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“New” girl power??? April 30, 2007

Posted by kelly in alias, bodies, controversy, Female Power, feminism, Girl Power.

I just read this article from New Zealand, it’s called “Sass to Sleaze: new girl power.” The author, Kevin Airs, writes of a significant shift from the Spice Girls brand of girl power, to the recent more sexualized versions of Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, and Lindsay Lohan.

The article mentions that around the time of the Spice Girls, shows such as Alias, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Dark Angel were popular, promoting girls who were physically strong. Now, though, the article argues, female role models are deriving their power only from their physically beauty and by leaving little or nothing to the imagination. Sex appeal has replaced physical strength and young girls are taught that their best assets are their curves, not their muscles.

I’m not really sure what to think about this article. While I agree with some of its points, I believe the author tries to hard to contrast the girl power of the Spice Girls with what he has termed the “new girl power.” Yes, before it was about sticking with your friends and kicking ass. But at the same time, can we really deny how much of this was related to the physical?

Let’s face it, Jennifer Garner, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Jessica Alba aren’t exactly ugly. A large part of their audience was men, men who gawked at their bodies and were simply entertained by a beautiful women who could do flips and kick ass while also being sexy and charming. They didn’t watch the show because they wanted to see strong female characters, they watched it to get lost in some sick male fantasy for an hour at a time.

As I said, I don’t know how I feel about Mr. Airs’ article. He seems too eager to judge rather than analyze. The mere title of the article suggests that he finds women who bare their bodies to be “sleazy.” Perhaps he needs to take a closer look at himself and see what his judgments indicate about his own inherent biases and ideas of what girl power should be and what power women should be allowed.

What do you all think?



1. Melissa - May 1, 2007

I think Airs is trying to make an exhausted point- didn’t we already know that society’s relationship to girl power and feminism changed in the past decade? While I don’t mind him trying to make the distinction between girl power in the 1990’s and the form it has now taken on, I think he shoots himself in the foot by using the Spice Girls to discuss the change in reverence for the female form. I would agree with Kelly on this change being about something more than the physical- lets face it, the Spice Girls all had beautiful bodies (even the “curvy” one who was still just a size 6). I don’t think sex appeal has replaced physical appeal, and if you look back to the height of the Spice Girls phenomena every woman in that group found some way to sexualize their attributes (from short skirts to show off legs to tube tops to show off sleek arms). If we are only looking at the time period the author has put forth, he is wrong to make the statement that this hyper-sexualization is specific to the current period. If anything, we have the Spice Girls to blame for this “sleazy” nature of girl power- in fact, I think we can trace the current obsession with revealing clothing and the phenomena of little girls wearing next to nothing back to the Spice Girls days… what would Airs have to say about that?

2. sindhub - May 5, 2007

I just have to say, that article represents so much of what’s wrong with how we look at ’empowerment.’ It’s become so typical for people to defend extremely-sexualized women as role models for young girls, saying that they’re really ’empowering’ them. It’s such a buzz word, and it’s all about capitalism, not actually about choice.

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