What the Spice Girls Did For Us

(This morning I wrote a piece about the Spice Girls, then Grace Dent wrote a piece about the Spice Girls for the Independent. So this may now be considered my response, offering a generationally different perspective.)

I have a deep and profound love for the Spice Girls. Their remarkable debut album, ’Spice’ (which I have on cassette btw) the soundtrack to my formative years answered many important questions about being a woman; who do you think you are? Who should come first, friends or boys? And, how do I get on with my mum? Now that these songs are once again to be heard on stage in the musical Viva Forever! I COULD NOT BE more excited.

Whilst Grace remembers an ecstasy and Heather Small stained decade, I was far too young for Hacienda but too old for Aaron Carter. Making me a first generation Spice fan. They were mine.

I’m also an unemployed graduate, back at home, with a lot of time to think. Too much time maybe. Which is how I have come to the conclusion that the Spice Girls did more for us as girls in one pop hit than Germaine Greer, Simone de Beauvoir and Doris Lessing put together.

Once you've stopped reeling I’ll explain myself.

Think about when you became a feminist. “I’ve always been one!” You shout. “I’m more friendly with my flaps and female psyche than Bert was with Ernie. I AM WOMAN”. All right, calm down. That is exactly my point. You see my theory is, that as we grew up with these five girls, our generation have always known what it is to be women. Nurture beating nature down with a stick, we have never known how not to be strong, independent, leopard print clad women. All you need is positivity!

The Spice Girls paved the way for us to show the world what we want, what we really, really want - platform trainers and our own tour bus driven by Meatloaf preferably - and to be proud of it. Many feminists/people may disagree with me entirely arguing the Spice Girls commercialisation of sex set back the movement by twenty years but to them I say, zigazig Ha! I don’t think so.

To me, the Spice Girls represent the sexless innocence of my childhood. Which happened to be in the nineties, the last time we really did anything new. Socially, culturally, interestingly. Until now. Now girl power is back, in the papers, on the telly, on twitter as “new wave" Feminism. A term I use loosely because it’s crap. It’s no surprise our style is reverting back to that of our youth (leggings are both comfortable and practical I shall wear them till I die) and Tony Blair wants back in to Number 10, things were just better in the nineties. Well for us, we were children.

Our frame of reference largely came from Girl Talk Magazine, and our playground worth was decided by trying to ’find out who likes you’ on our Dream Phones. For a girl that liked to play with Mighty Max and Polly Pocket it was reassuring to find out you could like both, and Dream Phone Steve could still fancy you AND that there was more to life than hamster posters and glittery Alice bands.

For a while, I was worried about the girls. The patriarchy reconvened and blue hair mascara went out of fashion, they all went their separate ways. Particularly my cultural and sartorial touchstone Mel B (knocked up and jilted by Eddie Murphy and now the face of Jenny Craig diet meals). But I shouldn’t have been.

When I hear ’Too Much’ I’m flashed back. I can still smell the limited edition Impulse that I wore so proudly with my Spice Girls platform trainers from Asda - the ownership of which was fraught by the lie that they didn’t really fit but as the last pair in the shop my mum could never know. I’m ten again and a little white girl proudly dressed as Scary Spice. Mel B would never let skin colour get in the way of fashion, feminism or taste and neither will I.

Yes my perspective on the nineties is naive but let me suggest one final argument for the Spice Girls as feminist icons; it’s not our fault! Who else did we have to choose from?

Most TV presenters spent Saturday mornings writhing around our TV screens waiting for last night's line to wear off and this morning's to take hold. As for other pop stars, there were the boy bands but they just reinforced the message we should be at home waiting for the Dream Phone to ring. (As it was my relationship with Dream Phone Steve was very one dimensional and didn't last.) And even at ten years old it was obvious to me Barbie had body issues.

So, to the Greer school, the Second Sex-ers, and with respect Grace, I say; Stop right now, thank you very much. Do not deride the Princesses of pop, they made me what I am today. Vive la difference. Viva, forever.

- KB

Are you a child of the nineties? Do you think the Spice Girls were helpful to the cause? Let us know in the comments' section