From Our Readers

I'm Bringing Girl Power Back

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!

You can follow Kerri Jarema on Twitter.

Feature image via.

  • Ramona Falk

    Such a mood booster.
    The Spice Girls were the highlight of my childhood :)
    I couldn’t agree more!

  • Kati Ber

    omg! I never realized that there was actually a message behind all those songs (maybe because I didnt really understand what they were singing about, back in the old days… lol) but you are right!
    Girl Power!!

  • Althea Smith

    Two things…I also totally had a crush on Benny ‘The Jet’. Aaaaaaand…Spice Girls were the shit.

  • Kelsey Taylor

    and now I’m going to spend the entire day listening to Spice Girls and possibly watch Spice World. Thank you! Haha!

  • Samantha LiTrenta

    This is wonderful. Also I had that exact Barbie workout video!

  • Kristen Haynie

    I will have Spice Girls songs running through my head all day now!

    I’m picking up on a theme on HG today… with this post and the one about catcalling. I feel that as a whole, we females are losing our spirit. We were doing so well for a while, but now we’re just laying down and letting men call all the shots, no matter how badly they treat us. What happened to us? Our first priority should be ourselves, just like the Spice Girls taught us! Maybe the Spice Girls need to come back… we need some inspiration!

  • Sierra Ruiz

    I was just talking to my friend about this very thing. Especially about needing a boyfriend and how men are calling the shots. An ex of mine asked me the other day (trying to be nice) “why don’t you have a boyfriend? you deserve it.” Well let me tell you something, I DON’T NEED A BOYFRIEND! I also don’t “desrve” a boyfriend, I deserve to be happy and I haven’t found a guy who has made me happy enough to be my boyfriend. I would much rather hang out with my girlfriends than a guy anyday. Girl power all the way! 😀

  • Ellice Soliven

    I totally had a crush on Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez. And one of my favorite issues of Rolling Stone ever was the one with the Spice Girls on the cover, all dressed in black leather. Adored Posh’s heels on that one 😉

  • Hannah Marie Seeger

    I totally agree!! I am going to be a junior at Penn State next year and am currently majoring in mechanical engineering AND Meteorology and i will be mentoring freshman women who also have chosen engineering as their major. My goal is to give them this exact message! I dont want them to be afraid of this male dominant career and to do anything they want and not let anything get in their way because girl power is such a powerful thing and all of us females have to embrace that!!

  • Lizzy Andrew

    My boyfriend’s argument against the brilliance of the Spice Girls is that wearing tiny dresses isn’t female empowerment at all, and that the Girl Power movement in general was just a clever marketing ploy. I normally agree with his first point, and I’m disgusted with this culture we have nowadays where women feel they need to take their clothes off to get ahead (damn you patriarchy!), but in this context, it’s not the same thing. The way the Spice Girls dressed wasn’t to cater to a male audience, they weren’t posing provocatively with come-to-bed-eyes and pouting sexily, they were running around having fun. Whether this was genuine or not doesn’t matter. It’s a much better to see girls having fun than thrusting about onstage pretending to have sexy times with backing dancers. Which leads me to his second point, the whole ‘Girl Power was a marketing ploy’ thing. I actually don’t care. In 1996, I was 8, and to be 8 years old and to hear the message ‘You can achieve anything you want to’ was far better than to hear ‘If you’re pretty, then maybe some rich guy will sleep with you and buy you stuff”. I am so glad that the Spice Girls were part of my upbringing, and at that impressionable age too. I pity the 8 year olds of today.

  • Elizabeth Polit

    Amen to this! I loved the Spice Girls and totally did all of the things you outlined here. And I think we all should have a moment of silence for those Spice Girls lollipops. They were amazing.

  • Pauline de Groot

    I also seem to remember another girl band from the 90s called Girl Thing (with songs ‘Last One Standing’ and ‘Girls On Top’) that convinced me that girls were better than boys :)
    Aahh… good times. Good times.

  • Katie Fritcher

    SPOT ON!!!!! I have a little cousin now who is quite a bit younger than me and whenever she went on about how totally awesome hannah montana was, I would smile and just tell her, it was too bad she missed out on the spice girls. How many girls my age decided which spice girl they and their friends would be (I was scary) and danced their dances at recess? how many of us flocked to buy platform shoes and would have sold their kidneys to go see the spice girls in concert? but most importantly, how many of us still crank up “wannabe” when we are driving around with our friends, still reveling in all the greatness that was the spice girls! There might be many things we might forget about growing up in the ninties (furbies….tamagachis) but not ever spice girls

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