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90s Bitch: Media, Culture, and the Failed Promise of Gender Equality

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  307 ratings  ·  51 reviews
The close of the 20th century promised a new era of gender equality. However, the iconic women of the 1990s—such as Hillary Clinton, Courtney Love, Roseanne Barr, Marcia Clark, and Anita Hill—earned their places in history not as trailblazers, but as whipping girls of the media. During this decade, American society grew increasingly hostile to women who dared to speak up, ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published June 19th 2018 by Harper Perennial
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Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
My full review, as well as my other thoughts on reading, can be found on my blog.

Well researched and fast moving, 90s Bitch surveys the cultural landscape of the 1990s from a feminist perspective, with special attention paid to women in television, pop music, and politics. Yarrow argues that, during the 1990s, the media and pop culture increasingly cast any woman who sought power, fame, or sex as a bitch, while also demonizing women's deviation from gender roles in general. The gains of feminism
Jun 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: to-review
3.5 stars. I liked this - it’s a good overview of how conservative backlash and media marketing strategies worked against very high profile women in politics, entertainment, and crime. There are some rough transitions between subjects that I think could have been done better. I feel like some areas could have been fleshed out with more examples - there is a conspicuous absence of Janet Jackson (how can anyone forget her 90s release “Janet”? The “If” video, lordt) and Daria (and there was an easy ...more
Neville Longbottom
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
4.5 ~* Only 90s kids will remember *~ … No, but actually as someone who was born in and grew up in the 90s I wasn’t aware of most of the content in this book while it was happening. 90s Bitch details the way women were treated in the media and pop culture during the 90s and how the promise of gender equality didn’t pan out. I LOVED this book. It gave me so much more of an understanding of sexism and the treatment of women during the 90s.

A lot of the events covered here are things I had a little
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
90s Bitch is brilliant! Once I've opened it, I just could not put it down, it was absolutely riveting.

I was 15 in 1990 so 90s pop culture feels like very familiar territory to me and yet, this book made me realize how much I've missed, all kinds of subtext I just didn't get because I was so young at the time.
90s Bitch provided A LOT of food for thought and also embarked me in a spiral of googling, reading articles, watching old interviews and tv show teasers on Youtube, adding lots of stuff on
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 live ...more
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
First of all the 90's were an interesting time especially for women. Yarrow has done a great job examining the way powerful women of this era were treated through the media and our culture in general. 

The 90's could have been so promising for gender equality. Stand out women that used their voices and spoke up should have been celebrated, instead they were manipulated by the media for breaking the mold of what societies expectations of female behavior was. They were then labeled as "Bitchy". Thi
Danielle Amaddeo
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It’s amazing how much I missed in the media growing up in the 90s. The author challenges you to revisit those times and remember the women who were criticized in a redeeming light. There aren’t any “new” facts, just what the media didn’t want to portray to sell stories at the time. A must-read for all feminists!
Sep 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Putting media depictions of womanhood under a microscope and exploring tropes as male fantasies, 90's Bitch dissects the decade's television hits, cultural trends, and socio-political zeitgeist. From the halls of the U.S. Senate to the court system and Oval Office, Annette Yarrow chronicles the lives of notable career women who came to prominence in the 90's only to face harsh double standards from the media and public. The author has compiled a stream of criticisms from tabloids, news anchors a ...more
Jackie Caldwell
Jul 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
Okay book. The beginning, which deals with the rise of Victoria’s Secret, and the end, which discusses the Girl Power movement, were particularly interesting. The author frequently presents her opinions on situations/women’s personalities as if they are facts. I found this problematic. Additionally, I thought the book leaned too heavily on opinion quotes from newspapers and prominent individuals. There’s always going to be some sexist asshole out there with a platform. The issue isn’t whether so ...more
Jan 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-read

Eh. This was fine but certainly not life-changing. She basically just historicizes all these different very famous people and events from the 90s and reminds you how awful all of these women were treated. Which, while important, is also I feel like happening in some great movies and tv shows (like Confirmation, and The People vs. OJ Simpson). There were definitely people that I hadn't thought a lot about in a while and didn't pay that much attention to in the 90s, (like Paula Cole) so that was i
Sherri Lewis
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was very illuminating and insightful, seeing things from a different perspective. What was the norm then, I never thought about what kind of message was being sent to all the women and girls out there. After reading the book I am a lot more aware and look at things that are out there even now, in a different light. This was a very interesting read.
Jul 06, 2018 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book very badly - I thought it might be a celebration of those who blazed trails while lamenting the ground we’ve lost since Riot Grrrls, Murphy Brown and Sassy magazine ruled the landscape. Yarrow twists that narrative, however, focusing almost exclusively on the negative press 90s heroines/movements received with zero acknowledgement of the very real path they paved for future feminists. It reads like a poorly researched, scornful recap of women “ahead of their time,” whi ...more
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
An insightful and thought provoking read about media and feminism during my formative adolescent years.
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
90s Bitch: Media, Culture, and the Failed Promise of Gender Equality (Paperback)
by Allison Yarrow This is the title on the book.

from the library
90s bitch : the decade that destroyed the modern American woman by Yarrow, Allison, author.
This is the title listed in the library database.

This was written by a journalist. This appears to be written by that type of feminist that is hostile toward everyone and everything. So while I have only read a few chapters and the notes to the whole book, I am no
Jessica Kennedy
Sep 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very thoroughly researched. I had such strong reactions to everything that Yarrow talked about - I was born in the late nineties, so the events of the decade are things that I've heard about and shaped the culture of my youth but neither witnessed nor knew much about. 90s Bitch offers a heartbreaking explanation of recent history from a feminist perspective that is absolutely essential for anyone who wants to understand where we are now and why. For the amount of information covered and referenc ...more
Courtney Townill
Sep 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Everyone always sings along loudly to that lyric in Charli XCX song, 'BUT I'M A 90'S BITCH!' It's almost like it stuck with Yarrow and forced her to question: what WAS a 90's bitch?

90s Bitch is a well researched drop kick into 90's nostalgia. This book shines when Yarrow closely examines the culture as a whole at the time and it's effect on women. It was fascinating reading about the rise in female sexiness expectation with the male-created Victoria's Secret and the help of suburban mall cultur
Marcella Wigg
3.5 stars.

The nineties included the Year of the Woman, featured a presidential administration where women were serving new and more prominent roles, and saw greater parity between the sexes than any previous decade, but, Yarrow argues, it also served as the birth era for a variety of forms of modern misogyny. From the biggest political news stories of the decade (Anita Hill's 1991 Senate testimony about Clarence Thomas and the 1998 Clinton-Lewinsky scandal) to pop culture at large, in 90s Bitch
Aug 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Before I rant, I do want to grant this book an extra star because it was very well-researched and I felt that I did get a clear and comprehensive overview of events that I was too young to remember. It's obvious that a lot of love and time went into this.

In short, I would file this under "didn't need to be a book." This is an examination of the hate and unfairness that all women, but specifically women in the public eye, went through in the 1990s. While Yarrow was usually making solid and though
Cassidy Lunney
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aneeza Rafiq
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Just Brilliant.

I'm neither an American nor a woman who was in her teens in the 90s (I was born in 1992). I was unaware of most of the women discussed in this book (except Britney Spears and the Spice Girls) but a quick google searched helped me learn about them.
The author discusses not just famous women but all women throughout the decade who were 'bitchified' or objectified. The layout of the book is perfect, shifting from politics to entertainment to domestic abuse and Barbie dolls. The words
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Bought this on a whim at Charis Books on Saturday and I highly recommend it, especially to women my age or a little older, who grew up in the 70s and 80s. I was in grad school from 1991-1999 and so wasn’t paying a lot of attention to popular culture. I just assumed the trajectory of women’s equality was continuing on and that my daughters would reap the benefits. When I walked into Toys R Us in 1999, pregnant with daughter #1, I was flabbergasted at the aisles of pink and blue. I thought we were ...more
May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Yarrow examines the way powerful women were treated in the 90s by the media and by the culture at large. She looks at political figures like Hillary Clinton and Janet Reno, musical artists like Courtney Love, women who became sensationalized through court cases like Marcia Clark and Anita Hill, and even the reaction to powerful fictional women like Murphy Brown. This was a really good book that made me really angry about how women were treated and still treated. I remember everything the author ...more
Amanda Perkins
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 Stars

Being approximately the same age as the author, this book hit close to home. Before it was released I had started to question if my memories of the 90s were perhaps a bit too rosy. (Friends 5-10 years my senior had nearly polar opposite feelings about the decade, which caused me to pause and wonder if the pink lenses of childhood were more at play than I realized.) So when this came out, I decided I had to read it. And I enjoyed it; it's well written and well organized. But it was hard
Aug 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This contains really interesting takes on 90s “girl power” and serves as a good reminder that we’re definitely guilty of romanticizing elements of our childhood. But, I will say that the book is primarily focused on white feminist issues, so it barely scratches the surface of the "failed promise of gender equality" in the 90s. I think Queen Latifah, Anita Hill, and TLC are the only mentions of POC in the book. Still, this may be the first book I've read where I'm actually interested in going thr ...more
Oct 17, 2018 rated it liked it
It was sort of nice to go down memory lane as a 90s bitch myself, but the book is basically a catalogue of sexism and sexualization of girls etc rather than anything specific to the 90s. I suppose we could do this every decade, but I was expecting more of an analysis and an embedding the media landscape into the broader cultural feel of the time. Was there something to the Reagan era that made for this milieu of media? Was it war? Backlash? Susan Faludi's Backlash is a classic in the genre becau ...more
Dhruti Bhagat
Oct 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I got an uncorrected proof, so I can't say how much has changed from that to the published version. I liked the topic of this book, and some of the arguments the book presented, but at points I found it hard to follow. Since the book was divided into topics, a person would be mentioned in a previous chapter about sexuality, and then in one about anger, and the two chapters didn't quite reference each other enough for me to be able to hold both arguments in my head. That's my main complaint, that ...more
Well-researched and thorough, this is a good read for those who missed the decade entirely or lived through only a part of the 90s while aware of the societal trends that occurred.

For me, having both lived through it and retained a decent memory of it, the book was quite accurate-- while also being a good bit painful to read. The 90s were definitely unkind to women, and the public humiliation which became the norm with the 24/7 news cycle and reality tv.. Well, each page turn brought a new remin
Dec 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Does not attack racism or explain why that shit's still rampant. That wasn't its goal; just something I wanted to see explained as well as the gender inequality that still persists. If you're into watching your 90s idols crumble under scrutiny, this is the book for you. I enjoyed it, and I'm a few years older than the author so she had more insight into the later 90s pop culture that I wasn't as into (Britney Spears, Lisa Frank). Check out from the library; no need to buy.
Marisa Carpico
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A brutal, confrontational read for any woman who grew up in the ‘90s. Pretty tough to see everything that represents your unconscious foundation revealed as a weapon used to keep you down. All that figurative talk aside, this is brilliantly researched and well-told. The language is blunt and clinical and Yarrow rarely editorializes. I wonder how this will read in 10 years or if those who didn’t live through it all will still find it as compelling.
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The 90s were quite instructive and influential for me. I turned 21 in 1990 and well remember Skategate, Marcia Clark, Courtney Love, Melrose Place, and Monica Lewinsky. It’s been equally instructive to revisit this time as a middle-aged lady rolling toward the mid-century. The 90s were a disappointment for gender equality. I can only hope that women continue to make progress toward equality, but more importantly, continue to stand up for themselves.
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Allison Yarrow is an award-winning journalist and National Magazine Award finalist who has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Vox, and many others. She was a TED resident and is a grantee of the International Women’s Media Foundation. She produced the VICE documentary Misconception and has appeared on the Today show, MSNBC, NPR, and more. Yarrow was raised in Macon, Georgia, and ...more
“Women were expected to be sexual gatekeepers, required to set boundaries for going to bed, and blamed if things went awry.” 0 likes
“Objectification theory” explained that women and girls are “acculturated to internalize an observer’s perspective as a primary view of their physical selves.” Thus, because society values female bodies primarily for their function and consumption, women and girls are more susceptible to suffering as their bodies change, like during puberty, but also due to pregnancy, weight fluctuation, and aging. This objectification enables discrimination, sexual violence, undervaluing women, and depression, the authors wrote.” 0 likes
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