I unabashedly label myself a feminist. I’ve experienced some terrible treatment due to my gender, including when I was pretty young, but I know I’ve grown up in what is historically one of the best countries/times for women, so I’ve been wondering how I became so passionate. Injustice has always bothered me, and there’s never really one thing that contributes wholly to a personality trait or belief, but I’ve come to the conclusion that a big part my feminism’s origin story is rooted in one kinda strange thing: 90s music.
The first CD I ever owned was Meredith Brooks’ Blurring the Edges. (Well, that and the first Pure Moods album. I was a weird kid.) I was 10 when “Bitch” was at the top of the Billboard charts, and I knew every word. I listened to the entire album on repeat which came to be my biggest pastime, and I absorbed the words. I say absorbed like some pretentious douchebag because it was more than just memorizing what she was saying, even though a lot of it I couldn’t really understand (what 10 year old really gets the complexity of the Pollyanna principle?), but these concepts of wanting more, wanting to be heard, struggling against this force that didn’t have a name but constantly held you down, that was all there, and it helped me to later understand feelings that cropped up when some old guy catcalled me at thirteen or when someone I was supposed to respect insisted that women were literally less human than men in (their) god’s eyes.
Those sentiments were pretty prolific in a lot of the music at the time. Squashed between the 80s and 00s, two arguably similar decades that seemed to follow this borderline vacuous, we’re-gonna-live-forever, corporate-controlled mindset, the 90s define the word alternative. But where the 70s acted like a transition from the break in conservatism that was the 60s into the much more progressive 80s, the 90s didn’t ultimately do the same thing. There’s so much growth in pop culture during this time, but then the 00s took a huge step, not necessarily back, but in a totally different direction.
So I did some digging through my old CDs and with the help of Sirius XM’s 90s on 9, I’ve come up with I guess what you can call a playlist which I present to you with a tiny bit of commentary. Forgive some of these being from the 00s – my musical education has always been anachronistic.
(The titles below are all links but apparently my CSS or whatever isn’t setup to show you that because that makes total sense? Why would I want my reader to know some random words are actually a link? Aren’t WordPress themes just THE BEST?)
- Meredith Brooks – “Bitch“
- Shawn Colvin – “Sunny Came Home“
- Shawn refers to this as a “murder ballad” which is just beautiful.
- Spice Girls – “Say You’ll Be There“
- I could easily write a thesis on these ladies. Despite what people would consider problematic about them today, they taught me about girl power and for that I’m eternally grateful.
- Natalie Imbruglia – “Torn“
- “Torn” is actually a cover, but there really isn’t any pop music that doesn’t owe something to the Scandinavians
- Sheryl Crow – “If It Makes You Happy“
- Something about being caged and on exhibit.
- Paula Cole – “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone“
- Another of my very first CDs was This Fire which I was totally shocked to see a naked Paula on the cover. I’d seen a lot of naked women by the time I was 10 because, well, they’re everywhere, but something about this cover didn’t scream sexualization to me. I can’t confirm this, but I always felt she chose that image.
- Imani Coppola – “Legend of a Cowgirl“
- If you only watch one of these videos, please make it this one. The gender subversion is amazing.
- No Doubt – “Just A Girl“
- “Don’t you think I know / Exactly where I stand” has always stood out (ha) to me in a world where everyone will tell you just how invalid your own experiences are.
- Fiona Apple – “Criminal“
- I was asked by someone who knew me when I was young how I got to be so morbid and obsessed with creepy things now, and I think the answer is the demon eyes in this video.
- Jewel – “Who Will Save Your Soul“
- Jewel wrote this at 16 when she was hitchhiking across America. WTF.
- Alanis Morisette – “You Oughta Know“