Scorpio Risen

Feminism & That Spice Girls Thing On Sky One

Posted on: 1 January, 2007

(At least from my point of view!)

Loved, loved, loved that they had Ariel Levy on! 🙂 Made Amy happy! 🙂
Because, her book – Female Chauvinist Pigs – was the first piece of feminist work I’d ever read.

I must admit I was a Spice fan; I was about 7 or 8 years old when they emerged. I think it was the first CD I ever got, I remember getting it for Christmas. I even saw ’em at Earls Court, although that said, I was beginning to become less enamoured with them. I liked the whole “Girl Power” thing, though. I liked the idea for years after, even though it was still pretty much as basic. I liked the idea of girls having power. I don’t remember ever being too sure what that “power” was for, but it, and the fact that each Spice Girl had her own individual identity – gave me a strong sense of individualism, free choice for myself, and all women, sisterhood, and an unwillingness to conform (Despite the fact that the Spice Girls were manufactured- ah! Irony!) which I still have today.

Yes, there were many flaws in the Spice Girls; lack of genuine talent (although bloody good marketing skills!), they didn’t really express any deep, intellectual ideas, and their brand of feminism – ie “Girl Power” – was basic and “first base”, and some people would argue it wasn’t even feminism; too hollow, perhaps. But, the truth is, it did give thousands, millions of young girls a simple glimpse into feminism, into being liberated women – and whether or not they interpreted that later into just being a “ladette” or to delve a little deeper – surely this re-branding of feminism does have some positivies: feminism had had such negative connotations (and true, the stereotypes do still exist, sadly), the Spice brand of “Girl Power” was at least represented in a bright, positive, colourful way – as perhaps suitable for something which is, admittedly, somewhat shallow.

But, the “Girl Power” message seemed to cover the following areas of feminism:
1) Sisterhood/Female Solidarity
2) Women speaking up. And loud.
3) Women having fun together.

There wasn’t any mention (as far as I’m aware) of more serious issues feminists are concerned about: rape, battery, the pornstitution, trafficking, women being objectified/represented as sex objects/valued only by their sexuality, ie how well they can gratify a man’s sexual desires, equality in the workforce, abortion etc. This could possibly be because the target audience was pre-teen.

Maybe the pre-teen audience was why they were called the “Spice Girls” not the “Spice Women“. To appeal to young girls, not to infantilise them and therefore then undermine make their messages of “Girl Power”. Again, is the lexical choice of “Girl” to appeal to young girls, or even because “Woman Power” isn’t as catchy, or to infantilise/demean the message? And, of course, how seriously can a manufactured pop act of 5 young women in crop tops, mini skirts and platform boots be taken as a threat to the patriarchy? Heck, one of them is called “Baby Spice”! It’s a bit of fun, light entertainment. Sure the young girls seem to be lapping up the “Girl Power” notion, but hey, give it a few years, and their hormones will be telling them differently, surely! And we’ll push more bland boybands on them to dream and sigh about, more girl bands all in the same uniform, preferably something quite sexually explicit.

I’m not going to say that the Spice Girls changed my life. They were, however, a small (admittedly shallow and basic) step into an interest in feminism. Admittedly, when I was younger, I had very confused ideas about feminism and what it was. I mean, I used to think they did burn their bras, although that seemed exciting to me. Now I correct people on this myth. I’m admittedly new to feminism on a level where I can understand it, thanks largely to Ariel Levy for really getting me started and re-igniting the same passion for “Girl Power” as the Spice Girls. But, realistically, the Spice Girls were more a light entertaining bunch of girls whose songs I knew and danced along with all the moves. They were marketed in an incredibily novel, original, exciting way – they each had “personalities” – and their constant cries for “Girl Power” set them apart. But, they’re only first base feminism. Real feminism is a lot more empowering, interesting, exciting and real.


9 Responses to "Feminism & That Spice Girls Thing On Sky One"

It is interesting for me to hear takes on the Spice Girls from women your age (she said, creaking and groaning and shooing assorted kids off her nonexistent lawn). I think your take here is about right: “Girl Power” is nice as a basic idea, even if no, they weren’t exactly what you’d call deep. or the most sophisticated -or- hardcore music…

i think a lot of people i knew who were adults when they were popular were more cynical about them, because they seemed so obviously a form of “commodify your dissent;” a sanitized, defanged and prettified co-option of what had once been the Riot Grrl movement, and women rockers before them, of course. anyway as i saw it it was a sort of depressing if perhaps inevitable journey from Bikini Kill—>Courtney Love—>Spice Girls—>Powerpuff Girls, and Britney, and suchlike.

otoh i am still a huge Buffy/Whedon fan.

btw, you might also like this woman’s blog, if you haven’t found it already:

Diary of Barbie’s Worst Enemy”>Diary of Barbie’s Worst Enemy

I was just about to graduate High School (17) when “Wannabe” became a hit. So… your age now, Amy.

I thought the Spice Girls were hideously stupid and annoying. And, that opinion only got lower when I figured out that each one had their “own spice.”

I was a bit more… black eyeliner and combat boots at that point in my life. And, I still the Girls were more Backstreet Boys than Bikini Kill. But, when I was 7/8 it was ALL Madonna, ALL the time. I was such a Madonna fan. As was Ms. Spears, from what I understand. So, I guess for every girl that took “Girl Power!” as a baby step in a feminist direction, there are probably other girls that think “Girl Power!” means marrying David Beckham. Ya know?

I love the book thing, though. I got that Levy book for Christmas, but haven’t started it, yet. I got sucked into feminism because of Naomi Wolf’s “The Beauty Myth.”

Although I hardly had what you’d call an articulate feminism in my early teens, I sensed on a visceral level that the Spice Girls’ brand of female empowerment was not really for me. (I had a healthy dislike for fairy-floss femininity; I was a fan of Nirvana & Silverchair, not so into Hanson or The Spice Girls.)

It was only later that I saw that most of the girls who were kids/teenagers in the late 90’s simply liked the female strength shtick that the Spicies had going, and that this was more important than their sex kitten appeal to straight men. Not that I knew that at the time—I was simply interested in showing everyone I wasn’t a “teenybopper.”

Good to see another young feminist blogger btw. 🙂

I think that’s a major difference between Gen Yers and Gen Xers—Gen Xers see a subversive celebrity who launches a mega-brand as ‘selling out’, whereas Gen Yers see it as a wise career move. Hence the polarised reaction to the Spice Girls.

Hey, I wrote about your entry on my blog.

“So, I guess for every girl that took “Girl Power!” as a baby step in a feminist direction, there are probably other girls that think “Girl Power!” means marrying David Beckham. Ya know?”

I agree with you there: I’m sure many different girls would have later gone on to interpret the message in a different way in later life, and put their own personal interpretation into practice in their own way. Heck, many probably would’ve rejected it all later, put it down to being a 90s kid or something.

But it’s also interesting to hear other people’s points of view regarding the spice girls, especially since we all would’ve had different experiences in life at the time of the spice girls, and therefore, would have different reactions to them. As a young girl, I guess I wasn’t really programmed to notice any of the really subtly messages about them, I just saw them as a band telling me to speak up for myself as a girl and whatnot (Girl Power) who were fun to sing/dance along to.

It’s like when you’re a kid, you watch Grease, but you like it cos it’s got some great songs and dancemoves, and really, that’s all you’re concerned about. Then you realise that what Rizzo and Kenicky are doing in the car is actually having sex, and that Rizzo then has a pregnancy scare. Then, you can later analyse it as incredibly sexist, especially the last scene, when SHE conforms to fit the mould HE wants. (Even though some people have argued that it’s not sexist, because he was gonna turn Jock for her.) But this is turning into less of an analogy, more of a rant.

o, Grease has so many sexist/reactionary messages, starting right off with the whole, it’s the late seventies and the fifties were nifty! let’s just forget about that ugly little period in between, with all the marches and hippies and foment and everything turning upside down…

but, yeah:

“There are worse things I could do, than go with a boy or two”…well, yes, so far, that’s certainly true…oh. You mean, like being a ‘tease, apparently. oh. mm. okay.

women: be naughty, but not -too- naughty; find one good man to have sex with monogamously and dress/act in a way that would make -him- happy, that is best. sort of like the little bear in the Golilocks story: not too sexual, not too uptight, -just right.-

good women can and should “reform” bad boys (“You better shape up…cause she needs a man!”)

the best way to deal with a pregnancy scare is to wait for the screenwriter to let us know that it was a false alarm. Whew!

Dying your hair pink can only be a terrible terrible mistake…

and so on.

and i always loathed the music, myself.

the only good thing about it was Stockard Channing. mmmmm, Stockard…sigh.

in my ideal she would’ve just run off with Olivia. they could’ve opened an auto-mechanic business and lived happily & greasily ever after.

Hmm, you’re right
But, my point was that when you’re a kid you just don’t tend to pick up on these kinds of things…

Or maybe I was just incredibly dense. 🙂

i absolutely love all your writing style, very charming.
don’t give up and also keep writing for the simple reason that it simply very well worth to look through it,
looking forward to look at much of your own content, have a good one 🙂

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