Picture this: It’s 1999, and an 11-year-old is making up a dance routine to TLC’s feminist anthem, "No Scrubs." Now, I’m pretty sure I had no idea what a “scrub” was in the sixth grade, but I loved that song more than anything. It made me feel empowered and made me realize I didn’t need a man — especially a scrub — to get through life. Because of this song, the ladies of TLC were just some of my feminist icons of the ‘90s.
Now, TLC may not have been the most rational feminist role models (never forget when Left-Eye set fire to her ex’s favorite sneakers, and ultimately, his house). But they carried me into the new millennium with a badass anthem that reminded me not to settle for less than I deserved. And even without them, the ‘90s were flush with feminist icons. From the fictional women of the big screen to the females ruling the airwaves, the badass ladies of my childhood not only paved the way for my own budding brand of feminist, but they helped teach me how truly awesome it was to be a girl growing up in the nineties. So read on, my fellow feminists, and bask in the ‘90s feminist nostalgia.
Aside from being the chosen one to rid Sunnyvale of vampire and other monsters, Buffy Summers didn't mess around. She kicked ass, took names, and somehow managed to keep up with her studies. All while laying the groundwork for girls everywhere to practice their staking, defending their decisions, and saving the world.
Gender wasn't relevant in the Xena universe. Men and women could be farmers, warriors, or in distress. Characters were just as likely to take same-sex lovers as they were to take out their opponents. Not to mention Xena was unapologetically feminist. Powerful, athletic, courageous, graceful, and good with a sword, Xena was major feminist goal.
Even though Lisa's only supposed to be eight years old on The Simpsons, the girl is an icon. Unafraid to challenge stereotypes, Lisa does the things she loves, without apology. Science, reading, women's rights, animal rights, Lisa Simpson does it all. Although Lisa if often one to critique traditional stereotypes in society, she doesn't look down upon the idea of housewifery. In fact, she supports her mother, and even tells her how proud she is of her for everything that she does. Equality at its best.
The Spice Girls don't get enough credit. From preaching girl power and having the best selling single by a girl group of all time, the girls were successful, but never taken all that seriously. But take a closer look at girl power, and you'll see the ladies of spice were more than just a gimmick. The girls as a whole promoted female friendship and empowerment, supported each other in their journey to the top, and pushed the idea that women who are different can still exist, love, and thrive together. Regardless of what you think about the Spice Girls, you can't deny the fact that they made a huge cultural impact. And if that's not girl power, what is?
While most people think of Fox Mulder as the main character of The X-Files, any true fan will tell you that Dana Scully is where it's at. All themes of change, progress, and logic, come from Scully. In the field of science fiction, and in the FBI, Scully was a pioneer. Geared towards men, featuring a woman as the anchor to Mulder's whimsy and illogically driven storylines — Scully was a sister who stood her ground, and managed to swing thousands of fans in the process. Get it, girl.
Another icon that didn't get enough credit, Miranda Hobbes was a hero in the '90s post-wave feminism. Harvard educated, hard-working, and self-sufficient, Miranda proved to be the voice of reason in the fearsome foursome, often preaching how important it was to be proud of who you were, regardless of the consequences. She always reminded her friends that men were not the be-all end-all of life or their chats,
Lil' Kim may be a controversial choice to include in this list, but she's a self-made success story. She created a genre all her own, when hip-hop was notoriously considered a boy's game. Some might argue that she perpetuates the sex-symbol avenue of hip-hop, but Kim owned her sexuality and made it work for her. With nicknames like Queen Bee, Hell Kitten, Nasty Girl, and more, — Kim was a symbol of sexual liberation in the '90s, and she never felt bad about it. That's empowerment.
The ultimate road trip, feminist revenge flick, Thelma & Louise was a movie I didn't truly appreciate until I was in my 20s. Call it age, wisdom, or finally recognizing badass feminists when I see 'em, Susan Sarandon's Louise was a true feminist hero. A no-nonsense lady with a handful of trust issues, Louise pulled her friend Thelma from a dicey relationship and got her out on the open road. The film itself portrayed many issued that women deal with — cat-calling, feeling safe on the road, seduction-gone-wrong — and brought to light working-class feminism. Though I don't recommend driving off a cliff any time soon, taking a few notes out of Louise's book is never a bad idea.
Not one, not two, but three superhero girls on the Cartoon Network? With three distinctive personalities, and a world that constantly needed saving, Bubbles, Blossom, and Buttercup were the witty, progressive super girls we all deserved for our Saturday morning cartoons.
Daytime court television might not be the first place you'd look to find a feminist, but you should reconsider. Judge Judy was on the air for 10 years, and the woman took case after ludicrous case, refusing to deal with anyone who disrespected her. You gotta love a woman in the spotlight who's unafraid to stand her ground.
Shania Twain gave '90s girls an anthem to let boys know that their fancy cars, muscle tees, and slick hairdos really didn't impress us that much. Not to mention she bridged the gap between pop and country. Shania, we salute you.
Kathleen Hanna might be a bit lesser known than the rest of these mainstream icons, but she's just as important. Serving as the front woman to the '90s feminist punk band Bikini Kill, Hanna wrote lyrics about girls who did and wore what they wanted, regardless of social expectations. She also pioneered the girls to the front concept, inviting women to the front of the stage to avoid harassment from male concert goers. From performing at the Abortion March in Washington D.C. in 1991, to avidly supporting Planned Parenthood, Hanna continues to rock out as a feminist activist.