When the Spice Girls arrived on the radio, my 10 year old self was instantly hooked; a girl band with a woman I could idolise, indeed five women I could idolise. The group sang about girl power. I wasn’t really sure what that meant but I believed it involved choosing an identity for myself. Also, it seemed, a lot of high kicks and telling my brother off. I wonder, though, how such a group has affected me in the long run, indeed, affected lots of girls in the long run. Having idols that promoted girl power while singing “If you wanna be my lover” seems to promote conflicting ideals. Was it girl empowerment or girl exploitation?
More recently, the Pussycat Dolls have flirted with controversy. Song lyrics including “Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me” and “When I grow up I wanna be famous”. Turn on your radio, no doubt you’ll hear their songs. The Pussycat Dolls are more obviously sexual, wearing clothes that would fit a young child comfortably and an adult more imaginatively. The Pussycat Dolls, however, seem to pedalling their own type of girl power, a power that gives a child ability to want to be famous through physical attractiveness rather than other more intangible characteristics.
But then maybe these girl bands are the smart ones. Their songs, their dances, their merchandise hints not at sexual exploitation or girl empowerment but at economic capitalisation. Because when it comes down to it, I bought Spice Girl body fragrance, Spice Girl t-shirts, albums, singles, posters and everything I could afford. The amount of merchandise available for The Pussycat Dolls is not surprising. Is it too cynical to tell a 10 year old girl that the music they’re listening to is the product of very powerful people who have created a product in order to capitalise on the fastest growing spending market. Is it really Girl Power when those who are empowered aren’t girls?
-Julie Anne Young
Girl Museum Inc.