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PARKER: When Girl Power becomes a Wannabe

Image Credit: Compilation/Jennifer Stahn
January 05, 2015 - 7:48 AM

It was 1998. I had just finished being the last kid ski-dooed down Sun Peaks Mountain after attempting a black diamond run on my Grade Six ski trip and I was in trouble.

It was at this precise moment, in the back of my parent’s forest green Astro van, that I decided the odds were in my favour.

“Mom, dad,” I said, “either let me get my belly button pierced or please, please, please let me go to tonight’s première of Spice World with Tiana!”

As you can imagine, an eleven-year-old offering up such an obnoxious and calloused ultimatum after strictly breaking field-trip rules was promptly shut down by the use of first name, middle name, and last.

“You certainly may not,” one of them surely said.

But, as adolescent mistakes tend to, my Olympic ski champion-channeling stunt soon faded into the distance — as did my request to have some tattooed twenty-something slice through my innocent navel with a silver spear — and I was granted permission to go and see Spice World (albeit with someone other than Tiana.)

I remember sitting in the theatre asking myself as the scenes progressed which Spice Girl I was most like.

Sure I owned more track pants than little Gucci dresses, but did that really mean I was destined to be the sporty one instead of Posh? Then there was Ginger, who was constantly all blah blah Girl Power and while I liked the sentiment, I knew I would never be able to fill out a halter top the way she did. I possessed plenty of Scary Spice’s qualities, but I could never get my hair to do that, and as for Baby, well, I was never destined to have a metabolism that could handle that many lollipops.

I hemmed and hawed over them all before concluding they were all flawless, that I would be lucky to be any one of them, and that their true message was probably — I was eleven, how was I to know what their Spice philosophy was — just to own whatever you were and own it flamboyantly.

Which is why I was shocked at my response when I sat down the other day to watch the 15 year-old film with a couple girlfriends.

“Ginger’s probably the biggest out of them all,” one of us said. “And Baby’s not tiny, either,” said another (me?).

There we sat, three grown-ass women with grown-ass jobs and primarily grown-out-of insecurities, insulting the very vessel for our self-actualized Girl Power. We sat — three analytical, intelligent, and mostly politically correct minds — completely missing the entire point.

What seemed to be so obvious at eleven now escaped us.

Blame the ever-more-invasive celebrity culture for teaching us to judge those in front of us for the way they appear. Blame our over-use of social media for the degree to which we think that appearance is important. Blame Facebook, for the way we look at others as a way of depreciating ourselves. Blame our grown-ass persons for succumbing to it all.

We watched the movie — aside from our unfair and ill-poised judgments — with the enthusiasm of teenyboppers. We giggled. We squealed. We huddled together under throws when the creepy reporter crawled out of the toilet. We were, as Roald Dahl would say, watching with glittering eyes.

Yet as the film ended — and I say “film” only because the first time I owned it, it was on VHS — and we proceeded to applaud heartily, I was sad.

Where did Girl Power go in the 15 years I’ve had since to ponder the message of Scary, Sporty, Ginger, Baby and Posh?

As the three of us crawled out from under the blankets — each to reveal a different sense of style, a different plan for the evening, a different direction home — it hit me. We got the message loud and clear, we just aren’t girls any more. 

And we are in desperate need of a sequel.

— Andria is a 20-something blogger from Kamloops

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