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About the Author

Allison Yarrow is an award-winning journalist and National Magazine Award finalist who has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Vox, and many other news outlets. She was a TED resident and is a grantee of the International Women's Media Foundation. Yarrow was raised in Macon, Georgia, show more and lives in Brooklyn, New York. show less
Image credit: Allison Yarrow

Works by Allison Yarrow


Common Knowledge




This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I literally could not read this book and I do not recommend it to anyone. Your time and money would be much better used elsewhere.
Trismegistus | 4 other reviews | Dec 4, 2022 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It’s fascinating what a difference of five years makes. The author says that she was ages 8-18 in the 90s, and her reporting of that shows what she mostly remembers was more late 90s. I was 13-23 in the 90s, and I feel there was a lack of early 90s mentioned besides the biggest news stories and not as much pop culture. It just didn’t grab me even though I lived it all. Also no mention of Sassy magazine except as a reference was ridiculous; Sassy legit made me a feminist—there was no other way to get to me in rural Michigan. FYI even though it says this is an ER book, I never actually received the book; I bought an ebook and also listened to the audiobook from the library.… (more)
spinsterrevival | 4 other reviews | Sep 21, 2020 |
I really only started to become politically/pop culturally aware during the latter part of the 90s, and I'm not American, so the U.S.-centric 90s Bitch for me was an odd mix of revisiting figures with whom I was very familiar (Brittney Spears), largely unfamiliar (Fiona Apple, Beverley Hills 90210), or only had a vague understanding of at the time (tween me was aware of but bemused by the news coverage of Monica Lewinsky's dress, because why was a stain important?). Alison Yarrow examines the 90s through a feminist lens, arguing that the decade increasingly tended to depict powerful, famous, or attractive women as "bitches" while punishing women who didn't overtly perform traditional gender roles—a process which she terms "bitchification."

Some of the most powerful parts of 90s Bitch are when Yarrow simply provides wince-inducing quotations from various public figures and publications, and then draws a line from past to present. There's little scope here for back-patting at how far we've come, and Yarrow's writing is crisply bleak.

Yet while I think some of Yarrow's analysis was convincing on a micro level, I'm not sure how well it holds up on the macro level. Her adherence to her "bitchification" framework for explaining how women were treated means that Yarrow largely elides race, sexuality, and class as having explanatory power. I don't think she discusses a single queer or trans woman. She does talk about some Black women (Anita Hill, the cast of sitcom Living Single, the group TLC) in terms of both race and gender, but there's nothing about how race may have affected the media treatment of Lorena Bobbitt (Hispanic), and I don't think any other mention of Latina, Asian, or Native women. More damning, though, is the fact that there's basically no understanding expressed that race affects how white women are treated, both by the media and by policy. There's a quiet but troublesome tendency here to reduce "white woman" to a synonym for "woman."

There's also very little historical awareness/contextualisation at play, and a tendency to presume that how these women were discussed in the media was an uncomplicated proxy for how they were perceived by society as a whole.
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siriaeve | 4 other reviews | Aug 17, 2019 |
To be called a bitch is contextual and gendered. If a woman is called a bitch in anger, it is demeaning. If a man is called one in anger, it is not just demeaning, but an attack on their masculinity. And then there are those, like myself, who embrace the term as one of strength. Sometimes women use it as a term of endearment, "You are a strong bitch!" Other times we translate the attack and flip is back to the offender, "You're damn right I'm a bitch!" But how does the word impact our daily lives and politics? From Brenda versus Kelly to Tonya versus Nancy, Allison Yarrow's careful examination of who gets called a bitch reveals why the feminist movement failed to make the progress it should have in the 1990s and its ramifications to our lives today.

You may wonder how one word has so much power. That is why "90s Bitch" is a must read, especially for everyone who grew up in the 1990s.

By examining both sides of different scandals such as Hillary Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, Yarrow unpacks how the media and our reactions helped to fuel the unraveling of feminist goals that we still feel today. Hillary began the 1990s as the number one bitch. She was an unconventional First Lady who offended many who believed in the traditional doting wife model. Hillary offended many with her comment about not staying home to bake cookies, but once challenged to a bake-off, worked her ass off to win it. Many felt she wasted any goodwill by the revelations of Bill's infidelity by staying with him. On the other hand, Monica was rarely afforded support due to a massive case of slut-shaming. One thread Yarrow misses in this conversation is the reality that the Republicans had taken over Congress and the defense of Bill was one of political will, especially in light of Newt Gingrich and Henry Hyde's history of infidelity. Yarrow's indictment of feminist leaders is a hard pill to swallow for those of us lived through the moment, even if we have a sneaky suspicion that Bill deserved to be impeached for preying on an intern. But what Yarrow does is not just reveal the flaws of 1990s feminism in relation to the Bill Clinton affair, but how the bitchification of Monica prevented a better analysis of the situation.

Again and again Yarrow reexamines how the trope of bitch derailed feminist progress in the 1990s. You may have lived through the 90s, but that means you likely took a side and Yarrow shows us that the only side of have was the movement's side.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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roniweb | 4 other reviews | May 30, 2019 |



½ 3.5

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