Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music

by Lisa Kirchner

The Fabulous Stains or Spice World? Britney or Bikini Kill? No matter if your poison is punk or pop, How Sassy Changed My Life co-author Marisa Meltzer attempts to link the two seemingly opposite cultures under one genre in her new book, Girl Power.

Meltzer begins in Olympia, WA, in the early 1990s, where as a student at Evergreen State College, she witnessed riot grrrl sheroes such as Sleater-Kinney and Bratmobile making musical history by empowering young women to pick up guitars, pen zines, and deconstruct feminism. Meltzer weaves personal anecdotes together with interviews of key players such as Tobi Vail from Bikini Kill, and then she moves forward, chronicling a sequential legacy of female artists including Madonna, Courtney Love, and Alanis Morissette, eventually landing at Britney Spears and girl-power poster band the Spice Girls. Meltzer argues that although the term girl power has been commodified, its musical roots can be traced back to the riot grrrls and that the true heart of the grrrl movement, female empowerment, is still very much alive and screaming. The fact that Meltzer has been both spectator and participant in her subject matter allows her to offer some very keen observations, and her book is intimately written. If its a little difficult to believe that, music-wise, Kathleen Hanna is the great-great-grandmother of Hannah Montana, Meltzer at least throws down a strong case, and her openness to different forms of feminism should make all sistas take note–and want to dust off their electric guitars.

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