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The fallacy of Girl Power – by MagicMushroom Part 1.

posted 8/7/2010 7:35:19 PM |
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tagged: writing, girl, feminism

This is a piece I wrote a couple of years ago about the 'apparent' feminism associated with 'Girl Power'. It is a tough but fair read, and is well referenced.

‘Girl power’ is a term used in popular culture to describe the newly won power of young women. However, academic feminism views it more as complicit in the discipline and surveillance of young women.

This paper explores the concepts of ‘Girl Power’ through its embodiment of third wave feminism and how problematic relationships with second wave feminist discourse illustrates a dilemma that today’s young women face in their search for liberation, empowerment and equality within contemporary mainstream society.
It is generally accepted that second wave feminism (1960's) was a political/social movement utilised by women to transform unequal power relationships between men and women. “Underpinned by hostility towards the popular” (Feasey, 2006 p 4), second wave feminists opposed popular cultural ideologies, whereas post feminists (Girl Power 1990's) were seen to engage in a more positive search to define their relationship between feminism and femininity within popular culture (Feasey, 2006 p 4).
As modern young women in society found themselves challenged by oppressive, sexist, patriarchal, neo capitalistic conservative media perspectives (television, magazines and music, 1990's), they frequently observed media validations of patriarchal discourses supporting their subordination to men (Kelta Web Concepts, 2003). As an action of such media exposure, women's perceptions of self-image were influenced by modern disciplinary regimes and systems of surveillance, which in turn may have shaped their perceptions of feminism and femininity (Deveaux, 1994, p224).
It is from this perspective that feminist viewpoints will be explored to examine possible contradictions in feminist discourse concerning contemporary music and television programs which may paradoxically both assist and hinder young women’s perceptions of how their social and sexual roles may be shaped by popular culture.
The origins of the ‘Girl Power’ message will be investigated through both mainstream and alternative viewpoints, encompassing such icons such as: ‘The Spice Girls’, ‘The Riot Grrrls’, ‘The Eco Grrrls’, and follow it’s (G.P’s) development portrayed in popular television programs such as ‘Charmed’ and ‘Ally Mc Beal’. Perspectives from both second and third wave feminism will be utilised to ascertain probable successes and failures of ‘Girl Powers’ ability to deliver the economic, social and sexual liberation that women strive to achieve in today’s complex society.
Discipline, surveillance, women and the media
Second wave feminists assert that post feminist’s perceptions of femininity and feminism may be unduly influenced through their endorsement of popular culture and that the media created woman is:
“1. A sex object, frequently used to sell products
2. Wife, mother and housekeeper for men
3. A person trying to be beautiful for men
4. A weak, vulnerable, dependent, and submissive individual” (Zoonen, 2000, page 66).
Consequently, second wave feminists urge young women to be prudently aware of the disciplinary practices that utilise: exercise and diet regimes (developed to attain ‘the perfect body size’), a focus of deportment, through a range of vocalizations, gestures, postures and movements, feminine display techniques such as the use of cosmetics (Deveaux, 1994, p 226). Such behaviours are seen to encompass both socially imposed and voluntary aspects of discipline. They combine to create an image of femininity that reinforces itself through a pursuit of bodily perfection (Deveaux, 1994, p 226). Feminist theorists assert that if women internalise such ‘feminine ideals’, they may lack the objectivity to challenge its action and anguish over the consequences of non-compliance, with the rejection of such ‘feminine ideals’ likely to manifest as the rejection of one’s own identity (Deveaux, 1994, p 226). Such regimes of social control are perceived as cost-effective in both force and finance (for a patriarchal society) as it is women themselves who practice this discipline on and against their own bodies and minds. Foucault asserts that disciplinary mechanisms maintained by surveillance make it possible to qualify, classify and punish an individual when they deviate from the norm (Ellis, 2003 pg 215). He claimed that a fundamental aspect of surveillance was its turn inward. It is through this action that women can feel constantly observed and judged in all areas of life be they public or private. Such individuals respond by watching, judging and controlling their behaviours to match those of the norm (Ellis, 2003 pg 215). However, they may be rendered visible and guilt ridden at any moment by the disciplinary power that imposes such systems of self-surveillance. This is how Foucault perceived the soul to be the prison of the body (Ellis, 2003 pg 215). Subsequently, second wave discourse forewarns that if young adolescent women assume the role of an “inmate of the panoptican”, they may function as “a self-policing subject, a self, committed to a relentless self surveillance” (Deveaux, 1994, p 227).
The Spice Girls - just do it.
It has been argued that ‘The Spice Girls’ evaded discipline and control through exaggeration and fun, utilising resistance by means of a juxtaposed rendering of femininity (Lemish, 2003 p18). However, second wavers may argue that such concurrence with the dominant ideology reinforces and sustains it (Lemish, 2003, p 18). Identified by some as positive models for girls, ‘The Spice Girls’ declared that, “the future was female” and affirmed that “feminism has become a dirty word”. Articulated through a sense of female bonding and sisterhood, they asserted that, "We're freshening up feminism for the nineties” and “’Girl Power’ is just a nineties way of saying it” (Schilt, 2003, P. 13/14). Depicting five different personality types to define femininity, ‘The Spice Girls’ endeavoured to characterise the personas of: childishness and cuteness (Baby Spice), sexy exhibitionism (Ginger Spice), wildness (Scary Spice), fitness and normality (Sporty spice), with Posh Spice typifying elegance and sophistication (Lemish, 2003 p 19). Young women were encouraged to emulate any of the above ‘spice personas’ that were deemed to instil confidence and self-awareness. Backed by Naomi Wolf’s comment, “these are not Barbie dolls”, ‘The Spice Girls’ still personify ‘the girl next door’ who exhibits a strong-willed independent personality (Lemish, 2003. p 20). In their official book (Spice Girls 7), they define some of the contemporary feminist ideals that highlight the ‘Girl Power’ movement. They are:
1. You help a guy with his bag

See Part 2 for next section....

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Blogs by MagicMushroom:
The fallacy of Girl Power – by MagicMushroom Part 3.
The fallacy of Girl Power – by MagicMushroom Part 2.
The fallacy of Girl Power – by MagicMushroom Part 1.


post a comment!


Aug 7 @ 7:45PM  
Well all went over my head but then again...I'm old. I never was gung-ho over stuff like women's lib and all that. I'm old school. ( there's that word 'old' again)

Anyway...welcome to AMD. May your stay be pleasant and your blogs...well.... be yours.

Aug 7 @ 7:46PM  
By the wouldn't happen to be related to someone known as Bruce??? Just askin.....

Aug 7 @ 7:47PM  
thank you musician friend, you have braved the slopes of algebraic equations
to venture to the 'raunchy side'. fear not, for low, and high, and middle i am with
Thee. the book of life and the tree of life. watch out for the deadly amanita
mushrooms. and the clouds that long to mushroom. fantastico. thrilled
to have you here, so near. when a woman does my laundry for me, suddenly
sox are missing. the light colored is now ranned and turned pink. i must
do my own laundry. how thoughtful of you to carry the bag of granny goose
potato chips. whimsy can be flimsy.

Aug 7 @ 10:07PM  
you need to finish this... smile

Aug 8 @ 2:06AM  
TL;DR. This is hardly the place for a dissertation.

Aug 10 @ 9:29AM  
Welcome, and thank you for putting a lot of time and effort into your series.

By the wouldn't happen to be related to someone known as Bruce???
With its academic flair, length and citation style, this post is really much more similar to that of an excellent blogger, Greg, fka Dominus than Bruce's.

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The fallacy of Girl Power – by MagicMushroom Part 1.