Are the Spice Girls Feminists?

Even though I was born in 1999 and was the ripe age of 1 when the Spice Girls broke up in 2000, the British girl group defined my childhood, and I'm still a big fan today. For my senior quote, I quoted a "Wannabe" lyric. Just two weeks ago, I referenced the same hit song in a paper for my Shakespeare class. The Spice Girls continue to inspire me today. As a women and gender studies major, I'm interested to see if the Spice Girls hold up today. Is the group feminist?

Feminism is a tricky thing to define; it means something different for every person. Broadly, feminists believe that men and women are equal. At UNC, the women and gender studies program emphasizes intersectionality. Intersectionality proposes that other factors of identity, such as sexuality, race, age, ethnicity, etc. work together with gender and sex. The intersection of these identities can cause a more nuanced form of oppression.

Today, I'm questioning if the Spice Girls are feminists, but even more importantly, intersectional feminists. I'll be doing this by listening some of the Spice Girls' songs from their compilation album aptly titled, Greatest Hits All gifs are from that songs' music video!

 

"Wannabe"

"Wannabe" is iconic and for good reason. The song is all about female friendship. The Spice Girls sing, "If you wannabe my lover/ you gotta get with my friends/ make it last forever/ friendship never ends." These four lines represent the whole song; the Spice Girls have romantic prospects, but their friendship takes precedence over them! The Spice Girls stand in solidarity with each other, and I say that's pretty feminist. The music video presents a couple of issues though. In the first couple seconds, Scary Spice and Baby Spice (Mel B and Emma Bunton) seemingly steal clothes from homeless men. They have a conversation with them, but it is still pretty weird. The group of five then break into a music hall and cause general havoc, before fleeing onto a bus and leaving the police in the dust. Besides the law breaking, the feminist message of friendship rings true.

"2 Become 1"

I didn't have high expectations for "2 Become 1," but I was pleasantly surprised! I was familiar with the song, which is all about sex, but there's something empowering about a song, sung by women, that is so blatantly about sex. In the video, every Spice Girl makes direct eye contact with the camera; they are not ashamed nor embarrassed about their sexuality. The lyrics, "be a little bit wiser, baby/ put it on, put it on," seem to be referring to safe sex! I didn't think anything better than a lyric about safe sex would happen, but I was mistaken. Right after the two minute mark, there are several diverse couples shown, much to my surprise! We see a white woman and white man, but we also see a black man and a white woman, two women, one of whom is black, and then a woman of color with a white man. I'm loving the interracial and same-sex representations!

"Spice Up Your Life"

If you ever need a song to dance to, "Spice Up Your Life" is it. Well, really, almost every song by the Spice Girls is great to dance to. The music video is futuristic and reminds me of Blade Runner. In the video, we see Ginger Spice (Geri) and Baby Spice (Emma) co-piloting a spaceship. Though it's a small thing, it is empowering to see women driving planes or something that approximates to a plane. When you think "pilot", did your mind immediately picture a man? Mine did, and that's why it's important to see women piloting, driving, etc. so that we can change our mental perceptions!

"Too Much"

"Too Much" is my favorite Spice Girls song, and I think it's because I can't discern the meaning right away. During the song, the Spice Girls take control of their romantic endeavors. One of them sings, "He's a lover; I need a friend," and Sporty Spice (Melanie C) sings, "What part of no don't you understand/ I need a man, not a boy who thinks he can." I appreciate that these women know what they want and don't back down. Also, "What part of no don't you understand," speaks to the inadequacy of our education system and parenting as a society to teach men about consent. Everyone, but especially men, should understand all parts of no.

"Let Love Lead the Way"

This is the first song on this album that only includes four women, as Ginger Spice (Geri) left the girl group early. In the music video, the four women sing about a girl who is struggling to get through everyday life. The lyrics, "part of me laughs/ part of me cries/ part of me wants to question why/ why is there joy/ why is there pain/ why is there sunshine and the rain," speak to the complexities of a woman's personality. Though these lyrics can be considered silly, it's important to show that women struggle sometimes, and we're not always happy and perfect. Later lyrics like, "You might feel weak/ but you are strong/ don't you give up girl/ if you keep holding on/ you'll never be wrong," and "everything will work out fine," are reminders that us women are strong and can get through anything. Listen to this during finals, and I swear your stress will recede, at least for the 4 minutes and 16 seconds of the song.

 

What's the Verdict?

Just based off these 5 songs, I would say that the Spice Girls are feminists, but only dabble in intersectional feminism. Their solidarity, friendship and overall girl power is inspiring, but not necessarily inclusive. Though Scary Spice (Mel B) is a woman of color, the fact that her nickname is Scary Spice is problematic. There are some music videos that are inclusive, especially the one for "2 Become 1." Unfortunately, the inclusion of different races, body types, social classes, sexualities, etc. are too few and far between to establish a pattern of intersectionality. Despite the fact that the Spice Girls aren't intersectional, I would still recommend them, as long as you keep in mind that there are faults with their brand of feminism and know there is room for improvement in how you incorporate feminism into your own life. 

 

Are you fans of the Spice Girls? Do you think they are feminist?

Thanks so much for reading, and remember, "Everything will work out fine."