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The fallacy of Girl Power – by MagicMushroom Part 2.

posted 8/10/2010 6:02:33 AM |
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  MagicMushroom

[/B]This is part 2. (it continues on from part 1.- see previous blog)


2. You and your mates reply to wolf whistles by shouting 'get your arse out’
3. You wear high heels and think on your feet
4. You know you can do it and nothing's going to stop you
5. You don't wait around for him to call
6. You stick with your mates and they stick with you
7. You're loud and proud even when you've broken out in spots
8. You believe in yourself and control your own life” (Lemish, 2003. p 20).

Characterised by both physical and mental strength, ‘Girl Power’ embraces freedom of expression, dignity, control of one’s life and inner peace to achieve women’s “free spirit, self-acceptance and self-fulfilment” (Lemish, 2003. p 21). However, this type of ‘superficial feminism’ has been stated by second wavers to reinforce women’s dependency on capitalistic, patriarchal systems with ‘The Spice Girls’ musical extravaganza seen to be handled, programmed and marketed by male agents who organise and control the band’s image (Lemish, 2003. p 22). The Spice Girls proclaimed their independence from men, yet their songs focused on heterosexual love and the yearning for satisfying relationships with men. Moreover, they affirmed ‘the power of the individual’; yet adhered to dominant notions of prettiness and sexiness. Consequently, it has been argued by those of the second wave that ‘The Spice Girl’s’ brand, ‘Girl power’ was, “a myth which supported the subordination of females within patriarchal society: it offered the lie that 'Girl Power' constituted liberating empowerment and thereby diverted any possibility of real resistance” (Lemish, 2003. p 25). With little structure or direction supporting their idealistic ‘do it yourself feminism’, and their hypocritical use of consumption (Spice Girl perfumes, chips, clothing, memorabilia and dolls) to promote femininity, they were seen to serve existing social hierarchies, albeit the very one’s in which they were in apposition to (Lemish, 2003. p 26). Ultimately this position detached ‘The Spice Girls’ from the negative stigmas of “bra-burning angry, ugly women” with their statement “I could never burn my Wonderbra. I'm nothing without it!” (Lemish, 2003. p 26).

The Riot Grrrl movement - reshaping feminism

In the early 1990s, Seattle's alternative music scene spawned an underground feminist punk movement that was associated with third-wave feminism (‘Girl Power’) and used their music to express feminist and antiracist viewpoints. Hailed in popular magazines for blending feminism and rock music, the 'Riot Grrrl' movement also encouraged women to assert their ideas about feminism and sexuality (Schilt, 2003 p6). Bands such as: “Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Heavens to Betsy”, created music that explored such topics as rape, incest, and eating disorders. These insightful songs enlightened young women on how their own problems fitted into larger political structures and how society teaches women to hate themselves (Schilt, 2003 p8). Unlike ‘The Spice Girls’ normative demeanour, such ‘Riot Grrrl’ associated bands were well known for their radical antics such as scrawling the words ‘slut’ and ‘rape’ across their torsos before performances. Fans produced non-professional publications (fanzines) with names like Girl Germs, and collectively expressed contempt for the media (Schilt, 2003 p8). Affirming their notion of potent resistance, the ‘Riot Grrrls’ slogan, “revolution girl-style now” offered a means for young women to practice feminism by forming bands, producing fanzines and starting up support groups. Such interventions fostered an affirmative form of female self-expression that didn’t reject, suppress, or de-legitimise young women’s experiences, and thereby initiated a feminist and political consciousness. (Schilt, 2003 p14). The Period Pains, an English ‘Riot Grrrl’ associated band illustrated the movements distaste for ‘The Spice Girls’ ‘phoney feminism’ with their comments, “you can't even sing/wear bikinis on stage” and “you're not girls you're women/you're boring and you're lame”, and demonstrated how some teenagers had perceived the discrepancies between ‘words and actions’ (Schilt, 2003 p15). The ‘Riot Girrrl’ movement symbolised the power of shared experience. They offered advice in how to move towards healing through the encouragement of girls to utilise music in their expression of anger towards a patriarchal world that still marginalizes them today (Schilt, 2003 p15).

Eco Grrrls - mountain girl environmentalism

Within the anti-global corporatisation movement (Canada 1990’s), a significant number of younger women were inspired by the language and images of 'Girl Power' to mould their environmental politics (Fry, Kimberley, Lousley, Cheryl, 2001 p 26). Adolescent women identifying with the issues surrounding environmental and feminist politics seized the ‘Girl Power’ ideology to facilitate a potent source of environmental activism and cultural change. Described as, “a subculture of young women who shape their political commitments, gender performances and style around an environmental ethic” (Fry, Kimberley, Lousley, Cheryl, 2001 p 27), ‘Eco Girls’ were a product of popular culture yet rejected the mainstream versions of feminism and environmentalism and the standardised and commodified feminine norm (Fry, Kimberley, Lousley, Cheryl, 2001 p 28). Contesting the ‘Barbie symbol’ version of femininity, and subverting overwhelming beauty pressures and the male gaze, they reclaimed their bodies and their sexuality (Fry, Kimberley, Lousley, Cheryl, 2001 p 27). Utilising the humour, fun and style derived from the ‘Girl Power’ movement they made use of puppets, costumes and street theatre to swell debate on such issues as sweatshop working conditions, domestic violence and endangered species (Fry, Kimberley, Lousley, Cheryl, 2001 p 25). ‘The Eco Grrrls’ also produced zines (non-professional publications) like “Chicks United for Non-noxious Transportation” (C.U.N.T.) a radical Toronto-based women's cycling paper which allowed communication between women without relying on mainstream media outlets (Fry, Kimberley, Lousley, Cheryl, 2001 p 30). Such empowered young ‘Eco Grrrls’ induced a growl that disrupted the ‘nice’ and ‘passive’ femininity of ‘girl’ as they scrutinized how environmental messages and strategies intertwined with popular culture, and as such, formed a politically feminised environmental resistance in an eco-branded world (Fry, Kimberley, Lousley, Cheryl, 2001 p 30).

Charmed - three sisters who happen to be witches.

The popular television program 'Charmed', explored the anxieties experienced by teenage women regarding sexuality, relationships, family tensions, and the negotiation of a position in their peer group (Feasey, 2006 p 4). Argued by feminist theorists that such texts provide role models for young women that are “undeniably girly”

See Part 3. for the rest

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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.


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The fallacy of Girl Power – by MagicMushroom Part 2.