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Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music

3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  516 ratings  ·  82 reviews
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” o ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published February 2nd 2010 by Faber & Faber
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,261)
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Caitlin Constantine
I wanted to love this book so hard, you have no idea. I was a teenager in the 1990s, and there was so much in the book I could relate to - discussion about Lilith Fair (which I went to - twice), having the release of "You Oughta Know" coincide with my first heartbreak, openly hating (yet secretly loving) the Spice Girls, obsessing over Liz Phair and Ani DiFranco and Tori Amos, worshipping Kim Gordon - that I found myself all giddy and excited like I did while reading "Girl Zines."

So when I say
...more
Larry-bob Roberts
A pretty quick read and a fairly basic intro.

There were only a few factual flaws. On page viii there is a sentence beginning "Riot grrrls' rage begat the more media-friendly Hole and Babes in Toyland" which is inaccurate in that both these bands started in the late 1980s, pre-Riot Grrrl.

On page 16, "Ladies First" (about a frilly girly-girl on a safari) would have been a better example from Free to Be You and Me than William's Doll, which advocates dolls for men, rather than deriding "frivolous
...more
Melanie
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 pr ...more
Ciara
honestly? i expected this to be a lot worse than it was, judging from some of the scathing & disappointed reviews my friends have written. people were going on & on about how shallow it was, how badly it misrepresented the riot grrrl movement, how historically inaccurate it was, how upset they were that a chunk of their personal histories that mattered to them so much was being mangled in such an amateur manner. i was prepared for the worst. & what i got was an admittedly imperfect b ...more
jess
I read about this book because one of my favorite bloggers, Tavi, wrote about it.. And Tobi Vail blogged about it a few times. And then Carrie Brownstein blogged about Tavi blogging about the book, and then Kathleen Hanna blogged about Tavi, and how she is "a fucking artist and these fools just don’t fucking get it" and a "talented, highly intelligent kid is willing to share her inner light with the world," which I also agree with. So, basically, I am drawing the conclusion that this book result ...more
Lauren
Marisa Meltzer, I would love to grab coffee or a drink with you. The focus of this book is all too close to my heart as it's very similar to my masters thesis on the potential for feminist activism in indie rock subcultures. While I would have liked less analysis of Spice Girls (Meltzer does state at the beginning that she will focus primarily on pop and punk music) and more interviews with Ladyfest organizers, musicians, zine writers, I devoured this book. Given that the Lilith Fair is starting ...more
Jayne Lamb
I'd give this book six stars if I could - and I'm not ashamed to say I teared up with nostalgia in a couple of places! I've always felt the Spices were underrated in what they contributed to the pop culture perception of 'feminism' - watered down or not, anything that emphasizes girl/girl empowerment instead of girl/girl rivalry is what we, and our daughters, nieces etc need to hear. I would love to have seen some images in the book; I would love for it to have been longer! But otherwise this is ...more
Abilouise
This book was an interesting exploration in the evolution and history of the 90s white-girl music that I love so much. I appreciate her insights about and appreciation for Spice Girls, as well as the way that she describes the limitations of their vision. There were some amazing insights in here but also some confusing moments, like when she kept mentioning the Breeders in lists but not saying anything about them, or when she was weirdly dismissive of womyn's music and didn't seem remotely excit ...more
matt
Terribly unfocused, "Girl Power" tells a lot of (familiar) stories without any serious analysis. This book should have been 300 pages longer to do justice to some of the major 90s female power players (her nod to Gwen Stefani was laughable) or just focused entirely on Riot Grrl. Even the anecdotal asides are too skimpy to ever identify with Meltzer's voice or opinion. With only a handful of exclusive interviews, this book ultimately feels like a VH1-type clip show retread on paper.
Sheba
I love Meltzer's enthusiasm in attacking this subject. Having said that, the writing--or perhaps the editing--of this book was so distracting that I could barely keep an interest in the subject. Some very noticeable issues: The book, particularly chapter 1, could use some breathing space with clear paragraphs--often it felt as though Meltzer was too quickly jumping to the next subject without any sense of a transition; there's a chronic misuse of the article "the" throughout; there are more quot ...more
Veronica
I am totally unqualified to review this book as I totally missed the Riot Grrrl moment. On the other hand, I totally dove into the Lilith Fair moment, so I think that I could write the rebuttal or sequel to Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music by Marisa Meltzer, as Meltzer says she never attended Lilith Fair. But I don't hold that against her.

Girl Power is a quick read. In fact I dare say that it's a must have on your summer 2010 reading list. It's not fluffy, but at only 145 pages, it d
...more
Mandy Jo
This week’s headline? Girls banding together

Why this book? Nineties underground nostalgia

Which book format? Nice and new

Primary reading environment? Day of rest

Any preconceived notions? Cooler than thou

Identify most with? Still Courtney Love

Three little words? "Elitist value judgments"

Goes well with? Tamari, Tabasco, yeast

I used to hate Britney Spears, mainly because we are the same age and she dated Justin Timberlake while I was still in love with him.

In my first semester of college, I clipped
...more
Lidia
Full disclosure that I can't finish the last chapter. And I'm way harder on non-fiction than fiction in terms of ratings and so on.

This poor book is bound to fail for so many people who care really deeply about riot grrrl and this period of musical history. I'm one of those people. This book was just straight up amateur hour. I kept thinking it felt like reading a really long high school essay...so much explanatory stuff and so little analysis.

Plus, blowing off the experiences of women of color
...more
Laura Stone
Sweet mother of everything I really tried to like this book. I picked it up from the library on a whim because I'm interested in feminism and music and playing guitar. But seriously? This book had so many weak points I don't even know where to begin.

I'll try to say the nice things first: the author really tried to find the positive in all aspects of music culture. She also included a section on Camp Trans when talking about the Michigan Womyn's Festival, which is great because it calls attention
...more
Eve
Mar 26, 2010 Eve added it
Just was with the Sassy book I was disappointed but there was some good stuff-kind of reads like a pop version of a Bard Senior Project.
Nico
I was sad this book was so short, and that the last ten or twenty pages seemed like a long, drawn-out conclusion. And yet, for a book so short, it still managed to straddle the line between personal memoir and social history. I wish the author had picked one classification and stuck with it. There are very good social histories of of punk bands ("Our Band Could Be Your Life", "Wish You Were Here") and very good memoirs (Rob Sheffield's trilogy, etc.), but this tries to be both and is too short t ...more
K.
After reading this I have to make a list of alternate heroines so that I don't get even more depressed.
Elevate Difference
Having been born in the late '80s, I always felt I missed out on everything cool in music. I wasn’t there to see the birth of punk. I wasn’t there for New Wave. I was too young for grunge, and I was too far away from Olympia, WA for riot grrrl. In the 1990s, I bought Sublime’s self -titled album along with Alice Cooper’s School's Out, and that was the extent of my musical awareness. So I always enjoyed reading about riot grrrl, putting on my Heavens to Betsy CD, and pretending I was more involve ...more
Susan
I have always been outspoken and unashamed about being a feminist, and though I sometimes gravitate toward the harder stuff, I've always appreciated that Lilith Fair, Ladyfest, and other events can co-exist. They offer millions of people a kinship they might not get in other scenes, and they also offer an artist's living for the makers. I appreciate her assertion that Riot Grrrl committed a sad suicide when it could have taken over the world instead (it was certainly poised to have real power of ...more
Laura
Though some reviews seem to indicate this is primarily a book about the riot grrrl movement, it's really not. (If you're interested in reading about that, check out Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution)

Rather, it deals with women in music in the 90s, spanning a few different genres. The book starts with riot grrls and winds its way through the decade, discussing Lilith Fair, the Spice Girls, and Britney Spears on its way. At the same time, the author interjects some of
...more
Anna
I liked this a lot! Marisa Meltzer's book is a fairly light history of girls/young women in music and pop culture from the early 1990s to the present. It doesn't focus on any single group or musical movement, but instead discusses a variety (ranging from riot grrrl to Alanis Morissette to Britney Spears to Taylor Swift), tracing common themes through the years. She also does a nice job of relating her own personal experiences without overwhelming the overall narrative.

David Lee Roth said in a m
...more
Cynth
There are insights into my fourteen-year old self here that would have never crossed my mind, like how the Spice Girls could have possible been dreamt up because of Pacific Northwest third-wave feminism. I'm not sure if I believe it, but I also know that it's hard to swallow someone else criticizing your adolescent heroes (riot grrrl's media blackout) or drawing conclusions that it is likely that Huggy Bear influenced Meredith Brooks. Ugh! To think how much I hated mainstream commercial girl-roc ...more
alana
I enjoyed reading this book because I like the topic and could remember much of what the author discussed. She makes some interesting observations on the evolution of women’s participation in the American music scene in the 1990s. She also, in passing, highlights how the role of the internet in today’s music scene could radically affect feminism as expressed through music.

Unfortunately, this is not a fabulous read. The information is scattered and patchy. Quotations are overused and cut and pas
...more
Florinda
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� ...more
Genevieve
I wanted to like this book more than I did. As a member of the generation that was too young for riot grrrl or other 90s 'angry women' musicians at the time, but who listens to and appreciates them now, I was hoping to find some insight into the cultural context of this music, and perhaps some feminist analysis of the relationships between different models of girl-oriented music. But while Girl Power pieces together a decently complete sketch of the period, its analysis is pretty shallow, and no ...more
Elysabeth
Ahhhh the 90s -- I was WAY too young to appreciate Riot Grrrl in my time, and just a HAIR too young to go to Lilith Fair (my mom wanted me to go on a family vacation instead!), but I know that I appreciated it all from afar, and this book really allowed me to connect with the history and the legacy left behind by the women's revolution in 90s music. I think I've come to realize that current music (pop, rock or otherwise) has definitely lost its "edge" and its political bent, but reading this boo ...more
Julie
I struggled between giving this book 3 and 4 stars. It was a fast, almost couldn't-put-it-down read; Meltzer is a very good writer; the book was thoughtful and raises a handful of thought provoking points; and I liked her cautiously optimistic approach to feminism.

In some ways, the books strengths also prompted its weaknesses. The book was a fast read because it was 150 pages, but 150 pages was nowhere near enough to cover the breadth of material she does. Meltzer examines the emergence of the c
...more
Amy
Mar 23, 2010 Amy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: grrrls and ladies, but probably not womyn
Shelves: 2010-resolution
Well, I liked it. Sometimes I liked it less than other times, but it was a pretty solid read. Readers expecting a definitive history of Riot Grrrl will be disappointed, as this is (mostly) Meltzer's personal, conflicted and affectionate history with the lady-made music of the 90s and beyond. But reading this book often felt like talking to my best girlfriend about the music and activism of our wilder years. But WTF with Ani DiFranco only getting half a page?

Ahem. So anyway. The book starts with
...more
John
I was absolutely enthralled by Meltzer's account of the idea of feminism in music throughout the 90's, from queercore to riot grrrl (3 "r"s, of course) to femcore to the Spice Girls (my first concert ever, don't laugh) to the Pop Tarts (Spears, Simpson, Moore, Aguilera before she broke away and started working for the cause) and finally what we have today, the Gagas, the Newsoms, and the rest. It really made me wish I was born just 5-6 years earlier so I could experience the riot grrrl movement ...more
Pam
This is a book in part about music I love--Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill, Hole, Liz Phair. After all the positive press this book garnered on my corner of the internet, I was really looking forward to reading it. But I suspect if you have more than a glancing familiarity with female musicians from the 90s--riot grrrls or Jewel/Alanis/Joan Osbourne/Meredith Brooks, whatever, you will find it wanting. Basically a list in prose form of the decade's female musicians, it seems to save its deepest analy ...more
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Marisa Meltzer is author of Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music and co-author of How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time. Yes, she really loves the nineties that much.

As a freelance writer, her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Elle, Slate, New York Magazine, Teen Vogue, and many other publications. She has covered such diverse topics
...more
More about Marisa Meltzer...
How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time

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“An avowed feminist activist and an outspoken bisexual, DiFranco has been candid about the necessity of women musicians identifying with the F-word. "Either you are a feminist or you are a sexist/misogynist," she once wrote. "There is no box marked 'other'".” 3 likes
“But wouldn't [the Spice Girls] have shown a little bit more solidarity if they had at least called themselves feminists? The feminist activist Jennifer Pozner was more dismissive,writing that it was "probably a fair assumption to say that 'zigazig-ha' is not Spice shorthand for 'subvert the dominant paradigm.” 1 likes
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