You Oughta Know, Fuck and Run, and the Pain of 90swomanhood (or girlhood), after reading Lisa’s chicklit article, and spending a little time laughing meanly to myself about the genre being “about and for today’s lukewarmest girls,” I felt compelled to do two things:

  1. Listen to Fiona Apple sing “Mistake” on repeat. (Lines include “I’m gonna make a mistake/I’m gonna do it on purpose” and “I’m gonna fuck it up again.”)
  2. Re-read Deborah Solomon’s interview with Cyndi Lauper from a few years ago. In it, Solomon says, “I think of ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ as the first feminist-backlash song. It came out in the 80’s and goes against the preachy and high-minded tone of 70’s feminism.” Cyndi replies, “That’s not true! It’s totally feminist. It’s a song about entitlement. Why can’t women have fun?”

I was eight when that song came out, and I totally agree. Though the point I want to make here is that the song is actually about girls—a big focus of 90s feminism, from riot grrrl and Sassy to Carol Gilligan and the novel Girl. (An issue we might want to come back to in February when Marisa’s book on 90s music and girl power comes out.)

But a lot of girl culture in the 90s didn’t have the tenor of a pop song (even if it was a pop song) or a Lisa essay, though a lot of it was about young women putting their emotional recklessness on display–or maybe putting their emotions recklessly on display? And a lot of it had to do with a kind of emotional recklessness related to sex. I’m thinking about Alanis Morissette with “You Oughta Know” or Liz Phair with “Exile in Guyville.” Sometimes, this got pretty dark—did you ever read Phoebe Gloeckner’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl or Susanna Kaysen’s Girl Interrupted? And what was it about the 90s that made us want to be so out about being a girl, feelings, and sex?


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