Feminism is, thankfully, an ongoing and crucial part of our national dialogue thanks to women's movements, the outspoken support of high-profile celebrities, the Internet (for better or worse), and most recently, Charlize Theron's badass Mad Max heroine Furiosa. Feminism is as much a part of our popular culture as memes or Netflix binges. And while you can now wear feminism as a badge of honor, it wasn't always the case. Being a feminist was something truly outrageous and daring in the past, including the not-so-distant 90s. Thankfully for the women of the 90's, and the generations that followed, Gen X provided provided some kick-ass, empowering feminist moments in pop culture.
While there are countless to choose from, we've narrowed down our eight favorite feminist pop culture moments from the 1990's. Rock on, girls!
Lilith Fair Hit the Road
Forget the Vans Warped Tour, the disastrous Woodstock revival, and the other testosterone-pumped music festivals of the '90s. The defining tour of the decade was Lilith Fair. Founded by singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan in 1997, Lilith Fair was a female-dominated line-up that gave female artists and audiences a chance to be in a united, creative space. Fiona Apple, Sheryl Crow, Dixie Chicks, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Jewel, Indigo Girls, Missy Elliott, Natalie Merchant, Emmylou Harris, and Liz Phair were just some of the incredible names on the Lilith line-up from 1997 to 1999. Lilith Fair was a defining moment for women in music and there's never been anything else quite like it.
Gwen, Alanis, and Other Women Were Ready to Rock
While Lilith Fair was, without question, a pivotal moment in '90s feminism, there were plenty of other female musicians who were dominating the charts and changing rock music who weren't on that bill. Take, for instance, Alanis Morrissette who burst on to the scene in 1995 with her smash record Jagged Little Pill. Not only would it become one of the most acclaimed and pivotal albums of the decade, but one of the highest-selling. (The beautifully angsty Jagged Little Pill would sell more than 33 million copies worldwide.) While Morrisette perfected the art of angst rock, No Doubt lead singer Gwen Stefani was wowing a generation with her pop punk vocals and her one-of-a-kind fashion sense. Also released in 1995, the Stefani-lead Tragic Kingdom was a must-have for any music listener, no matter what the gender, and the band became a radio mainstay. Like Jagged Little Pill, Tragic Kingdom is considered one of the best albums ever, and was a commercial powerhouse as well. (Almost exactly 20 years later, and Stefani is still keeping the industry on their toes.) Alanis and Gwen were joined on the charts by other female rockers like Courtney Love and Shirley Manson, among countless others.
The Spice Girls Encouraged Girl Power
Zig-a-zig-ah, you say? Sure, the Spice Girls fit the cheesy pop mold, but their message of Girl Power was a feminist stance that went global. You didn't have to be indie in the '90s to encourage women or dominate the charts to become one of the most successful musical acts in history.
The Riot Grrrl Movement Left Its Mark
Started in the early '90s and at the front and center of Third-wave feminism, the the underground hardcore punk movement — which was associated with bands like Sleater-Kinney, Huggy Bear, and Bikini Kill — was a way for female artists to express themselves, their art, and to challenge the patriarchal status quo.
Sisters Were Doing It For Themselves and Each Other On the Big Screen
Some of the most popular and beloved movies of the '90s were not only about women, but the power of female friendship, family, and love. Thelma & Louise, Fried Green Tomatoes, Waiting to Exhale, A League of Their Own, and The Joy Luck Club were just a few hit films that touched a nerve with viewers and critics alike because of their feminist statements.
The Vagina Monologues Were Heard
Eve Ensler's groundbreaking play about the female perspective on topics such as sex, love, and gender became nothing short of a pop culture phenomenon after it debuted in 1996. The show, which has been through countless iterations over the years the world over and has become something of a social and political touchstone, has been performed by the likes of Winona Ryder, Whoopi Goldberg, Gillian Anderson, Glenn Close, Cynthia Nixon, Oprah Winfrey, Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Queen Latifah, and Calista Flockhart, just to name a few.
The Women of SNL Made a Name For Themselves
Molly Shannon, Ana Gasteyer, Cheri Oteri, Rachel Dratch, Sarah Silverman, Julia Sweeney, Janeane Garofolo, Jan Hooks, Nancy Walls, and Ellen Cleghorne were just some of the groundbreaking women who appeared on Saturday Night Live during the 90's and set the state for the female-dominated run of the show in the 2000's.
TV Heroines Took Off
When women weren't making us laugh (not just on Saturday Night Live, but on shows like Murphy Brown and Roseanne), they were kicking some serious ass. The '90s gave us some of the most iconic, empowered female characters to ever grace our television sets, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Xena: Warrior Princess (Lucy Lawless).