Yarrow, Allison. “90s Bitch: Media, Culture, and the Failed Promise of Gender Equality”, Harper Perennial, 2018.
I was out of the country during the 90s in America as well as during the years leading up to the 90s so I honestly have little memory of how women and girls were treated by the media. I was living in Israel where equally between the sexes is upheld (by and large) and I had forgotten how women in this country have been “maligned by the media, vilified by popular culture, and objectified in the marketplace.” This excellent new book by Allison Yarrow wonderfully filled me in on what I did not remember or even know. Strong women such as Hilary Clinton and Anita Hill were undermined by the media while others were put to shame and misunderstanding. With television and radio news shows becoming available 24/7 women were once again mistreated when they were spoken of and the sexism that seemed to be part of this country raised its ugly head once again. The remnants of this treatment or as Yarrow names it “bitchification” is still omnipresent in our society. The roots for this come from the 90s when “female empowerment was twisted into objectification, exploitation, and subjugation.” Be prepared that no one is safe from Yarrows probing of the patriarchal society that demands women to be quiet and obedient to men. We are reminded (as if we need to be) that the age of Trump is also an age of masculine insecurity.
There is a feminist backlash going on right before our eyes and in order to deal with it, we must look back to find where it began and how it can be stopped. Allison Yarrow presents that history to us in excellent prose in which she shows us that society has now embraced “the post feminist moment.” We become very aware here of women being subjected to double standards, negative portrayals and mistreatment.
We learn something about sexism on almost every page and there are many revelations that have been carefully studied and researched. To understand the state of gender equality today, we must understand the state of gender equality of the 1990s. We begin to see things from a different perspective. For those of you who lived through the 9os, you probably feel that you know what happened back then but the truth is that we have to look back at the period from today in order to understand it. The dynamic of today was created back then and I am pretty sure that many realized that this was happening.
I could tell just from reading the names of the chapters that this was going to be a fascinating and eye-opening read and I was not disappointed. In her prologue Yarrow tells us that she is using the verb “bitchify” and the noun “bitchification” to show how the media and society looked at women only by their sexual function and in this way they could stop whatever progress women were making. The word “bitch” in itself is insulting but it is also the best word to describe what we have here. I believe I read this entire book with my mouth open as surprise after surprise came through. For anyone who cares about gender equality, this is a must read.