"What It Feels Like for a Girl: Women, Music and the Girl Power Revolution"

Bust out the babydoll dresses, Dr. Martens and your dad's plaid shirts for this girlcentric panel and concert at 92YTribeca.

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  • Kathleen Hanna

  • Madonna

  • Marisa Meltzer

  • Lady Gaga

  • Beth Ditto of the Gossip

  • Gwen Stefani of No Doubt

  • Liz Phair

  • Mary J. Blige

Kathleen Hanna

Women have been forming bands and making music for decades, but for a brief period in the ’90s, they were on the verge of a sonic revolution. Riot grrrls scrawled SLUT on their stomachs to reclaim the word; Lilith Fair fostered a sense of community rarely seen on megatours; and in between crooning verses of “Wannabe,” the Spice Girls honed the message of feminism down to a sparkly, two-word slogan: girl power. But that spirit didn’t exactly carry over into the new millennium. “There’s less of a sense right now of, 'I’m in a band and I’m a woman and I have feminist values,’” says Marisa Meltzer, author of Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music (Faber & Faber). In it, Meltzer examines the intersection of girl culture and music that took place throughout the 1990s, from the staunchly feminist riot grrrl movement to the pop-tarts (Britney, Christina and Jessica) who dominated airwaves with bubblegum at the end of the decade. On Wednesday 3, Meltzer joins a panel that will discuss women in music at 92YTribeca, which will also feature bloggers Elizabeth Spiridakis and Emily Gould, and a performance by the all-girl band Supercute! For what it’s worth, Meltzer doesn’t necessarily want readers to see her tome as a comprehensive guide to women in music. “Men don’t feel like they need to write these all-encompassing books,” she says. “Like, how many books are there about the Beatles? I want there to be that many books about Bikini Kill!” In anticipation of her talk, we asked her to name her top five girl-power anthems.

1 “I Hate Danger,” Bikini Kill
“Whenever I hear this song, I want to hug strangers on the street and be like, 'I really care about what you have to say,’?” says Meltzer.

2 “Just a Girl,” No Doubt
“As a teenager, I thought Gwen Stefani was cheesy,” says Meltzer. “I might have lobbed around the phrase sell out. But now I realize the error of my ways. Also, I want all the clothes the girls are wearing in the video.”

3 “PMS,” Mary J. Blige
“In a perfect world, there would be more songs about hormonal fluctuations,” says Meltzer.

4 “Make You Mine,” Best Coast
“There’s something very essential and very girly about sitting alone in your bedroom and feeling a combination of sad and happy while pining for your latest crush,” says Meltzer.

5 “Divorce Song,” Liz Phair
Exile in Guyville is such an important album that I can really only express my feelings about it via hand gestures and facial expressions,” says Meltzer. “I’ve listened to it so many times during breakups that I now have a Pavlovian reaction and tear up whenever I hear Phair sing, 'And when I asked...’?”

Meltzer’s top four girl-power icons:

Madonna
“Her song is, of course, what we named the event after,” Meltzer says. “I’ve always been obsessed with Madonna. She has a way of taking up a lot of psychic space.”

Courtney Love
“I think she’s so fascinating and strange and complicated. There’s a new Hole album coming out, supposedly, and I can’t wait to see how that goes.”

Lady Gaga
“I don’t know if I love Lady Gaga. There’s much about her that I don’t understand, but I think that’s her brilliance: her ability to defy expectation and be such a different kind of pop star.”

Beth Ditto (of the Gossip)
“She’s an amazing icon, and her celebrity is really interesting to me.”

BE MY REBEL GIRL “What It Feels Like for a Girl: Women, Music and the Girl Power Revolution”: 92YTribeca, 200 Hudson St between Canal and Desbrosses Sts (212-601-1000, 92ytribeca.org). Wed 3 at 7pm, $12.

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