Okay, Ada, so I am feeling some super righteous 90swoman indignation and it is bringing me out of blog hibernation.
I was reading Tumblr yesterday and came across some posts by young guys dissing a particularly young, female brand of 90s nostalgia. The kind of nostalgia expressed by Miss World, who recently posted about “The Real 90s,” a new tumblr by Lesley Arfin and my very good friend Elizabeth Spiridakis. Miss World said of Lesley:
She was there. Like, really being an adolescent in the midst of the 90’s…not just some kid too young to know what the fuck the 90’s really were (grunge, punk, NYC, heroin, flannel, etc.)
The 90’s I was familiar with (and hate that I was only in my pre-teens during the best part of the 90’s) favored neon, NKOTB, crimped side poners, LA Gear Hi-Tops…what the fuck am I on about? All of this shit is awesome.
IGNORE ME. Follow her blog.
Obviously I am all for girls and women working through what the 90s meant and I am all for girls and women supporting each other, so I was pretty into this. Leon was not. He replied:
This has to stop! What the hell, everyone? Nostalgia, especially nostalgia for charming products that used to exist, doesn’t become OK just because you can suddenly rent a car or whatever.
It’s one thing for bands like Wavves and Real Estate to be “nostalgic” for the 90s by making actual art that’s inspired by things that happened then, and another to just like, list stuff.
Leon is friends with some of my friends, so I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt, but this post totally pisses me off.
First of all…this is so patriarchal. Telling girls “this has to stop”?! Um, okay, dad. Also, the phrase “charming products” is not only dismissive, but misses the point, which is that, for many of us, these “charming products” signal larger ideas and ideals that were important to us in the 90s, now, or both. And there is nothing wrong with lists. Lists are a legitimate form of archiving. Girls, like gay men, like lists. (Go read some Wayne Koestenbaum–a professor, and a man, so he must know what he is talking about!–for more on this.) Saying that effusive lists aren’t as good as “actual art” by young dudes is just a massive fail. Lists can be “actual art.” Andy Warhol was pretty into lists. The idea of “actual art” is already sexist. Etc.
Okay, I wasn’t only mad at Leon’s post. Because there was this, at Fluxtumblr, from Matthew Perpetua:
Leon is correct. It’s one thing to like an aesthetic, to carry on a tradition, to be inspired by old things, and to invest thought in things from the past in the present tense. It’s quite another to romanticize the past and cling to it because you can’t handle the present/adulthood.
Oh, how girls like it when boys tell us how we are supposed to relate to the past! We love it when we are scolded because we “romanticize it”—use more gendered phrases, please!—and when we are infantilized by being told we are clinging to something and by your assuming what we can and can’t handle. Cue the Robyn song, seriously.
I have a lot to say about 90s nostalgia. I don’t necessarily think all of it is radical (which doesn’t necessarily mean that I think it’s bad). And though I’m really excited about Elizabeth and Lesley having a 90s Tumblr, I definitely don’t think there is any such thing as “The Real 90s.” One of the things I think is so interesting when I talk to other women about the 90s is how vastly different some of their experiences were from mine. (A subject we have explored quite a bit on this blog and on my Tumblr.) But what I definitely can’t abide is guys’ dismissive attitude towards our nostalgia and what it means. Nostalgia can be political, even if it isn’t always explicit, even if it’s in the form of a list.
Seriously, guys, try not to get all Sam Tanenhaus on us next time.
What do you think, Ada?