Moonlight Phoenix has risen

music, feminism, spirituality, words and more

Book Review: Growing Up with Girl Power

on March 4, 2018

another book review from years back that sadly never got published, and this was such a good book I still thought it worthy to post the review!

Growing Up With Girl Power by Rebecca Haines, Peter Lang Publishing

Growing Up With Girl Power is the first book written by Massachusetts based media studies and advertising teacher Rebecca Haines

. Also a graduate of Women’s Studies, this three hundred and fifteen page book is a very interesting and insightful look into the impact of the phrase ‘Girl Power‘ and it’s implications on our lives from an early age.

Most girls of any age will identify with something in this book, Growing Up With Girl Power explores the riot grrrl movement, the impact of all girl pop phenomenon Spice Girls, girl hero cartoons such as The Powerpuff Girls and even explores the complex issue of racism.

You don’t need to be a graduate or studying gender theory to enjoy this book. Growing Up With Girl Power is written in an understandable way making it easy for anyone to read- and the chapters are set in an excellent chronological and categorical manner, so if you wanted to, you could just pick up the book and read about a particular subject if you wanted to. At the end of each chapter there is a paragraph or two on the kinds of discussion the chapter’s subject has brought up, so the book would also be an excellent teaching resource.

As far as I’m aware, there is no other book out there in the publishing world like this one which explore this particular side of feminism. I felt like this was the book I’d been searching for, various chapters in the book summed up what I had always suspected had been my own personal route to identifying as a feminist.

In particular, what stood out for me were the chapters titled ‘Girl Power Goes Pop’ and ‘Did the Spice Girls Kill Feminism?’ which are early on in the book, citing this kind of music as the progression of the ‘girl power‘ ethos of the Riot Grrrls in the nineties (interestingly, the phrase Girl Power was first used by Bikini Kill in their zines and flyers- NOT by the Spice Girls). Rebecca Haines discusses the article written a few years ago in 2007 by Fay Weldon of the Daily Mail titled ‘How the Spice Girls Killed Feminism, Subverted Morality and Embarrassed Us All.

‘ which made the assumption that almost all girls that listened to the Spice Girls now have eating disorders and body image issues. The writer decides to find out if this is really true by interviewing some girls who had experienced The Spice Girls music whilst growing up and identified as feminists.

Not all the girls that were interviewed were fans of The Spice Girls, but all had interesting opinions and memories of the impact The Spice Girls had on their childhood, it seems whether we liked them or not, the all girl pop act made an impact in some way. What resonated for me, was that one of the girls interviewed said that they had eventually led her into exploring the riot grrrl movement and many of the girls (even if not a fan at any point) felt The Spice Girls were like a ‘beginners feminism’. I too had been a fan of The Spice Girls and now I listen to many all female fronted and all female bands (including riot grrrl) and even do a radio show focused on that kind of music, and I feel like The Spice Girls may have led me in that direction, and in some way eventually led me onto identifying myself as a feminist. It felt good to read, at long last, that there were other girls like me that felt the same way as me about them, and didn’t just trash them. Growing Up With Girl Power writer Rebecca Haines recognises the negative points that the band had, but finally someone sees how they could also have had a positive influence.

Another aspect that makes Growing Up With Girl Power such a good book, is that Rebecca Haines doesn’t just rely on statistics for her subjects, as well as interviewing girls about The Spice Girls influence on their lives, she also interviews some much younger girls for her sections about Girl Hero cartoons and racism. She even goes back to see some of the girls five years later to find out how they now felt about the catchphrase ‘Girl Power‘. In the chapter about cartoons, Rebecca Haines spends time with various groups of young girls including a group at an elementary school and a non profit after care organisation. These chapters provide a real insight into the mind sets of young girls as they tell Rebecca their feelings about various cartoons they watch together and discuss such things as Bratz

dolls. There are also pictures included that the girls draw to illustrate certain things like the differences between a ‘girly girl‘, a ‘tomboy’ and a ‘diva’.

Whilst the book certainly has many positive outlooks, there are some things that Rebecca discovers through her time with the young girls that are frightening, if not surprising. Such as the girls hating everything about the way they look or judging female pop stars for their appearance not their music.

Overall, Growing Up With Girl Power is a fascinating and insightful read, which I highly recommend to all people, whether you identify as a feminist or not.

Review written in 2013, I’m no longer doing the radio show!

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