Who is the Gen Z Edition of the Spice Girls?

How solo female artists embrace feminism in 2022

Alexis Zygan (She/Her) // Contributor
Jamie Kusack // Illustrator

In a patriarchal society, celebrating girl power is an antidote to sexism. In the 90s, the Spice Girls gained popularity for catchy pop tunes and championing female empowerment. Their celebration of femininity challenged internalized misogyny by showcasing that a diverse array of females with different personalities could be friends. The girl group introduced mainstream audiences to a diluted version of third-wave feminism. The Spice Girls predecessors were riot grrrl bands, such as Bikini Kill, who seemingly coined the term girl power — taking the stage in order to grant women permission to take up space and speak out about reproductive rights, rape culture and male entitlement. 

It has been over two decades since the Spice Girls split up, but there remains a demand for girl power, which raises the question — who does Gen Z have to look up to for advice? Who teaches teen girls the value of female friendship and encourages them to express their anger as a valid response to systemic sexism? 

The short answer is that there is no single girl group in 2022 that mirrors the attitude and persona of the Spice Girls. The most popular girl group is Blackpink, a K-Pop band formed in 2016 by YG Entertainment. However, rather than creating anthems to fight the patriarchy, Blackpink’s lyrics focus on preserving their youth, frozen desserts, and breakups, which doesn’t make them any less catchy but their songs are devoid of feminist undertones. 

There are, however, solo female artists whose tracks empower the next generation — Lizzo, FKA Twigs, Halsey and Olivia Rodrigo, to name a few. Also, when discussing influential 90s girl groups, we cannot forget Destiny’s Child, who sang about embodying independence, and the lead singer went on to have a successful solo career as Beyoncé. She is a triple threat and pop culture icon who isn’t afraid to use her platform to turn the patriarchy on its head.  

Maybe we’re better off having individual voices empowering women rather than a commercial product presenting as a girl group. Back in the 90s and today, the music industry remains male-dominated. According to a 2020 study from the University of Southern California, women make up only 12.9 per cent of songwriters. We all remember when Ke$ha went to court after her former producer physically and sexually abused her, proving that women in this industry are not always taken seriously. Women in the industry need to fight tooth and nail to influence the next generation.

Even though Gen Z doesn’t have a feminist girl group they can identify with, riot grrrl bands have made a comeback in recent years. Bikini Kill reunited in 2019 and has been touring since, only pausing during the height of the pandemic restrictions. Lizzo is indicative of a woman in the industry who embodies the values of intersectional feminism and proves that you don’t need to be a white woman or a size two to love yourself. As long as patriarchal ideologies remain the norm, there will still be women creating feminist pop anthems. They just may not be part of a band.

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