Jessica Wakeman interviewed Diablo Cody—and finding out that Cody is a year younger than me made me feel old and under-accomplished, I’ll tell you what—and they had this exchange that stuck with me:
The Frisky: Do you still consider yourself a Riot Grrl?
DC: I’m an old Riot Grrl. (laughs) There’s a lot of us out there—we have our faded tattoos and still wear baby doll dresses!
The Frisky: Yeah, it sucks pop culture so is not like that anymore.
DC: I think it goes in cycles. Right now, we are in a cycle where it is cool to be meticulously groomed and starving to death and listen to really cheesy music. It’s unfortunate! But these are the times we’re living in. [Riot Grrl will] eventually come back around—it always does.
The Frisky: Damn, I wish I hadn’t missed it.
DC: I feel bad that you missed it. There was a time when you’d turn on MTV at prime time and they’d be playing an L7 video—these are women who would take out their tampons and throw them at the audience! Can you imagine that on MTV now, interrupting “The Hills”? Things have definitely changed!
Let me tell you, Jessica, that Cody ain’t lying. There’s a reason that there hasn’t been a new version of Sassy magazine to emerge, because outside of the lonely blog world, I fear that feminism isn’t as mainstream as it seems it was in the 90s. I tweeted about this, but the other day the movie “Tank Girl” came on TV. Now I remember “Tank Girl” as a light, fluffy movie that’s fun to watch but doesn’t necessarily have any more going on. And that’s true! But it is a light, fluffy comic romp that just so happens to center around two female action heroes that look suspiciously Riot Girl-ish for women supposedly living so far into the future. (The artist for the comic book also does the drawings for Gorillaz.) As such, Marc and I found it very hard to pull ourselves away from the movie. Outside of Quentin Tarantino movies, how often do you see women just out there kicking ass and it’s not A Statement? I mean, there’s lots of jokes in the movie that rely on mocking sexism, but “Tank Girl” isn’t setting out to be a feminist statement. Feminism is just assumed. I remember back then that even Rush Limbaugh was less hateful to “feminazis” than he is now, because it was that hard to push against a movement that was becoming mainstream. Maybe I have rose-colored glasses—I’m sure I do—but I don’t even remember there being any hand-wringing about having two! whole! women! on the Supreme Court. Contrast that to the reaction to Sotomayor’s nomination, with a number of male writers and pundits acting like having 22% of the Supreme Court female means we’ve turned into a fascist matriarchy, and that rounding up men to be kept on sperm farms was the next step.
And of course, “Tank Girl” had a kick ass soundtrack put together by Courtney Love. With L7 on it, of course. A great song, too: “Shove”.
I recently reviewed the 90s nostalgia/marriage memoir by Rob Sheffield called Love Is a Mix Tape, and this passage towards the end really captures how impressed I was by his feminist sensibilities when regarding the 90s.
I remember the summer of 1996, at a drunken wedding with one of my professors, a Hendrix-freak baby boomer, when was complaining about the “bullet-in-the-head rock and roll” the kids were listening to today, and he asked Renée [Renée Crist—Sheffield’s late wife], “What does rock and roll have today that it didn’t have in the sixties?” Renée said, “Tits,” which in retrospect strikes me as not a bad one-word off-the-dome answer at all. Teh nineties fad for indie rock overlapped precisely with the nineties fad for feminism. The idea of a pop culture that was pro-girl, or even just not anti-girl—that was a 1990s mainstream dream, rather than a 1980s or 2000s one, and it was real for a while. Music was just part of it but leading the way—hard to believe, hard even to remember. But some of us do.
The “not anti-girl” thing is what is the most poignant to me. I was YouTubing L7 videos recently, as I’m wont to do on occasion, and I found a version of “Fast and Frightening” with Dave Grohl picking up drums for them at a live show because their drummer was out of town.
And what struck me was how natural it was. It doesn’t seem like he’s coming off some high male perch to bestow his almighty presence on the cute little ladies. Fuck, L7 rocked harder than Nirvana, and so obviously he’s just having a good time playing at being fucking metal, as Grohl loves to do. And that’s what I want, that sense that men and women can just be and do things together and it’s all cool and there’s no weirdness about it. Coming of age in the 90s, I think, instilled in me the belief that this is how it should be.
What happened, Pandagonians? Where did it all go wrong?