Everything '90s is currently enjoying a renaissance - and I'm not just talking about the clothes. It's been a few months now since I started coming across discussions on 90s culture on Tumblr and on the blogs I read.
We have 90sWoman, the blog where Kara Jesella and Ada Calhoun discuss being female in the 90s and just how awesome it was. A new generation of viewers is enjoying My So-Called Life and Daria. 14-year-old fashionista Tavi Gevinson, is longing for a teen magazine just like the now-legendary Sassy, which folded before she was born. And you can’t escape blog posts which discuss the female musicians of the decade in awed tones.
It's so easy to get completely immersed in waxing lyrical about just how amazing things were back then. I mean, we're talking about the decade of riot grrrl and DIY. The decade when feminism was right-on, men were progressive and geeks, outcasts and the alternative crowd bonded over zines and the first wave of personal websites, right?
Over a decade on, it becomes easy to romanticise 90s culture and look at it through rose-tinted spectacles, especially when you consider how things have changed. I’ve seen a lot of young women writing online recently about how they feel their generation has no real ‘underground’ or ‘subversive’ scene. The accessibility of the internet has meant that everything remotely alternative becomes ‘trendy’ and ‘overdone’ – look at Myspace and the young people whose internet use it has shaped.
Being a ‘geek’ has been ‘cool’ for a good few years now, but as Tavi pointed out, we now live in a world where Disney markets manufactured ‘alternative’ teen starlets and rebelling against the mainstream IS the mainstream.
Her posts about Sassy magazine elicited a huge response from women and girls – the women fondly remembering 90s culture and the girls wishing they could buy magazines which cover serious issues, reject a narrow definition of femininity and cover subjects beyond those old advertising-industry approved favourites: fashion and diets.
However, at the same time as idolising the 90s I think it’s important that we shouldn’t write off the current decade and all the opportunities it offers us. We can cringe at the way the internet has made counterculture accessible to all, but we shouldn’t forget that the opportunities for learning, communication and self-discovery it has brought have changed so many lives.
This is particularly pertinent when it comes to music. In recent months I’ve seen numerous pieces on women is the industry, contrasting women in the punk and riot grrrl movements with today’s pop starlets and bemoaning how things have turned out (it was all downhill from the Spice Girls onwards, don’t you know).
We can look up to the heroines of the past but it’s also important that we move on and celebrate the present. Instead of longing for a return to the so-called golden age of talented female musicians with a whole lot to say for themselves, we shouldn’t forget that there are so many talented women out there today with much to contribute.
“Feminism has to move on, salute new icons, be excited by the varieties of archetypes of women in music, be they Gaga or Nite Jewel, that are self-directed, self-produced, not operating under the shadow of a Svengali hand.”
She’s spot on, of course – and her words can be applied not just to the music scene but to the majority of popular culture.
Let’s be nostalgic for the 90s, because let’s face it, so much great stuff came out of that decade. But at the same time, let's not ignore the talent, drive, ambition and achievements of women from the Noughties and beyond - women who are challenging the status quo and doing things their way with amazing success.