Neal, Kara, Marisa, and Ada in our matching Miley Cyrus plaid.
Ada, last night I got a google alert alerting me to this awesome flickr photo set from EMP, including this picture of our panel, “In the Girls Room.” I posted it on my tumblr and it was reblogged by someone who had seen us speak. He added, “I went to this. Afterwards, Theon and I agreed that it was good. ‘But,’ Theon said, ‘They were all cool girls.’ What were the ’90s like for girls who weren’t cool enough to be listening to riot grrrl, he wanted to know.”
I kind of love this, because it made me think about just what it meant to be a cool girl in the 90s. As I mentioned on the panel, and in the spirit of 90swoman self-exposure will happily mention again: in the 90s, I totally did not listen to riot grrrl. I did, however, once brag that I “knew about Sarah McLachlan before anyone else.” So, you know, cool? (But whatever! Love you, Sarah! Can’t wait for Lilith Fair!) My 90s music vibe was about Tori Amos, Liz Phair, 10,000 Maniacs, Ani DiFranco, the Indigo Girls, Hole. I have already outed myself on this blog as secretly liking Alanis Morissette. (Though, after the eye roll I got as a response to the Sarah McLachlan incident, I knew better than to say so.)
Kara, I love your photo gallery. I started looking at pictures too and realized something: 90s sexiness was about softer bodies, but also about a tougher look. Lots of raised eyebrows, knowing smiles, tongues stuck out, glaring… Not passive at all. Unless they’re like Lisa Carver’s zine photos, in which case they are tough but also sometimes, like, dead or sunbathing on the street…
Also, I would like to add this to our running list of “things that are supposed to represent the 90s but that we don’t think actually really do.” Maybe because she wasn’t tough at all? Or knowing at all?:
kesha, looking kind of 90s and kind of hot, in esquire
Ada, MMM-Bop is totally on my ipod! So is Party in the USA, which I saw Miley perform live. She was so bad. But so fun!
As you note, so were a lot of performers in the 90s. Like Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer who, by the way, I saw in concert–TOGETHER–my freshman year of high school. Not to brag or anything.
Okay, now, let’s talk about Ke$ha. I just saw that “Tik Tok” is the number one song on itunes right now. Which is cool, because I like Ke$ha. Partly because I am in my 30s and so I find a party anthem with the lines “Ain’t got a care in the world, but got plenty of beer” and “Before I leave, brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack” to be hilarious. HOWEVER. This song would have made me cry when I was 15, significantly more earnest, and dreaming of getting away from girls who just wanted to party and drink. (In NY, I imagined, rightly, I would be able to party and drink…while discussing feminist theory. We’ll bring the whiskey on the 13th!)
The 1990s Classic, "Baby Got Back"
Before we address merit, I thought it might be a good idea to look at what was actually popular with America back in the 1990s, like Sir Mix-a-Lot, versus what we were listening to in 90s WomanLand, like Liz Phair.
Here are VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of the 90s. And following that is the list of the top songs from last year. Not to talk trash on the music of our youth, but “Party in the USA” is Mozart compared to “MMM Bop.”
- Nirvana – “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (1991, #6 US)
- U2 – “One” (1991, #10 US)
- Backstreet Boys – “I Want It That Way” (1999, #6 US)
- Whitney Houston – “I Will Always Love You” (1992, #1 US)
- Madonna – “Vogue” (1990, #1 US)
- Sir Mix-A-Lot – “Baby Got Back” (1992, #1 US) Continue reading
madonna in her bracelets! worn pre-internet!
Ada, I kept trying to come up with a sustained response to your post, but I’m feeling stereotypically feminine and non-linear today. Nevertheless, some thoughts:
- Jealous about Lady Gaga! Post photos! The one time I had a chance to see her I was busy writing a paper. Anyway, I’m interested in your idea that pop culture today is more affirming than it was when we were teenagers. We had Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Alanis Morissette, Liz Phair, Salt ‘n Pepa, Mary J. Blige, etc. I feel the same way about pop culture icons now as I did then: that a lot of them are a mix of feminist-y and regressive. For example, I think it’s cool that Taylor Swift writes her own music, but I think her lyrics are really retro. When she asks Romeo to save her and then he says, “I talked to your dad/go pick out a white dress.” HE TALKED TO HER DAD?! Does Taylor know it’s 2010?! But, seriously, I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on this, which I think are different from mine. I am totally open to reconsideration.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8IwrpqTfEYAda, 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:
- 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.”)
- 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.)
I don’t know, maybe that’s taking it too far. But I agree with you that she was super-influential.She seemed to embody that particular mix of bravura and vulnerability that seems so characteristic of the 90s woman. (Am I going to laugh every time I type that?) As, for example, in “Fuck and Run.” It’s like some sort of dirtier, more world-weary, but equally sad and romantic update of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” (I mean, the line “Even when I was twelve” is pretty intense).
Wait! I’m not answering your question. But what I’m saying is, she definitely reflected relationships between men and women. I’d be interested to hear if you think she changed them. I have my theories…._Kara