Strength, courage and a WonderBra

I’m coming down from a day or two of a mild Spice Girls induced haze. I’ve listened to the music, I’ve watched the movie – heck, I’ve started speaking with a vaguely cockney accent.

And what struck me most about the Spice Girls? Well, this quote from the film:

We’re the Spice Girls, yes indeed. Just Girl Power is all we need. We know how we got this far… Strength and courage and a Wonderbra!

The Spice Girls were, as we all know, a phenomenon. Millions of albums sold, packed out concerts, and a spectacular (or a spectacularly tacky, depending on your gender and age group) film were part of the Spice Girls success story. Heck, they made Barbie dolls in the Spice Girls likenesses – they must have been good.

And yet, what were the Spice Girls selling? Ultimately, of course, it was their music. But what was their message? Girl power.

As someone who was around about the age of 10 when the Spice Girls got ‘big’, I am well equipped to speak on what Girl Power is. It’s about being sporty, being scary, being baby. Picking a Spice Girl, and being like them. However, it is also, according to Wikipedia, “[a] message of empowerment [that] appealed to young girls, adolescents and adult women, and… emphasised the importance of strong and loyal friendship among females.”

To be honest, I got less of the ‘friendship amongst females’ vibe from the Spice Girls. But then again, I was 10 – and I can listen back to ‘Wannabe’ now and see distinctly where the Girl Power stuff came into it. The vibe I mostly got from the Girl Power movement was that girls can do anything! And obviously, that anything WAS to become like the Spice Girls. because regardless of whether your talents actually lay in being sporty, or being scary, the main thing was that these girls were first and foremost a Spice Girl – their other talents came secondary to that. In a way, I would have liked for Sporty Spice to go off and conquer the world of soccer or similar – just so she could show us how sporty she really was.

But where does the ‘strength, courage, and a Wonderbra’ fit into all this? How does that particular idea merge with one of Girl Power, one of female empowerment and being allowed to be sporty, OR posh, OR scary?

It’s all in the ‘soft’ feminism. It’s the idea of making feminism less scary, so it can appeal to the masses. It’s not called FEMALE or WOMAN power – it’s called ‘Girl’ Power. It’s the concept that women can have empowerment, but they can also be sexy, and own a Wonderbra (which, by the way, I am not condemning. Go out and buy all the Wonderbras you want, ladies).

But when the question is posed to the Spice Girls, ‘How did you get this far?’, and their answer is ‘strength, courage and a Wonderbra’ – ladies, we’re in trouble. The answer is not, ‘strength, courage, a buttload of business savvy and some great singing voices’. No. The answer is their breasts. It points right back to their sexuality, and the concept that they somehow used their bodies to succeed.

Of course, I’m reading a LOT into one small phrase in one film. The Spice Girls movement is a lot larger than that one line, and it would take a lot more than one blog post to successfully deduce what they were all about. But it’s given me something to think about.