5 Things About The '90s That Were Weirdly Feminist
One could think of a million reasons why the '90s (or most any decade, really) worked against the progress that feminists have been trying to make for years; but I would argue that there were also, in fact, several things about the '90s that were weirdly feminist. These were transformative years in every way: Music, fashion, technology, film, TV — they were all going through their own journey, ultimately having an undeniable effect on feminism and gender roles.
It sounds contradictory, I know. Trust me — I can remember growing up as a child of the '90s. Little girls played with Barbie and Cabbage Patch Kids; little boys played with Super Soakers and Creepy Crawlers. Little girls dressed up as princesses; little boys dressed up as superheroes. Right?
Well, maybe not. And let's not forget Madonna wearing a cone bra and dancing provactively onstage. Always remember the episode of Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air where Queen Latifah played Will's latest love interest, even though she wasn't his "type." And never, ever, ever forget the pink and yellow Power Rangers, who showed that chicks can kick some major butt.
And that wasn't all. The '90s brought us even more things that were surprisingly feminist. Like, for example, these:
1. The Girl Who Turned Into Goo
Alex Mack's life essentially turns into one giant science experiment after she's splashed with a strange chemical that gives her powers, including telekinesis, zapping electricity from her fingertips, and turning into a puddle of water. This sounds more like the plot of a present-day superhero movie... with a man definitely in the spotlight. However, this science fiction-y kids' show put a sassy, brilliant girl in the center who bucked all the gender norms you can think of. Heck yes.
2. Women Changing The Music Game
How was '90s music not feminist?! In 1995, Alanis Morissette took out all her breakup frustrations in the ultimate breakup song, "You Oughta Know." Britney Spears stepped out in all the best midriff-baring outfits and sang about sexy things. Destiny's Child totally changed the game of all-girl groups, coordinating outfits, and female empowerment. One might argue that these groups had the exact opposite effect of promoting feminism: Pop singers using their sexuality to sell records? Women letting it rip about being hurt by an ex-lover? But that is exactly the point: They proved that you can be successful, artistic, powerful, all while owning their sexuality and being a normal woman.
3. All These Fantastic Film And TV Characters
Roseanne was completely inappropriate, totally self-sufficient, and didn't take any crap from anybody. Daria was unenthusiastic, overtly sarcastic, and nothing like other girls. Lisa Simpson was smart as a whip and played the saxophone, for crying out loud. And what about Kat from 10 Things I Hate About You? And Jessie Spano from Saved By The Bell? Xena the Warrior Princess. Hermione Granger. The '90s had the ultimate fem-tagonists. No lies.
4. All Of The '90s Witches
The '90s were iconic for a multitude of reasons, one of which was the witching trend that took over TV and film. Both good and evil, female witches came from every direction — from Charmed and Sabrina The Teenage Witch, to The Craft and Practical Magic. These women were anything but frail, vulnerable, and desperate. What made them even cooler is that romantic relationships often took a backseat to the bonds between the women themselves.
5. Awesome Gender Neutral Toys
Believe it or not, there were some surprisingly feminist products aimed at young boys and girls. Zillions magazine taught kids everywhere about the importance of understanding money, for example. Then there was Gak, which was more so marketed as a gender-neutral toy, while other "gross" purchases like Creepy Crawlers were almost entirely aimed at little boys. Now, there's nothing wrong with digging "gross" stuff if you're a boy or liking princesses and dolls if you're a girl; but there's also nothing wrong with digging "gross" stuff if you're a girl or liking princesses and dolls if you're a boy. Or not identifying as strictly a girl or a boy at all. The point is, having gender neutral toys as an option is equally important, and the '90s had them in spades.