Third Wave: Women and Music in the 90s


Credit: Feral78 via Wikimedia Commons.

While this may sound like the ultimate in stupid, I never have applied nor will I ever l apply my fairly respectable skills in marketing analytics to drive traffic to this site. Sure, I want people to read my stuff, but marketing analytics and strategy is what I do to pay the bills—something I’d rather minimize and forget. I write about music because I love listening to music and I learn a lot in the process of writing about it.

But I do find statistics endlessly interesting. Last week I published my 500th post and thought I’d check my all-time stats to see how the browsing public has responded to my efforts. The data I found most fascinating is contained in a table that shows posts in descending order of hits. My marketing instincts immediately took over and I found myself looking for patterns in the data. In this case, the patterns were obvious—the data told me exactly how to drive people to and how to scare them away:

Traffic Drivers:

  1. Graphic sexual content
  2. Reviews of ’60s and ’70s music

Traffic Inhibitors:

  1. Reviews of women artists
  2. Reviews of ’90s music


  • Graphic Sexual Content: My most-read posts are no longer available on the site: a four-part history of how I got into BDSM. All four of those posts outperformed any of my music reviews; the post with the most hits (the one with graphic descriptions of an all-night multi-participant BDSM scene with graphic photos of moi) received four times as many hits as my most-read music review (The Kinks’ Preservation albums). However, some of my highest-charting music reviews contain more than just a touch of erotica: The J. Geils’ Band’s Full House Live (#9) and Sade’s Love Deluxe (#16) in particular. Sex sells. Duh.
  • Reviews by Decade: Of the top 20 reviews, 8 are from the ’60s, 10 from the ’70s, 1 from the ’90s, 1 from the 00s. I’ve written more reviews of ’70s music than any other decade, then the ’60s, then the ’90s. Given the ratio of output to response, the ’60s are my best-performing decade; the ’90s are my worst.
  • Women Artists: Sade’s #16 is the highest-performing review by a woman, but that lofty status is compromised by the abundant sexual content. Next comes PJ Harvey at #30, Sinead O’Connor at #54, then Dusty Springfield at #74. Of the 20 worst-performing reviews, 8 cover the work of women artists. Joni Mitchell, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Patsy Cline—fugghedaboutit.


  • Keys to Increasing Traffic: Stick with the ’60s and ’70s. Ramp up the tits-and-ass routine. Don’t do ’90s reviews until millennials reach retirement age. Avoid female musicians like the Coronavirus.
  • What’s Next on A seven-part series on Women Musicians of the ’90s. Fuck the stats.


The decision to do the series was inspired by a tweet I read arguing that women heads of state are doing a far better job of managing the pandemic than leaders sporting a penis.

I agree with that assessment, but it’s not as impressive an achievement as one might think. When your competition is Trump, Boris Johnson and Xi Jinping . . . shit, my dog could have done a better job than those clowns.

I have long believed that the world would be a happier place if women were in charge, though my vision of the perfect future involves female sexual domination and keeping men on a very short leash so they don’t start fighting with each other and blowing things up. For now, I’d be happy to compromise for that elusive state called “equality,” but as is true in any situation involving power, those in power (men) have little motivation to give it up. I don’t expect to be treated as an equal during my lifetime. That sucks.

My mother began schooling me in feminism at an early age with particular emphasis on Camille Paglia’s “anti-feminist feminism.” The main message was that human culture has long repressed and restricted the manifestation of the human potential in those unlucky souls equipped with vaginas and that I should prepare myself to expect that the majority of men would attempt to diminish me and keep me in my place. Maman urged me to fight every insult, every act of discrimination and every stereotype that promulgated the notion of male superiority. She also encouraged me not to hate men, as most of them were just trying to live up to societal expectations of manliness and didn’t really have their hearts into the machismo thing.

That was good advice, but the constant strain of having to justify one’s existence and fight off the assholes who view you as nothing more than another piece of ass develops into a low-grade fever that always stays with you. And while most of the men I interact with treat me with respect, my years of volunteer work at domestic violence shelters in three countries tells me that toxic masculinity still qualifies as acceptable social behavior. Women are always at least subliminally aware that the rapist, frustrated incel or wife-beater can turn up in their lives at any time.

Some women embrace the submissive role because it gives them a sense of security or syncs with their religious beliefs. Most women I know resent it but learn to temper their response and consider the slings and arrows the price of admission to the employment market and its not-very-solid promise of economic independence. You learn to suck it up and move on.

But way back in the early ’90s a motley crew of young women decided the whole suck-it-up thing was bullshit. Some of them formed bands or pursued independent music careers and sung about their experiences as women in a patriarchy. To varying degrees, they expressed the rage that many women felt but wouldn’t dare express in polite company. The first wave came out of the Pacific Northwest, a punk movement tagged with the label Riot grrrl, with an emphasis on the “grrr.” Soon, other women protesting the status quo would emerge in both the US and UK, some with styles more suited to mainstream audiences.

This series will explore the music and messages of a fairly diverse group of female musicians who, along with Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas, helped ignite what was called “third-wave feminism.” I should disclose that I have a hard time identifying myself as a “feminist” or associating myself with any “movement” because all such movements devolve into factions marked by trivial arguments over dogma and who-gives-a-shit power struggles. If you’re unclear about my position regarding these questionable agents for social change, I refer you to the greatest religious film ever made, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, and the People’s Front of Judea.

The six albums I reviewed in this series were:


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