my classmate’s t-shirt so when I found the split record with Los Crudos, I devoured the liner notes studying the lyrics and absorbing each bandmates’ thank yous. Todd Spitboy merged her punk name with her legal name: Todd Michelle Christine Gonzales, and with Los Crudos’ lyrics in Spanish, coupled with the portrait of the Indian on the cover, I had no idea that this was Michelle’s “coming out” as a woman of color.

In this candid memoir, Michelle explores the Spitboy days with a professor’s maturity and critical lens of race and class. Have a listen as I talk with her about confronting hecklers at their live shows, how her Chicana heritage could be lost to a punk name, and the Bay Area punk scene in the mid-90s.

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spitboyIconic Drummer Michelle Gonzales and the Xicana Resistance of Riot Grrrl: A Review
By Michelle Threadgould
Remezcla
February 29, 2016

Michelle Gonzales and The Spitboy Rule challenged the notion of who gets to speak and whose stories are told. Whether they wrote about misogyny, sexual assault, or violence against women, the band confronted the idea that women in punk needed to shut up and spread their legs or play.

Gonzales’ memoir isn’t just for fans of punk music. It’s for everyone who ever knew they deserved better and fought to reclaim their identity. It’s about the experience of playing your fucking heart out as a woman and finding the language to finally tell your story.

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