4 Lessons The Spice Girls Taught Me About Feminism In The '90s (Before I Even Knew What Feminism Was)
While everyone else in third grade was arguing about who was better, NSYNC or the Backstreet Boys, I was busy memorizing every line to "Wannabe" and sneaking in viewings of Spice World at my friend Brittany's house. But although, yes, these habits might partially be chalked up to the simple fact that I was in third grade, my obsession ultimately ended up shaping me more than I ever imagined it would. The Spice Girls taught me about feminism before I even knew what that word meant, and thus I am a 4ever fan.
If you were born under a rock (or maybe just after 1991), the Spice Girls were a glitter-y, plastic-y, platform-wearing '90s girl group. Each character — Scary Spice (real name Melanie Brown), Sporty Spice (Melanie Chisholm), Posh Spice (Victoria Adams at the time, later Beckham), Ginger Spice (Geri Halliwell), and Baby Spice (Emma Bunton) — filled a specific niche. Was their image manufactured by a record company? Uh huh. Did they profit from a very simplified and commercialized form of feminism? For sure.
But here's the thing: At 8 years old, I was not going to be reading bell hooks or researching Gloria Steinem. I kind of knew about the Suffrage movement, but the idea of "feminism" was nebulous. The Spice Girls, with their Girl Power motto and facade of tight female friendship, opened up the world of feminism to me. They made it accessible. They made it fun.
Here is what I learned from them about feminism before I even knew what feminism was.
1. Ovaries Before Brovaries
In the seminal earworm classic "Wannabe," the girls chant, "If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends" — that is, anyone I choose to date or bone has to be cool with my friends. If not, it's a deal breaker. A cornerstone of the Spice Girls image was positive, supportive, non-competitive female friendship, a theme which is often lacking in popular music. It's such an important lesson to learn, though, and the Spice Girls ideals had it in spades.
2. The Magic of the F-Word
In Spice World, Ginger Spice scares off a potential suitor by mentioning the dreaded f-word: FEMINISM. The dude runs away, the ladies laugh him off-screen, and girls everywhere saw that men who are scared of strong women are not worth the time. Also, this trick works well when weeding out people you really wouldn't want to date on OkCupid and Tinder.
3. Smooch Who You Want
In "2 Becomes 1," the girls are real obvious about wanting to get some: "I need some love like I never needed love before. I had a little love, now I'm back for more."
There's never any slut-shaming going on with the Spice Girls; rather, they're all about kissing on someone whenever you want (as long, of course, as the feeling is mutual and everyone has given their explicit consent). While in third grade I didn't really pick up on the "specifics" of this message, the lack of shame surrounding relationships and feelings definitely made an impact on me.
4. Wear What You Want
In what became a pretty controversial statement, Baby Spice was quoted as saying,''Just because you've got a short skirt on and a pair of tits, you can still say what you want to say. We're still very strong.'' Yas. YAS. Yaaaaaasssss.
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