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Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music…

Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music

by Marisa Meltzer

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I think that the Goodreads elementary-school-book-report-style prompt "What I learned from this book" is useful here, because truthfully, I didn't learn anything from this book. It's well written and zippy, but I found myself anticipating Meltzer's next steps: "And now she's going to talk about Liz Phair. Ah, yes, hello, Liz, there you are, nice to see you." Everything--from the chronological arrangement to the subjects (very briefly) addressed to the underlying assumptions and arguments--was predictable.

To be fair, Meltzer lays out the scope of her concerns in the preface: it's "a discussion and analysis as viewed through the lens of personal experience." It would have been interesting if she had used the 151 pages of Girl Power as the core of a larger project--maybe with Girl Power as the introduction to an edited collection of personal essays about experiences and engagements with nineties girl/grrrl culture. (It could have been like a really big zine!)

But never mind my wish list. The book would serve as a decent introduction for someone who's not familiar with that era, but for those who remember it--even those who were only on the margins of some of the scenes Meltzer writes about--there's little that's new or thought-provoking here.

( )
  melaniemaksin | Oct 14, 2013 |
Made me want to dig out Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill tunes (and again feel bad that I was out of college and my earnest feminist days before Riot Grrrl) . . . and the MI Womyn's Festival stuff was spot on, based on what my friends who have gone tell me.

On the other hand, Meltzer lost me at the Spice Girls and Brittany. ( )
  beckydj | Mar 31, 2013 |
Having been a teen of the 90s, I was very excited to read this book. I have to say, I was not disappointed. While I was completely enthralled with the whole riot grrrl movement, it was quite interesting to read Meltzer's thoughts on the girl-powered pop music that followed and how it was, in fact, important to the message of empowerment. I'm also reading "How Sassy Changed My Life" right now, which she co-authored. It's like 1994 exploded in my living room!

Don't expect this book to focus solely on rock - it goes beyond to really bring into perspective the far reach of riot grrrl and how its effects can still be felt today. ( )
  OneBookMore | Mar 30, 2013 |
By the time I heard about the riot-grrrl movement of the early 1990’s, I’d missed it. However, as a relatively short-lived and deliberately noncommercial development in music, its influence on what followed it outstripped its immediate impact, and I suspect a lot of women who were past high-school and college age (I was in my late 20’s, already married and a mother) missed it at the time. In this exploration of women in music during the last couple of decades, Marisa Meltzer looks at the music’s “anyone can do it” roots in punk, its filtering into mainstream consciousness, and its sometimes-shaky connections to modern feminism.

Meltzer argues that the original riot grrrls viewed their independent music-making, writing and publishing activities as feminist, political acts, but their determination not to be exploited diluted their potential impact on the direction of third-wave feminism. However, the 1990’s were notable for the assimilation of “alternative” culture into the mainstream, and stylistic elements of riot grrrl - assertiveness, embracing and expression of “negative” emotions, an upfront expression of sexuality, and reclaiming “girl” as a positive term rather than a demeaning one - became part of a pop-culture-based “empowerment’ that may have helped produce more confident girls, but affected very little genuine social change. The sense of community, sisterhood and “women for women” that spurred the feminist movement through the 1960s and into the early 1980s was present in riot grrrl, but it too became diluted and the focus shifted to the individual. Meltzer suggests that without a revived sense of community, genuine progress for feminist values may be limited - and I think she’s right.

Girl Power is a fast read that touches on a lot of material, but doesn’t explore much of it in great detail, and I admit I was somewhat disappointed by that - I’d have liked more, not just about the politics but about the music; too many of the early-’90s artists Meltzer references were unfamiliar to me. The book’s appendices include a bibliography and filmography; I’d have liked a discography as well, but I’m not sure that some of the music discussed is even available (several playlists linked in the book’s website may help with that). It’s not enough to satisfy your 1990s nostalgia, but it may pique your appetite for more. Hopefully, it will also get you thinking about further exploration of the feminist questions it raises. ( )
  Florinda | Nov 21, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0865479798, Paperback)

In the early nineties, riot grrrl exploded onto the underground music scene, inspiring girls to pick up an instrument, create fanzines, and become politically active. Rejecting both traditional gender roles and their parents’ brand of feminism, riot grrrls celebrated and deconstructed femininity. The media went into a titillated frenzy covering followers who wrote “slut” on their bodies, wore frilly dresses with combat boots, and talked openly about sexual politics.

The movement’s message of “revolution girl-style now” soon filtered into the mainstream as “girl power,” popularized by the Spice Girls and transformed into merchandising gold as shrunken T-shirts, lip glosses, and posable dolls. Though many criticized girl power as at best frivolous and at worst soulless and hypersexualized, Marisa Meltzer argues that it paved the way for today’s generation of confident girls who are playing instruments and joining bands in record numbers.

Girl Power examines the role of women in rock since the riot grrrl revolution, weaving Meltzer’s personal anecdotes with interviews with key players such as Tobi Vail from Bikini Kill and Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls. Chronicling the legacy of artists such as Bratmobile, Sleater-Kinney, Alanis Morissette, Britney Spears, and, yes, the Spice Girls, Girl Power points the way for the future of women in rock.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:31 -0400)

"In the early nineties, riot grrrl exploded onto the underground music scene, inspiring girls and women to pick up instruments, create fanzines, and become politically engaged. The movement's message of "Revolution girl-style now" soon filtered into the mainstream as "girl power," popularized by the Spice Girls and transformed into merchandising gold in the form of baby tees, lip glosses, and posable dolls." "So what was the legacy of the nineties revolution in music? Though girl power has been criticized as frivolous at best and soulless and hypersexualized at worst, Marisa Meltzer argues that it paved the way for today's generation of confident girls who are playing instruments and joining bands in record numbers." "Weaving personal anecdotes with interviews with key players such as Tobi Vail from Bikini Kill and Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, Meltzer chronicles the legacy of artists including Bratmobile, Sleater-Kinney, Alanis Morissette, Britney Spears, Pink, Avril Lavigne, and, yes, the Spice Girls. Girl Power charts a path for the future of women in rock."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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