There's a natural temptation to look back on the '90s as a slightly utopian time for women in rock: There was the proliferation of riot grrrl, of course, and an increasing openness to women-led music (rock or otherwise) in the industry's conception of "alternative": Flip on a few episodes of 120 Minutes on VH-1 Classic today and it's a veritable cornucopia of musicians like the Breeders' Deal sisters and Josephine Wiggs, Belly's Tanya Donelly, Veruca Salt's Louise Post and Nina Gordon, Liz Phair, Juliana Hatfield, PJ Harvey, Tori Amos, L7, the list goes on. But there was a little-known drawback to the bloom of attention that rock women received in the '90s, and it wasn't just the magazine world's invention of the "Women in Rock" special issue (ugh), omnipresent after millions downed Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill. When Lilith Fair emerged in 1997 with a diverse lineup of women meant to further publicize/empower acts who might have gone unnoticed a decade earlier, the unfortunate, ensuing result was corporate marginalization.
Luscious Jackson's Jill Cunniff discussed the issue with SPIN last year. "It was ironic: Lilith Fair had created all these radio stations that were female-centric, and before that, we'd been on alternative rock stations with, like, No Doubt and Hole and Garbage. Those were the female artists on alternative [radio]. After Lilith, there were all these stations created for women's music, and the alternative stations cleared out the women. So, by the time our last album came out, they couldn't get the song on the radio, except on all these feminine stations." Ever wonder why alternative rock radio was overrun by tepid guitar dudes like Third Eye Blind? Here's one answer. J.E.S.