Girl Power. The 90s. Sassy.


Looking for some summer reading material? Check out these two books, both of subject matter we adore. Definitely on our reading list.

“Another classic Sassy relationship article was March 1993′s “How to Make Him Want You… Bad,” which is named after a story that had run in YM. In it, Margie Ingalls (a staff writer who had been hired in 1990) and Mary Ann try out the inane relationship advice given by YM and Cosmopolitan. This includes wearing animal prints, which, instead of making Margie look “feral” (presumably a good thing), incite a homeless man to scream “Meow!” The article’s last paragraph pretty much sums up Sassy‘s worldview on men, which is “boys are cute and we like them (unless we hate them), but they’re mere dressing on the salad of life.” via

Kara Jesella and Marisa Meltzer take on Sassy‘s cultural impact in one of our favorite decades. Okay, there’s no competition, it’s our favorite. Otessa still has a scan of the Sassy article with Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain. Sassy was so cheeky. Something the teen magazines nowadays are in desperate need of.

“Of course, Sassy had always been boy crazy, from an early blurb titled “Why Am I Such a Queer Ball Spazz Head?” in which Andrea reports that she caught Matt Dillon staring at her breasts; to Jane’s crush on Keanu Reeves, which was dissected ad nauseum; to Christina’s “Cute Band Alert.”

But Sassy tempered all the swooning with a girl-power tone and a little critique. Instead of deconstructing marriage and interrogating compulsory heterosexuality — that was Ms.’s territory – Sassy ran feminist-inflected articles on how to ask a guy out. Like other teen magazines, it published pieces titled “How to Flirt” and “Why That Patrick Swayze Poster May Destroy Your Love Life”; unlike other teen magazines, it didn’t take its romantic advice too seriously, and didn’t assume that getting it on with a jock was your only goal.” via

Jezebel interviewed the author and 90s fanatic. We took some of her favorite responses:

Marisa: It’s borderline shameful how much time I spend listening to music of that era. There is something about those songs that felt particularly urgent to me in high school-Bikini Kill’s «Carnival» or Excuse 17′s «This Is Not Your Wedding Song,» just for example—that hasn’t faded; my heart still races a little when I hear them. I swear I do listen to other music but girly-’90s music is destined to be my comfort zone.

M: Everyone has to find a way to rebel. I’m sure my mom was thankful that my rebellion came in the form of feminist punk and not joining a sorority or the prom committee-those would have been hard for her to wrap her head around. But there were still some comic moments of generational differences. In high school, I remember her giving me this very classic liberal parent speech about how it’s okay for me to love anyone I want and she would support me and I had to interrupt her and be like, “Mom, I’m not a lesbian, I’m a riot grrrl, God.” You know, with sullen teenager voice. Even just a few weeks ago, I was at her house on my book tour and came downstairs dressed for my reading in San Francisco. I was wearing a dress with this cutout front that shows a few glimpses of bra underneath. My mom asked, «Honey, don’t you think that dress is a little racy for your reading?» And here I thought I was being subtle for not wearing it with a leopard print bra! I should also note that my mom showed up to my reading in Santa Cruz with SLUT written across her stomach, under her shirt, so she’s definitely on board.

M: What is more 90s than irony, right? Yes, I think it’s both an optimistic reclamation of the phrase and also comes with a bit of an ironic smirk. Girl power is a totally cheesy phrase; it’s something I talk about on the first page of the book. But I also hope that once people are done reading the book, they feel a love (even if it’s a little begrudging) for the title. The problem I have with Spice Girls-style girl power isn’t the “girl” but the “power,” as if the word “girl” doesn’t evoke enough of it on its own.

M: Pop culture will always have power over us. Perhaps some of us (okay, me) more than others. The kind of culture will probably change. I’m not sure anyone who’s a teenager now will ever write a paean to a print magazine, the way Kara Jesella and I did with the Sassy book, but perhaps there will be a loving tribute to a blog or YouTube star who forever shaped their worldview?

I never planned on being the go-to person for the ’90s, and I certainly don’t want anyone to think that my experience should define the decade, but it’s a subject I have seemingly endless interest in talking about. I wrote the Sassy book and Girl Power back-to-back, so by the time I was done with Girl Power, I told myself I was reading to turn away from the ’90s. I thought I would write something about the 19th century or France. But now that I’ve had a little break and am talking about the decade again, I’m like, Who am I kidding? I would write eighteen more books about the ’90s. It would be a pleasure and privilege.

She also made a playlist for the NYT Paper Cuts Blog. Check it out.

“I read about riot grrrl, the feminist punk movement of the early ’90s, before I ever heard any of the bands play. The photos of girls in halter tops, torn fishnets and smeared red lipstick, with words like “slut” written across their stomachs, freaked out and excited my 14-year-old self.” via

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