Girl Power.

  • Mon, 12, Nov, 2018 - 5:00:AM

The good and bad feminism of the Spice Girls

Spice Girls at the O, Victoria Beckham, Melanie C, Melanie B, Emma Bunton and Geri Halliwell / Kura.Kun / Wikimedia Commons

Y’all must be aware of the biggest news of the week. No, not the US midterms but the news that the ultimate girl band of the 90s, the Spice Girls (sans Victoria Beckham) are reuniting for a UK tour. O.M.G. The reactions have been shock, elation and even concern as one daring newsreader wondered if without Posh, the music would suffer.

We humans love a bit of nostalgia. We love watching rehashed TV shows, rebooted films and musical acts that mesh together old pop acts who somewhat disappeared at the turn of the century. Nostalgia is not reality though and as someone who lived through the original Spice Girls hoopla, I feel duty bound to remember all the good the Girls did, but also the bad. Soz, someone has to.

Firstly the good: Jennifer Saunders (creator of Ab Fab) wrote the West End musical Viva Forever and claimed that the Spice Girls were great role models for young girls as they were not sexualised. Their outfits were fun, bright (and sometimes outright inexcusable). Their vibe was not about writhing on the stage or solely singing about love and boys. Their whole mantra was ‘girl power’ which they shouted over and over again as they held hands and presented what seemed to be genuine female friendships. At a time when we were inundated with god-awful ‘lads’ mags’ and normal people were having Playboy parties, this was needed.

And yet: The Spice Girls were created by and owned by men who wanted to make a profit – and they made shitloads. Sadly their mantra of girl power felt like a novelty act at times, a clichéd motto used to help sell their brand. The Spice Girls were a huge global band who revelled in their own marketing. You could buy the dolls alongside the Chupa Chups (another 90s icon) and even questionable pizza. It was feminism for sale with ‘girl power’ as a commodity.

This commodity feminism is still occurring with even the most woke feminist. Dior sells t-shirts that say ‘We Should All be Feminists’, and feminist apparel is swiftly shipped out to high street shops from lowly paid factory workers in developing nations. As this great article points out, the feminism brand is great for capitalism, but is capitalism great for feminism? Yes, it gets the message out but is it actually doing anything for the cause?

And still: The Spice Girls came about at a time where it was uncool to even utter the word feminism. Their success at combining commerce and music was colossal and paved the way for other artists today. I believe their ultimate failing was timing. Unfortunately, ‘girl power’ did not take off and instead we were besieged by images of Britney Spears gyrating in a schoolgirl outfit and Paris Hilton acting dumb on television. 

Perhaps now is the perfect time for the Spice Girls to really mean it when they shout ‘girl power’.


  • Spice Girls /
  • Feminism /
  • Commodity Feminism /
  • Commercial Feminisim /
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