In Defense of…Girl Groups

November 12, 2014

spicegirlsThis may be hard to believe, but feminism in music was a thing even before Beyoncé said so. In fact, girl groups have been exuding power, confidence, and strength since the 30s, stretching across nearly every musical genre. From the Carter Sisters to the Ronettes, the Supremes to the Runaways, the Go-Go’s to the Bangles, women joining forces to express themselves through music is a tangible sign of their ability to exert autonomy and fierceness.

Flash forward to the 90s and early 2000s, when R&B was virtually redefined by the success of powerhouse performers like TLC and Destiny’s Child, who preached a powerful litany of embracing womanhood and celebrating individuality. Songs such as “Unpretty” by TLC encouraged girls to love their bodies and reject insecurity despite the pressure from society’s ideals of perfection. Destiny’s Child crafted a feminist manifesto in the form of “Independent Women (Part 1)” that inspired ladies to revel in the fact that they can take care of themselves and exist on equal footing with the men in their lives. While these groups had a significant impact on music and culture, mainstream pop music was also infused with empowerment, though not without some controversy.

If you grew up in the 90s, you either hated or loved the unstoppable pop queens known as the Spice Girls. Many critics at the time slammed them for commercializing feminism and cheapening it with generic and meaningless bubblegum tunes, but the impact that these five women had on an entire generation of girls cannot be understated. The phrase “girl power,” as coined by Riot Grrrl, only entered our vernacular because the Spice Girls built careers around it. They made it trendy to support your girlfriends instead of tearing them down and to find strength in femininity even though our culture equated it with weakness.

Despite the rich history of all-female ensembles and the positive messages that they deliver to women worldwide, there’s something inherently un-cool about liking modern girl groups. Admittedly, present offerings like Fifth Harmony and Little Mix are still trying to find their voices and footing in the music industry, but 2014 desperately needs to welcome its version of “girl power.” These promising artists are already working to abolish gender roles and stereotypes through anthems like “BO$$” and “Salute,” so we should give them a chance to create a sisterhood that the icons before them would be proud of.

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