Monday, 10 October 2011


This book covers that period in the 1990s where the DIY feminist punk of riot grrrl was filtered through more rock-orientated bands like Hole and L7 and the more photogenic media-friendly anger of artists like Fiona Apple and Alanis Morrissette before eventually tricking down to the shallow pop consumerism of the Spice Girls and their ilk.

The author also links the rise of pop stars like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera with the kind of "raunch feminism" described in Ariel Levy's Feminist Chauvinist Pigs. She seeks to place the Spice Girls catchphrase of Girl Power and their feminism-lite in some kind of context - after all, the Spice Girls were appealing to a much younger and more mainstream audience and even something as simplistic as Girl Power gave young girls confidence and the idea that they mattered. But as she points out, too often it became a meaningless catchphrase that avoided political activism or even any sense of cultural interaction for trendy fashions and consumerism.

It does focus very much on the American scene so bands like Fluffy, Kenickie or even All Saints get missed out and she didn't want to write about metal/rock bands so I do feel some of the female-fronted bands around at the time like Jack Off Jill and My Ruin are criminally overlooked. However, Shampoo get several mentions (and The Nymphs and Period Pains are mentioned in passing). However, she does make the point that she's only covering one particular period in history rather than the whole scope of women in music.

She also writes a bit about some of the female-centric music festivals such as Lillith Fair, Ladyfest and Michigan Womyn's Festival (which is often slated for its trans exclusion policy which she does discuss here) and she even mentions Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains.

I do feel like if you were around in that period then you'll already be aware of a lot of what she's talking about but it's nice to have a book that attempts to give an overview of that period and place it all in some kind of context (and we're already nearly twenty years away from it so there will be a whole generation of music fans who weren't actually there to see/hear these things firsthand.)

"Girl Power is, as Professor Alison Pepmeier says of her own 10,000 Maniacs and Suzanne Vega obsessed college years, about "seeking a culture of women's voices. I knew I had things to say and I wanted to find women who were making a public space for themselves." Girl Power allows each of us to map out what it means to be a woman in the world, one song at a time."


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