With my recent 23rd birthday came a flood of memories of my younger self. I am now pretty much living in a constant state of nostalgia, spurned on by one of my best friends, who seems to be remembering as much about the good old days, as I am recently. I wish we could bring everything back, from solving crimes with Olsen & Olsen Mystery Agency to eating meals at The Peach Pit — I don’t discriminate where 90s awesomeness is concerned. One thing though, that I think we can’t afford to leave in the past, is “Girl Power” otherwise known as the genius movement created by The Spice Girls.
When they arrived on the scene, The Spice Girls were the biggest thing happening everywhere. They were like the second coming of the British Invasion – the revitalization of the Girl Group and the spawning of empowered little girls everywhere, all wrapped up in one glittery, pop-powered ball of female energy. There was a Spice Girl for every personality — Baby Spice, the sweet one; Scary Spice, the fierce one; Ginger Spice, the bombshell; Sporty Spice, the tomboy; and Posh Spice, the fashion-plate — so every little girl (and many a boy) was able to love them.
The group was an utter phenomenon among the girls in my 4th grade class and we barely spoke about anything else. Every weekend I spent my allowance on Spice Girls post cards to put in my special Spice Girls postcard album and Spice Girl lollipops – whose stickers graced every sticker-able surface I owned. The premiere of Spice World, the amazingly terrible (and I say this with all of the admiration in the world) Spice Girls movie, was probably given more attention than the premiere of the first color film. My favorite piece of memorabilia from this era was my Spice Girls Notebook, which was a black and white composition notebook that I filled with every picture and article I could cut out of newspapers and magazines. My friends and I would trade clips and postcards every day and if anyone came into school on dress down days (Catholic School girl alert!) with Spice Girl t-shirts, socks or those little plastic purses with their images stamped on it, everyone would fawn over it until the teacher threatened to take away recess.
Emma, Victoria, Ginger, Mel B. and Mel C. gave us songs to sing, choreography to butcher, hobbies to obsess over — they brought us together in mutual love and admiration. But, why did we love The Spice Girls so much anyway? It wasn’t as if we weren’t already obsessing over Britney Spears, The Backstreet Boys and N’Sync. We loved them too, but we weren’t running out to buy postcards of them or trading away the homemade brownies we brought for snack, to get a grainy newspaper photo of them to stick in a notebook. I think that the reason we all really loved The Spice Girls was because of their genius catchphrase “Girl Power!” My friends and I (most born between 1988-1992) had missed out on the Lilith Rock movement of the early 90s, being too busy doing Barbie workout tapes led by Jennifer Love Hewitt and crushing on Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez (or maybe that was just me… but I digress.) The music I had grown up listening to included tons of strong females like Madonna, Mariah, Whitney and Janet, but none of them were spouting corny phrases of female empowerment to the under 18 set.
The Spice Girls sang about friendship, fun and femininity. They wore what they wanted to wear, danced how they wanted to dance, sang what they wanted to sing and embraced their personalities to the fullest. They were all different, just like we were all different. They were telling us that it was okay; that we could be exactly who we wanted to be and no one, especially not a boy, was going to stop us. Lines like “If you wannabe my lover, you got to get with my friends/Make it last forever/Friendship never ends”; “If you put two and two together you can see what our friendship is for/If you can’t work this equation then I guess I’ll have to show you the door”; “If you really bug me then I’ll say goodbye” and a million others (while perhaps still too romantically involved for a 10 year old) made it clear what our priorities were — friendship, our own happiness and Girl Power through and through. We had never seen anything like them before. I don’t think we’ve seen anything like them since.
In fact, not too long after The Spice Girls disbanded, Britney Spears started singing about being a slave for a guy (Disclaimer: I love Britney but the message of that song was probably not the best for a tween) while Christina Aguilera was running around half naked talking about how “Dirrty” she was. Nelly told us to take our clothes off, rappers started calling all of us “bitches” and “hoes” and suddenly, just 12 years removed from when The Spice Girls first broke up, girls were tweeting that they would let Chris Brown beat them every day, simply because he is a good-looking, rich and talented man! What has happened to us? This generation that grew up in an atmosphere of female empowerment, of lighthearted fun, of comfort in our own skins and platform Skechers? That girl would not stand for this! She is outraged that we are now living in a world where the men are calling all the shots. Where they can refer to us derogatorily, hit us and control us even for a minute… this world where having a boyfriend (no matter what he does or says) is more important than our friends, our dreams, our happiness — it’s all wrong. That little girl in all of us is heartbroken, and so am I.
We need to bring back the days when boys were allowed in our lives when they were good for us. When they knew that they could never come between us and our girlfriends and our aspirations. We need to start feeling comfortable with ourselves again (maybe not in a baby doll dress and Jellies) but in whatever we choose to wear, whatever weight we are, whatever skin color. We need to feel good about being a tomboy or being a bombshell or, more often than not, being some crazy mixture of each and every Spice, and not caring when we confuse those who can’t categorize us.
We need to get our Girl Power back. We are smart, beautiful, independent women who need to know what we want, what we really, really want and tell it to the world. Who’s with me? Let me hear a zigazig-ha!
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Feature image via.