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

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  704 ratings  ·  108 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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Rebecca McNutt
It's a sad point we've hit in time where we're trying to claim that Roseanne Barr of all people is a "feminist trailblazer" (she's more of a crass and trashy failure; was she the one who compared Valerie Jarrett to an ape?), but I digress. I'll give 90s Bitch some credit; my childhood was stuck in the 1990's as we never had cable or satellite television and lived in a small town where all this stuff was just new to us in the early 2000's, so this was a very nostalgic book for me. The pop culture ...more
Michael
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
...more
Neville Longbottom
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, nonfiction
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
...more
Melissa
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
Siria
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 ...more
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!
Emma
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
...more
Jennifer
Jan 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Well that was depressing.

I would liked to have seen more in the way of positive developments... TV shows and characters, artists, movies... Anytime she sort of mentioned one she brushed it off and moved on. Still, she covered a lot of stuff I barely remembered or viewed differently when I was growing up in it.
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 ...more
Devyn
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received this book from Goodreads.

90s Bitch: Media, Culture, and the Failed Promise of Gender Equality is not exactly what I would call a "thoroughly engaging" read. I don't consider the unfair treatment of my gender in any time period a pleasurable read, particularly not when it involves the very recent past and my very own childhood, but I do believe it is an important subject to examine to understand the success the women's rights movement had on future generations and to closely document
...more
Veronica
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 ...more
Avolyn Fisher
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019
The beginning of this book threatens to ruin the 90s era that I hold dear, and I was relieved to find that the book was simply too poorly put together to succeed in any unraveling of my childhood.

The first half of the book discusses women in television and the roles they played that emphasized a certain type of woman that Yarrow argues, were examples of the decades quest for 'bitchification.' And while I agree that yes, women were often too thin and eating disorders were somewhat glorified, and
...more
Alex
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 ...more
Elizabeth
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
...more
Jasmine LaBine
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great content. Do NOT listen to the audiobook. Narration is terrible. Weird vocal patterns and SUPER slow. I had it on 1.75x speed.

But for anyone who loves 90s pop culture like I do, it’s well written and very enjoyable.
Kate
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". This
...more
Poonam
Jul 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: girl-power
There is so much great analysis in this book and it’s well worth the read. It provides a lot of context and you can see a direct line from what happened in the 90s to where we are today. I’m giving it only 3 stars because there’s so much missing. I wanted more depth in how the media and corporations manipulated feminism for their own gain. It dives deep in the cultural response and impact, but leaves a lot to be desired on the media framework -who’s running it (i.e. white men) and what was left ...more
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 ...more
Grumpybookworm
Dec 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019
Ok I have thoughts on this that I need to unpack. Here we go....

This was a bit disappointing because everything in this book was stuff that has already been talked about, and that if you're over 30, you lived through. I'm someone who has always been interested in and followed the ways culture has evolved. Call me crazy, but I think anyone who has followed the culture over the years already knows the issues, problems, and misconceptions that were present in the 90's. This didn't burst any bubbles
...more
Niamh
Apr 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
I am a 90s baby, but I was a 2000s/2010s teenager, so I am perhaps not the target demographic for this nostalgia laden book that examines everything from Gwen Stefani and the Spice Girls to Beverly Hills 90210 and American Girl Dolls. However, I do think it’s rather brilliant in its own way because, as Yarrow points out in the epilogue, the differences between the 1990s and the 2010s are very, very slim.

This book is almost like a companion to Sady Doyle’s ‘Trainwreck’, if you just want to focus
...more
Lance Eaton
Yarrow's jaunt down the 1990s through the prism of gender is so much better than any CNN documentary. She delves into how gender was represented in media and culture throughout the 1990s from Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place to the sexual scandals of Clarence Thomas and Bill Clinton to the female music icons (Gwen Stefani, Courtney Love, Fiona Apple, Britney Spears, and others) to the murder trial of OJ Simpson and Marsha Clark. It's a cornucopia of reflections around the many different ...more
Moira
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I found this to be a well researched (mostly) fast paced read. There were times that I wished the writer had expanded an idea. It would be a good starting point for anyone interested in the evolution of how society looked at American women during this era. While we have come far there is still a long way to go towards gender equality. Some sections were more difficult to read than others, as the blatant sexism of the time was felt with every word. However, if did you grow up in the 90s the ...more
Simone
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
...more
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.
Lauren
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,” ...more
Maura
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
An insightful and thought provoking read about media and feminism during my formative adolescent years.
Lauren
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
...more
Annie
Mar 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Overall, a nice summary of the 90s' treatment of women. I do wish Yarrow had gone into more depth on several issues - most of the women/situations she discusses seem to have the same generalizations.
Jake
Sep 14, 2019 rated it liked it
She was fantastic in the breadth of her coverage of the 90s, but I was hoping for more depth in her analysis and a more cohesive argument across the text itself. Overall, though, I’d rate this somewhere between three and four stars for the sheer level of detail on display. Fantastic read.
Mathilde
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
2.5

Definitely some interesting points / analysis but mostly it is disjointed and reads a bit like a school paper.

I could be biased though because I listened to it on audio and the narration was so bad that it was distracting.
...more
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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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