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Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music

3.53  ·  Rating Details  ·  640 Ratings  ·  89 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 Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Girls to the Front by Sara MarcusClothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, B... by Viv AlbertineGirl Power by Marisa MeltzerDifferent for Girls by Louise WenerDrugs are Nice by Lisa Crystal Carver
Feminism and Music
3rd out of 52 books — 15 voters
No One Here Gets Out Alive by Danny SugermanThe Dirt by Tommy LeeThe Heroin Diaries by Nikki SixxScar Tissue by Anthony KiedisThe Long Hard Road Out of Hell by Marilyn Manson
Best Books on Rock and Roll
237th out of 558 books — 964 voters

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Community Reviews

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Caitlin Constantine
Apr 11, 2010 Caitlin Constantine rated it liked it
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
Larry-bob Roberts
Mar 24, 2010 Larry-bob Roberts rated it liked it
Shelves: women-in-music
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
Mar 02, 2010 Melanie rated it it was ok
Shelves: music, 2010
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
Apr 25, 2010 Ciara rated it really liked it
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
Jun 24, 2010 jess rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010, ladyish, zines
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
Nov 20, 2009 Lauren rated it really liked it
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
Aug 24, 2010 Jayne Lamb rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 22, 2013 Abilouise rated it liked it
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
Feb 15, 2010 matt rated it it was ok
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.
Sean O'Hara
A majorly disappointing book. Rather than attempting anything like an overview of the era, the author focuses on bands that she happens to like, with the result that she spends more time on The Spice Girls than PJ Harvey or Tori Amos. Worse still, when she does address parts of the wider picture that don't meet her taste -- mainly with groups too popular too ignore -- she lets her biases overwhelm her assessment.

So, for instance, when talking about the mega-hit female acts of the mid-90s (Alani
Mar 02, 2015 Sandee rated it liked it
I am definitely torn about this one and I think I am leaning more toward a 2.5 rating. As a huge fan of riot grrrl and of women in music in general, I was excited to hear opinions and insights from women I love. I was especially excited about how much Lois Maffeo showed up throughout the book (huge fan). And considering I just saw Sleater Kinney two days ago, the closing chapter about their influence was especially well timed.

That being said, I didn't learn too much I haven't already heard. Also
Erinn Maine
Jun 28, 2015 Erinn Maine rated it did not like it
This is one of the worst books I have read. You can tell from the first page that she was just dying to be the coolest riot grrrl who ever existed and even though she picked her college based on the local music scene, it just didn't happen. Meltzer would have been happy writing an entire book just about riot grrrl, but because of the genre's self-inflicted media blackout she couldn't score an interview. She's a huge Wannabe (pun-intended). She's not cool enough to be an actual riot grrrl herself ...more
Aug 02, 2011 Sheba rated it it was ok
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
Feb 14, 2010 Veronica rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
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
Mandy Jo
Sep 12, 2011 Mandy Jo rated it liked it
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
Jun 11, 2010 Lidia rated it it was ok
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 much explanatory stuff and so little analysis.

Plus, blowing off the experiences of women of color
Laura Stone
Jan 13, 2012 Laura Stone rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
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
What with my writer-girl crush on Marisa Meltzer and 90s Chick Music obsession, I had to read this book. I don't know if I was expecting to already know most of what was in it, but that's how it felt at the end. The only really new insight I got was the whole trans-camp scene at Michigan Womyn's Festival. That was cool. (On the other hand, MM writes about her experience there just a few years ago, so it wasn't really '90s.) I feel as if the book needed to be a whole lot longer to get the kind of ...more
Julia Bennett
Oct 22, 2015 Julia Bennett rated it liked it
This book wasn't quite what I thought it would be, but I enjoyed it. I liked reading about riot grrls who share their thoughts and memories of girls in bands of the late 80's/early 90's. It was interesting to read about zines and how far they could spread throughout the States, as I just missed zines (although they are making a comeback thanks to DIY online shops like etsy).

It wasn't entirely what I thought it would be, but it was an interesting read nonetheless. I think this would be a great r
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.
Selena Fanning
Dec 04, 2015 Selena Fanning rated it really liked it
Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music not only was very informational but fun to read. Meltzer provided personal experience (along with many others) in the movement without having totally biased content. This book talked about many popular and not so popular artists that embraced "Girl Power", from Bikini Kill and The Spice Girls. I would have liked the book to provide pictures but overall I think it is great for anyone learning about music history and/or feminism. If you are interested i ...more
Mar 26, 2014 Nico rated it liked it
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
Apr 19, 2010 K. rated it did not like it
After reading this I have to make a list of alternate heroines so that I don't get even more depressed.
Elevate Difference
Feb 26, 2010 Elevate Difference rated it liked it
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
Aug 16, 2010 Susan rated it liked it
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
Dec 26, 2011 Laura rated it liked it
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
Jan 22, 2013 Anna rated it really liked it
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
Jun 30, 2010 Cynth rated it liked it
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
Aug 07, 2012 alana rated it liked it
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
Mar 30, 2012 Florinda rated it liked it
By the time I heard about the riot-grrrl movement of the early 1990s, 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 20s, 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 a ...more
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  • Cinderella's Big Score: Women of the Punk and Indie Underground
  • The Riot Grrrl Collection
  • Feminism and Pop Culture
  • She's a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock and Roll
  • Pretty in Punk: Girl's Gender Resistance in a Boy's Subculture
  • Violence Girl: East L.A. Rage to Hollywood Stage, a Chicana Punk Story
  • No More Nice Girls: Countercultural Essays
  • Sisterhood, Interrupted: From Radical Women to Grrls Gone Wild
  • How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time
  • Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution
  • A Girl's Guide to Taking Over the World: Writings From The Girl Zine Revolution
  • She Bop: The Definitive History of Women in Rock, Pop & Soul
  • Rock She Wrote: Women Write about Rock, Pop, and Rap
  • The Bust Guide to the New Girl Order
  • Milk It: Collected Musings on the Alternative Music Explosion of the '90s
  • Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism
  • We Don't Need Another Wave: Dispatches from the Next Generation of Feminists
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 about Marisa Meltzer...

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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'".” 4 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.” 2 likes
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