Mel C Talks About How The Spice Girls Pioneered Modern Feminism & Girl Power

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There’s no denying, former British girl group The Spice Girls pretty much defined “girl power” for the millennial generation. With their loud catchy anthems, stylized costumes, and ballsy attitudes, these 5 girls were a new breed of women in music who were about fierce-ness, independence, and most importantly sisterhood.

There are countless girl groups who have been borne off the back of what The Spice Girls inspired, but along the way, their particular brand of girl power has certainly changed.

Formerly known as “Sporty spice”, Melanie Chisholm, aka Mel C, is still in the biz, but is taking the West End by storm these days, after an uber successful solo career post Spice Girls era.

She is also a mom to daughter Scarlet, and this has opened her eyes to what the next generation of women are being subjected to in the music industry.

At a launch event for her play ‘Made in Dagenham’, Mel spoke to the press about feminism and why she won’t let her daughter watch Rihanna’s music videos.

“I kind of think there’s two camps and two trains of thought. Feminism is what it is to you. You can’t define what feminism is. I don’t want to judge anybody, but for my little girl I don’t want feminism meaning that she shows her flesh to get ahead. For me, that’s not feminism. But I’m not judging anyone that does that.”

She makes two important points here: 1. that feminism isn’t a blanket statement that everyone has to live by, as long as your ultimate motive is to move toward a society that promotes social, political and economical equality for both genders, we’re good!

The second point that she makes is the notion of flashing flesh to get ahead. Listen, it’s not exactly a new thing women are doing. Women have been posing naked for eons, which is no wonder we are judged for our physical appearance more than anything else. It has become ingrained into our psyche’s that our worth comes from what we look like (although that is not the actual truth) that is has taken many pioneers and critical thinkers to try and sway the conversation in the opposite direction.

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Sure, women should have complete autonomy over what they choose to do with their bodies, as historically our bodies have been a battleground for many political agendas (and still are today in many areas). But using the “sexy” card shouldn’t be the only one in our deck, and certainly should not be the only thing that gets us attention or respect, and we think that is what Mel is trying to say here.

Also let it be noted, she is specifically talking about herself and her daughter, so let’s not start hating on her for being a “bad feminist” or something ridiculous like that.

In large part, her words are a comment on our celebrity-obsessed culture, no doubt due to the rise of social media and the internet.

“And also, the thing is, the way celebrity culture has become, so many young girls just want to be famous. But you want to have a passion and a drive to do something and I think sometimes people think you can get things easy, and to be successful at something you have to work hard.”

We gotta say we like that she is teaching her daughter values about hard work that have nothing to do with how good-looking you are. Just watching shows like ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ or ‘Dance Moms’ will give you a sickening look into how some parents ingrain into their daughters from a young age that being a successful woman is all about your physical appearance.

In another interview with Cosmo magazine, Mel C is quick to admit that the Spice Girls had their fair share of controversy back in the day as public icons.

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“People were outraged the Spice Girls wearing crop tops! How things have changed,” she laughs. “Part of the problem is that it seems there isn’t any mystery any more, because of things like Twitter and Instagram. If that’s the way they want to express themselves, it’s not for me to judge. But I do wonder how that affects young people, if you’re seeing one of your idols in a provocative pose.”

Mel loves that current British female artists like Jessie J and Ellie Goulding tell her that the Spice Girls’ brand of girl power influenced them a lot, and is aware of how they contributed to modern feminism.

“For all of us, that is our proudest legacy, that we gave so many fans the confidence to go and do what they wanted to do in life. I think the great thing about the Spice Girls was it helped to make feminism accessible to younger people.”

Of course, many people have different interpretations of the word, but there is one overall theme that women should be united on.

“What we fight for as is equality. It’s not to be above men or to dislike men, it’s about everyone being equal,” she said. “Personally, for me it’s about how things effect people, because the most important thing for me, being the mum of a daughter, is for her to grow up with good self-esteem. I want her to have a very healthy attitude towards herself as a person, both physically and mentally. So, feminism aside, it’s about raising young people with good self-esteem and good morals.”

She mentioned that what her and the other Spice Girls stood for has definitely been skewed over the years. Citing a certain female artist well-known today, she says over-sexualized videos are having a damaging effect on young girls.

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“My girl Scarlet is a big fan of Rihanna, but I won’t let her watch the videos – they’re too sexual. I protect my daughter from it while I can, but she’s growing up fast,” she said.

“For me it’s almost like what we did with girl power has gone too far the other way, which defeats the object. I appreciate that it’s a different generation now, but I don’t consider that empowering.”

Owning your own sexuality is most definitely empowering, but using it as a tool to get ahead, or make it your trump card doesn’t exactly do any favors for the progression of women. It is nothing new! We have been exploiting our own sexuality since the beginning of time, it’s only since women started standing up for their right to equality that we have seen a shift in our culture away from sexualization, and leaning more toward sexuality being only one part of who women are as complex creatures.

Interestingly, Mel C being cast in the play ‘Made in Dagenham’ is a pretty feminist move in itself. If you haven’t the film version, it is about a group of courageous women in the city of (you guessed it) Dagenham who work at Ford car factory sewing interiors. When they find out they aren’t being paid the same as men, they form a coalition and start striking in the name of equal pay.

Their fight goes all the way to the top where they get the attention of the UK government who brings their issue to light in an even more public forum, and forces the Ford Motor Company in the US to intervene. Eventually their protesting pays off, because it was their courage to stand up for their equal rights that enabled new legislation to come about in the UK to ensure women were paid equally.

The bottom line is that we aren’t all going to agree on every detail about our lives, we aren’t even all going to agree on what female empowerment looks like. More than anything we need to give space to each other to share our opinions, and be willing to support women who may not fit in line with our ideals. Our differences don’t have to define or divide us.

We applaud Mel C for setting a strong example for her daughter and for not being afraid to call out unhealthy examples in pop culture today. And it’s no surprise that the Spice Girls’ 1996 hit ‘Wannabe’ was scientifically voted as the “world’s catchiest song” according to researchers in Holland. No one can argue with science! Or the Spice Girls!

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One Comment

  1. Pingback: Mel B On Raising Her Kids: "I Want My Daughters To Be Empowered"

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