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

five stars black
Genre: Nonfiction, Feminism 
Publisher: Harper Perennial 
Pages: 397
Release Date: June 19, 2018

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, challenge power, or defy rigid expectations for female behavior.


Deeply researched yet thoroughly engaging, 90s Bitch untangles the complex history of women in the 1990s, exploring how they were maligned by the media, vilified by popular culture, and objectified in the marketplace. In an age where even a presidential nominee can be derided as a “nasty woman,” it’s clear that the epidemic of casting women as bitches persists. To understand why we must take a long, hard look back at the 1990s—a decade in which female empowerment was twisted into bitchification and exploitation.


Yarrow’s thoughtful, clear-eyed, and timely examination is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand gender politics and how we might end the “bitch epidemic” for the next generation.


The moment I was made aware of 90s Bitch, I knew I had to read it. Some say that being born in 1992 makes me a 90s child, but I don’t remember much from the 90s and the things I do remember are from the late 90s. 90s Bitch offered me the chance to learn about 90s culture through a feminist lens.

90s Bitch covered sex, violence, workplace, and other topics through specific women. There are portions of the book that focused on Hillary Clinton, the first bitch, Monica Lewinsky, Marcia Clark, Courtney love, Roseanne Barr, and others. The way these women were treated because of their appearances or behaviors serve as examples of the bitchifaction of women who did not fit the traditional female role.

The chapters that focused on Hillary Clinton and Marcia Clark were the chapters that resonated with me the most. After closely following the 2016 presidential election and assuming, like everyone else, Clinton’s inevitable success, I was crushed and bewildered thinking that women had finally gained footing in the battle for equality only to be cruelly reminded otherwise. After 90s Bitch, I have a new appreciation for Clinton and her relentless determination to break the ultimate glass ceiling. Clinton was dragged through the mud for her appearance, intelligence, and ambition. Even when she caved to  conform to the medias’ relentless abuse, she was still criticised. Sure, Clinton has made mistakes, but name me a male of equivalent stature that was treated just as poorly and has still not been forgiven to this day.

Yarrow divided 90s Bitch into chapters based on a specific topics like sex, workplace, anger, femininity, violence, etc. Though all the topics are related to one another, Yarrow’s writing is clear and concise as she makes her arguments and proves them tenfold. The many quotes found throughout 90s Bitch have not aged well and if these people are not ashamed then Yarrow’s point is proven further.

 

“We now know not to be surprised by today’s misogyny, because it was seeded and cultivated decades ago when bitchifying any woman, every women, was just the way things were. Knowing this history is how we stop it from repeating. We can actually put our 90s nostalgia to potent use.”


I wish we could say that the 90s were what women expected when 1992 was named The Year of Women. I wish we could say that with every subsequent year women made irrefutable strides that still stand today. Unfortunately, 90s Bitch tells the story of how the media shaped the angry Grrl Power movement into the more subtle and less powerful Girl Power movement into the beginning of the 2000s’ tendency to hyper-sexualized young women with the introduction of Britney Spears.

Overall, 90s Bitch is an infuriating account of the 90s through a feminist lens as it recounts the strides women made in the battle for equality and the relentless attacks the media delivered to those on the frontlines. Today’s continued battle for equality is informed by the past, so it’s important to remember that the sacrifices made today are worth it for a better tomorrow. 

Have you read 90s Bitch? What did you think?

3 thoughts on “90s Bitch: Media, Culture, and the Failed Promise of Gender Equality – Allison Yarrow

  1. This sounds like a must read, I’m glad you reviewed it. I’m angry just reading your review! I’ve always been a big Hilary fan, I respect her so much for getting so far in what is still a man’s world.

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