Huffpost Arts

12 Things '90s Rock Grrrls Can Teach You About Life

Posted: Updated:
Print Article
BIKINI KILL
Bikini Kill (Photo by Steve Eichner/WireImage) | Steve Eichner via Getty Images

The 1990s taught us a lot of things -- that flannel is the world's most coveted fabric, that lava lamps deserve a commercial resurgence, that anthropomorphized animals should enjoy as much television screen time as heavenly possible. But the real wisdom of this decade past came from the alternative punk women who reigned supreme in music. Alanis, Shirley, Tori and Kathleen -- those were the real teachers of the nineties.

Need proof? Behold, 12 things '90s rock grrrls can teach us about life:

1. Confidence, Confidence, Confidence

You want to start a revolution? Take it from Kathleen Hanna -- confidence is key. "That girl she holds her head up so high," Hanna screams in the iconic 1993 Bikini Kill song. "Rebel girl you are the queen of my world." Of course, the original riot grrrl band had much more to teach men and women about radical feminism and female empowerment. But a confident voice -- in the face of abuse, sexism, racism and inequalities of all shapes and forms -- is something to strive for.

2. Self-Sufficiency Is Important

Bjork's 1995 song "Army of Me" is an energetic call to arms -- reportedly aimed at her brother and his disorderly conduct -- that motions listeners to rescue themselves from their own downfalls. "Stand up," she bellows, "you've got to manage." She reminds us that while our friends, family and counselors are forever instrumental in our lives, we as individuals are ultimately responsible for our decisions and actions.

BONUS: The lyrics are made even more powerful by the Michel Gondry-directed music video that accompanied it.

3. We Should Never Settle For Less For Ourselves

The lyrics are subversive and, at times, belligerent and abrasive, but Shirley Manson has a point. The song, released in 1996, was meant as a reproach to those willing to settle for less in their own lives. "You stupid girl," goes the Garbage hit," all you had you wasted." It's a "call to make the most of your potential," Manson explained in an interview with Billboard.

4. Other People's Expectations Do Not Define Us

Sure, the No Doubt anthem from 1995 may have been aimed at women, but "Just A Girl" really pertains to anyone who's grappled with overwhelming expectations. Whether from parents, friends, society at large -- we shouldn't let other people's notions of the future define us. "'Cause I'm just a girl I'd rather not be," Gwen Stefani defiantly sings.

5. Sometimes, We Are Our Own Worst Enemy

Tori Amos' 1992 song "Crucify" said what every young adult scrambling for a job, stability, validation wants to scream at themselves. "Why do we crucify ourselves everyday?" she asks. "Nothing I do is good enough for you... and my heart is sick of being in chains." Why? Because sometimes we are our own worst enemy. And while other people's expectations can be overwhelming, so too can our own.

6. We Should Never Take Ourselves Too Seriously

Sonic Youth's 1990 song "Kool Thing" -- inspired by a disastrous interview between Kim Gordon and LL Cool J -- admirably pokes fun at Gordon herself. After failing to articulate a "feminist/hard-core perspective" of NY's rap scene she admitted her own hubris with humor. "I just want to know, what are you gonna do for me? I mean, are you gonna liberate us girls from male white corporate oppression?"

7. And Sometimes, You Just Have To Admit You're Wrong

No one can admit to their own offenses like 1996 Fiona Apple.

8. Celebrity Worship Is a No-No

Hole-era Courtney Love had a knack for pointing out the blemishes in popular culture, and the 1998 hit "Celebrity Skin" made no attempt at hiding the band's disdain for people's attempts at aggrandizing Hollywood. In her opinion, celebrity worship was akin to "demonology." Harsh, but sometimes true.

9. When You Admire Someone, Let Them Know

Take a cue from 1994 Liz Phair and praise him or her or them as the "human supernova," "solar superman," "angel with wings of fire, "flying, giant friction blast" that they are.

10. Never Assume You're 'Better' Than Someone Else

From The Breeders to the Marquis de Sade in 1993: Your libertine views are ridiculous. You're not "above" anyone, and the world is a better place because of it. Kudos, Kim and Kelley Deal.

11. We All Have To Deal With Angry Emotions

There's a seether in us all, and while we might want to "ram her into the ground" and forget about the anger, it's usually better to deal with our emotions head on. More specifically, 1994 Nina Gordon probably had the stereotypes surrounding women and anger in mind.

12. The Definition of "Irony" is Flexible

All hail the 1990s. And 1995 Alanis Morissette.