Quick Questions with Marisa Meltzer about Girl Power

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Marisa Meltzer explains the girl pop of the 90s and what's still to come.

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Josh Spilker | June 23, 2010

Marisa Meltzer / Papercuts

Marisa Meltzer / Papercuts

Girl groups in the nineties were, well, diverse. There's everything from riot grrrls to the Spice Girls to girls who love sk8tr bois to the rise of corporately manufactured pop singers. Marisa Meltzer covers all of that in her book, Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music.

Just checked Marisa's Tumblr and she's putting together a zine on Beverly Hills 90210 to come out on 9/02/10. Clever.

Most people would see the riot grrrl movement and something like the Spice Girls at odds with one another, but you bring them together. How are they part of the same movement even though they sound and started from such different points?

The messages of both are, on some level, about uplifting girls, celebrating girlhood, reminding young women that they're powerful. It's kind of like how, when it was revealed that Le Tigre was collaborating with Christina Aguilera, Johanna Fateman said that they “found a ton of common ground in our aim to make upbeat danceable tracks celebrating female friendship, strength, and of course, PARTYING.” I would never call the Spice Girls feminist. And there's no argument that the Spice Girls and riot grrrl come from different places–politically and musically–but I don't find them at odds with each other.

There's an interesting quote from a Spice Girls fan in your book, saying about the Spice Girls that “It wasn't women power, and it wasn't female power, it was girl power.” Does the idea of it just being 'girl power' or 'riot grrrl' delimit the power adult females have once they've grown up? Is that power just for girls?

I am 32 and I still think of myself as a girl. It's less about age than about the cultural construct of being a girl and what that entails. When I think of “female,” I think of it as just being Not a Boy. When I think of “women,” I think of being a responsible adult who probably owns several pantsuits. But when I think of “girl,” I think of malls and sleepovers and gossip and pop music. Calling something girly was almost pejorative because it was about frivolity. The Spices and the riot grrrl bands were saying that you didn't have to reject one side of yourself in order to be angry or in order to be taken seriously. In that sense, it's not age-specific.

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