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

Book cover to 90s Bitch by Allison Yarrow
90s Bitch: Media, Culture, and the Failed Promise of Gender Equality by Allison Yarrow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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 issues that arose and as someone who grew up in the 1990s, I appreciated this renewed look at how gender played out in politics, pop culture, and even education. It helped me understand some of the more problematic assumptions or thoughts that I had at the time and where they came from. Yarrow's skill is in her multipronged approach of given the context of events and people and then levelling myriad quotes from media at the time to show the narrative arcs that were often put upon the women (for instance, she traces out how the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan contained various cultural narratives around catfights, ice princesses, low-class/sexualize/trashy girls, and spoiled brats) and often, following up with interviews from the those involved in events at the time. Finally, so much of what Yarrow discusses resonates with the 2010s, especially post-2016--a point that even she recognizes at the conclusion of the book.

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