Hanging in my office at the Philadelphia City Paper in the 90s, was a wildly vivid, fluorescent-colored poster that read “Las Lunachicks” and it featured an illustration of a woman with jet-black hair, mouth open in anger, brandishing a gun aimed to rain hell on anyone who got in her way. Designed by artist Frank Kozik for Riot Grrrl band The Lunachicks, the poster epitomized the moment in time, maybe my own internal monologue. A woman at the beginning of her career, screaming against the patriarchy, vying to be heard by any means necessary. Back then you might have called her a bitch, but she was cool as hell to me.
The Lunachicks were loud, garish, three-chord punk rock with albums like Babysitters on Acid, Binge & Purge, Pretty Ugly. I liked them just fine; I liked so many artists at the time — as a music editor it was my job. But that poster was everything. I got it in 1993 and it stayed on my office wall for the rest of the decade.
Fast forward to 2018 — a friend, Diana, recently introduced me to her friend, Theo, who happens to live near me in Brooklyn. Theo. Theo? How many Theos are there? Yup, the lead singer of the Lunachicks. Diana and Theo did yoga together. There was something very resonant about the fact that a Riot Grrrl was now doing yoga.
I finally met Theo when TueNight and Persisticon (Diana and Theo are two of the founders) co-hosted a screening for the movie RBG. Blonde, leggy and still as gorgeous as ever, she wore a Bowie t-shirt and we talked about how life-changing the Brooklyn Museum show was. I worked up the nerve to tell her, so, “hey I actually had your poster hanging on my wall for so many years,” how meaningful it was to me, her band had broken down barriers with their in-your-fucking-face, nasty woman riffs. She just smiled and said thank you and told me Kozik had actually designed the poster without them knowing, but yeah, it was cool as hell. Those were the days. Then we stuffed RBG tote bags together and I asked her to write for this issue. Riot Grrrls all grown up.
In this ‘90s Bitch issue we remember that creative, angry, formative time in our lives, the ‘90s — with a particular spin on the era, borrowing a phrase from one of our TueNight Live readers Allison Yarrow who wrote the just-released book 90s Bitch: Media, Culture, and the Failed Promise of Gender Equality.
From Riot Grrrls to Monica Lewinsky to Anita Hill to Hillary Clinton, women were often cast as the “bitch” — outspoken, slutty, whiny, too assured for their own good — bucking again a highly resistant, punishing, male-dominated world. Often at their own peril. Sure, we were given opportunities as Theo writes in our issue, to be “one of the guys” – but sometimes that meant getting a coke bottle thrown at our head. We were difficult to classify, as Crystal Durant shares in her never-ending love for Seinfeld one-liners — “some of my Black friends saw my love for the show as a betrayal,” she says. Yeah, we watched a lot of TV, as Faith Cummings shares — but there were lessons to learn. Sex was prolific, which meant always having a great pair of underwear, says Alice Bradley in this glorious T/N classic. And we experienced the horrific AIDS crisis, which took so many friends and family members, as Jenny Laden writes in her heart-wrenching story of her father’s illness.
As the soundtrack to our memories, I put together a little 90s Bitch women-only playlist, thanks to inspiration from our TueNighters group on Facebook. It was fun to remember how genre-busting-ly creative and diverse the women artists were — from the Lunachicks to Hole to Liz Phair to TLC to Missy Elliot to Sleater Kinney to Beth Orton to Meshell Ndegeocello to Diamanda Galas to DeeeLite to Luscious Jackson to a whole lot of Kims — Gordon, Deal and Lil’. (No one names their kid Kim anymore do they?)
Jenny, Crystal and Theo will be reading their stories live tonight. Allison will be reading a section of her book and I’m going to be debuting a little bit from a book I’m working on about the world of alt-weeklies, a nearly extinct medium with its heyday in the 90s. If you haven’t gotten tickets, get em; we’re almost sold out. Don’t miss our cavalcade of 90sness.
Let’s go luna,