When I heard the Spice Girl’s first single is 25 years old, it made me Wannabe a bit sick.
It can’t be a quarter of a century since they karate-kicked and tabled jumped into our consciousness and zig-a-zig-ahed their way into music history?
Come on – I don’t feel ready to be that old yet.
Stop. Right. Now.
Ok, so issues around my ageing aside, reflecting on the anniversary has made me realise how much the Spice Girls taught me about being a woman at a point in my life when that really mattered.
Don’t roll your eyes, it’s true.
The Spice Girls were more than just popstars with a heavy dose of sass and some catchy songs, for me at least.
They pushed back in interviews, they were outspoken and loud.
You could almost feel the collective intake of breath from the white male establishment as they asked them Who do you think you are? and more specifically how do we get them under control?
Spiceworld represented things we weren’t used to seeing from women in the public eye. They were forthright, opinionated, confident and assertive
They didn’t do what they were told, they didn’t sit at peace and be quiet and it took everyone a bit by surprise.
Sure, Madonna had paved the way, but there were five of them so the noise was louder and they seemed like they’d be a better laugh.
Spiceworld represented things we weren’t used to seeing from women in the public eye.
They were forthright, opinionated, confident and assertive and as a young woman finding my way, I lapped it up.
And that is the magic this Old Spice would like to bottle up and keep – the sense they gave of the collective power of women standing together and supporting each other.
So which Spice Girl were you?
Back in the day, if asked, I’d say I was Geri. Because of the hair.
We were all asked that question a fair bit – which one of the Spice Girls are you?
As someone who’s always struggled with being ginger – so much so that at one point I had the chop thinking it was less hair for folk to slag off – I finally felt I was part of an in-crowd.
I was just going from high school, where I was very much a big fish in a small pond, to a fish-out-of-water at university when the Spice Girls burst onto the scene.
And they were everywhere – from the merchandise we bought to the clothes we wore.
They showed me how to be heard at a time when I never dreamed I would have a voice.
For a while they also showed me how to appear – albeit as a fictional female character created in a record company exec’s mind.
My own dubious fashion choices included ankle-breaking platforms, sequined mini dresses with baby doll straps, leopard print anything – coordinated with over-plucked eyebrows and crazy hair styles.
I wasn’t comfy. I didn’t look or feel like me. I fell over a lot.
And in an attempt to Spice up my graduation, some unfortunate sartorial decisions were made.
So it wasn’t all good is what I’m saying.
The successful juggernaut which made the Spice Girls one of the most successful girl bands ever is essentially my problem with how it went for Ginger, Scary, Posh, Baby and Sporty after Wannabe kicked over the traces.
It became less about Girl Power and more about the power of selling things to us wrapped up nicely in a corporate idea of feminism and female empowernment.
Things look different from here
Maybe that’s wisdom that comes with age – you realise you spent too much time trying to be someone else instead of being yourself.
At the time I was too busy squeezing into push-up bras and tottering around on ridiculous shoes to understand the lessons they were teaching us.
And the Spice Girls taught me a lot – as much because of what they and I did wrong, as what we got right.
They went from being a group of passionate young women realising their dreams into an over-manufactured, mass market machine that sold us a lie while it was making millions. For someone else.
What Geri and the gals made me realise is that Girl Power and feminism can’t be achieved on the side of a tin of juice or a lunch box.
We didn’t get a stronger voice by listening to them, we got it by listening to ourselves.
The confidence we have today is our Girl Power to command and it can’t be sold to us.
Next generation to inspire
We had that song inside us all along, we just had to figure out the words.
And I try to sing that tune these days instead of someone else’s.
There’s a new generation of women to be supported and we need to let them know it’s okay to be authentically themselves.
Can you believe that Wannabe is 25 years old! 😱 To celebrate, we’ve created our first fan video featuring some of our wonderful fans who have shared their videos and photos with us using #IAmASpiceGirl ✌️https://t.co/8oOPzUgbl4 pic.twitter.com/laHvWRPmBP
— Spice Girls (@spicegirls) July 9, 2021
I’ll be honest, I doubt very much if I’ll feel that empowered about women’s rights when I listen to the re-release of their first single, but they could still win me back.
Friendship never ends after all.
So I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want – for them to splash the cash and donate the profits from that re-release to a worthy cause fighting for normal, everday women instead of lining the record company exec’s pockets.
That would be real Girl Power.