A Bitter Taste in the Mouth
To discover where something like the Spice Girls came from, like many things, you have to look back to something that it is not, something that is almost always more real, more genuine, and totally uncompromising. In this case it is a movement of young, strong-minded, and fiercely independent women known as Riot Grrls. Riot Grrls were (and are) to young women of the '90s what the punk movement was to the music industry in the late '70s. The point was, men may control the music business and the rest of the world's systems, but that does not mean that we can't create our own forms, our own record labels, our own space, to be whoever we are and to hell with men's image of who and what we as young women should be. An entire world of do-it-yourself records, books, merchandise and other paraphrenalia sprung up as women began to express themselves to each other and also make a bit of money doing it.
Enter the watchful eye of the males in suits, who don't like anyone else having a piece of a market they don't have, and don't like women challenging their long-standing authority over how the role of the sexes is defined. The Spice Girls are, like New Kids on the Block and the Monkees of another era, a manufactured pop group, made to order, through an audition held by men, from an idea conceived by men, to sell their male idea of 'girl power' (a marketing team's bastardisation of 'riot grrrl') en masse like a new brand of soft drink. Their vision of 'girl power' is former strippers and porn stars (not joking here, three of them were in the adult entertainment business) bouncing around in skimpy lingerie, lip-synching to remedial formula songs which are once again, written by men. The notion of 'girl power' coming from these particular individuals is about as Orwellian as it gets.
The tragedy behind all of this is that anything can be sold to an unsuspecting public, and in this case the victims are young teenage girls, who are now screaming 'girl power' in groups at tube stations and on buses. This is all done in the name of their poor exploited painted doll idols, who, when the business (read: the men who run the business) has decided that they are tired of them, or that they're too old, or that they are no longer sexy for them, will take their 'girl powers' away from them just as cavalierly as they gave them, and their teenage fans will comprise yet another generation of women who have been taught that the way to get 'power' in this world is by tarting yourself up enough to get the attention of a man. I'm not sure who is more culpable here; the men who created this monster, or the women who are self-hating enough to go along with it.