Getting their due: Misogyny and Women in music in the 80s/90s

Yes. It’s an amazing song, a brutal song. But no one is going to honor it as a unique truth.


I don’t understand what you mean here. Because the story is unfortunately very common?


I mean it’s a common story for women, but our society denies that reality?

The music industry in the 90s was dominated by men and it continues to be the truth.


Although not 90’s artists specifically, the experiences of music industry exploitation, manipulation and suppression as recounted by both Buffy Sainte-Marie and Joni Mitchell come to mind on this topic.


Too true. Alanis may have reached the charts with that album, but there was a ton of misogyny and insulting comedic takes of her work, not to mention attempts to tear her down based on the fact she was much more pop sounding a few years earlier. As if that mattered and artists didn’t change their sound every few years. They fact the women were laughed at because they were “overplayed” is exactly the problem. Who was laughing at Nirvana or Pearl Jam for being overplayed? Was anyone mocking Eddie Vetter for the clear navel-gazing depression of his lyrics, or the incel take of Jeremy? Not that I remember. Yeah, Weird Al did one of his patented takes on a Nirvana tune, but that’s not quite the same thing.

And the Riot Grrl movement was absolutely attacked by the sexists they competed with for air time and venue space, and never got the due they deserved. There isn’t a single rock movement of the 90’s I appreciated more than those bands. I keep a special station on Pandora for The Slits, Sleater-Kinney, Veruca Salt, The Muffs, etc.


On the UK release at least, “Me and a Gun” was the last but one song, with no unusually long pause before it.

It should be mandatory listening for everyone who ever said of a sexual assault, “Why didn’t she fight back?”

Me and Jesus a few years back used to hang
And he said “It’s your choice babe just remember
I don’t think you’ll be back in three days time so you choose well”


And was it listed on the liner notes?

In the States, it was just a surprise, if you happened to let the album play and didn’t shut it off immediately at the end of the ‘last’ song.

That’s on the full album, not the single, of course.


Yes, on the liner notes, with lyrics.

Just to check: we are talking about Little Earthquakes, right? I thought that was her debut album, but I guess I could be wrong.


You reminded me of this:


The reaction by so many critics at the time to Jagged Little Pill and specifically the song Ironic became forever linked in my mind to another less important but still revealing cultural happening.

It was a few years after the release of JLP that NYT Book Review published a piece about a guy named Jebediah Purdy. I think the title of the review was “Against Irony”, or maybe it was the title of the guy’s essay, but in my memory NYT made him out to be a modern day Thoreau. Took him very seriously. And his observations were just the most unselfconsciously sanctimonious, condescending and privileged observations about culture you could imagine.

Even though there was no clear link that I can remember between the two things, the phenomenon of male music (or non-music) critics bloviating about Alanis’s use of the term ironic seemed in retrospect like a precursor to the later bloviator. Instead of dealing with Alanis’s music honestly, male critics (and a lot of men in general) focused on critiquing her speech and arguing she didn’t understand irony, labeled her “emotional,” “irrational,” etc.


Indigo Girls, nominated for Best New Artist Grammy Award in 1990. Who won that year? Milli :face_with_symbols_over_mouth: Vanilli. That, and the 2001 Grammy fiasco with India.Arie are why I stopped watching award shows.


People weren’t mocking Pearl Jam for their lyrics, they were mocking Eddie Vedder for pioneering yarl (“Jeremy spoke in, claaaass todaaaaaay-arrrl”) Even in Singapore the DJs would fade out the song and yarl along at the end. Of course, Pearl Jam was more or less eclipsed in yarldom by the likes of Bush and Creed. Here in Canada there was much shame and mockery for Nickelback as well, a stain that lingers to this day.

I remember Tori Amos and Alanis Morissette being hugely influential as well, although, yes, a lot of them had a ton of misogynistic mockery directed at them. And it was so satisfying to see Alanis sing the F word on the grammies. And regardless of how you felt about it, we did get Lilith Fair as pushback against the male dominated festival lineups… the first festival I attended. So many great artists, Sarah McLachlan, The Indigo Girls, Paula Cole, Shawn Colvin, Sheryl Crow and a new artist named Fiona Apple.

I also remember Lilith Fair being subjected to much misogyny as well. People calling it an estrogen fest. I even remember Tori Amos not joining the festival. Even then the circular firing squad existed. And it was so hard for MacLachlan to get that festival off the ground too, just due to industry pushback against the very idea of female headliners, let alone an all female lineup.

I’d say the 90s was amazing time for music but there was lots of terrible shit that had been going on for ages and really limited many female acts from getting their due (Neko Case, Sleater Kinney, Bikini Kill… the list is long).


I can’t remember which album it was (I have so many of her albums, and of course they’ve just been downloaded into a playlist for years now). Let me go Google that for myself…

Wow, well, I’ve gone down the rabbit hole and cannot find what version of that album I must have. Even the U.S. versions had it second to last, and listed, like the original U.K. version. WTH?


Saw Neko in a tiny venue circa 2000. She played this one w Carolyn Mark. Stunning.


OMG, that Rolling Stone article was terrible. Isn’t there supposed to be a fine line between criticism and that melange of insulting and demeaning crap?


Yeah, that’s… insulting and demeaning is spot on. “moon child exuberence.” What a crock of shit. I don’t have time for that…

But sure, there wasn’t any misogyny aimed at women in the 90s…/s

I think why some people would say that there wasn’t misogyny aimed at artists like Tori is that it’s not “anti” Tori… but it is deeply insulting, in that it doesn’t really treat her like a serious musician, but as a… what’s that stereotype, manic pixy dream girl or whatever? But that’s a kind of misogyny, too, right?


The thing it took a lot of people a long time to acknowledge is that Jagged Little Pill was a #metoo album. “Hands Clean” and “You Oughta Know” are probably the most explicit, but even the change in tone from bubbly pop to angry frustration.

I think men, especially, want to call out her language on “Ironic” because it lets them dismiss the message of the entire album and distance themselves from the uncomfortable truth. And I think one of the reasons it did do so well, is that a lot of women and girls recognized the themes and that it made space for that anger.


Could be. Far easier in general to dismiss than to engage.


Agree on this point.

Reminds me of the term men can be average but women have to be exceptional. Speaking of which this is exceptional.