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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The phrase "Girl Power" is a term of empowerment, expressed a cultural phenomenon of the mid-late 1990s to the early 2000s, and is also linked to third-wave feminism. The term was made popular by the Spice Girls in the mid to late 1990s.


Early usage

The phrase is sometimes spelled as "grrrl power", initially associated with Riot Grrrl.[1] "Girl power" was later utilized by a number of bands during the early 1990s, such as the Welsh indie band Helen Love[2] and the Plumstead pop-punk duo Shampoo.[3]

Spice Girls and scholarship

The phrase entered the mainstream, however, during the mid-1990s with the British pop quintet Spice Girls. [4][5][6][7] Professor Susan Hopkins, in her 2002 text, Girl Heroes: the New Force in Popular Culture, suggested a correlation between "Girl Power", Spice Girls and female action heroes at the end of the 20th century.[8]

Other scholars have also examined the phrase, "girl power", often within the context of the academic field, Buffy Studies.[9] Media theorist Kathleen Rowe Karlyn in her article "Scream, Popular Culture, and Feminism's Third Wave: I'm Not My Mother"[10] and Irene Karras in "The Third Wave's Final girl: Buffy the Vampire Slayer" suggest a link with third-wave feminism. Frances Early and Kathleen Kennedy in the introduction to Athena’s Daughters: Television’s New Women Warriors, discuss what they describe as a link between girl power and a "new" image of women warriors in popular culture.[11]

Oxford English Dictionary

In 2001, the Oxford English Dictionary added the term Girl power,"[12] defining this phrase as:

Power exercised by girls; spec. a self-reliant attitude among girls and young women manifested in ambition, assertiveness, and individualism. Although also used more widely (esp. as a slogan), the term has been particularly and repeatedly associated with popular music; most notably in the early 1990s with the briefly prominent ‘riot girl’ movement in the United States (cf. RIOT GIRL n.); then, in the late 1990s, with the British all-female group The Spice Girls.[13]

The OED further offers an example of this term by quoting from "Angel Delight", an article in the March 24, 2001 issue of Dreamwatch about the television series Dark Angel:

After the Sarah Connors and Ellen Ripleys of the eighties, the nineties weren't so kind to the superwoman format — Xena Warrior Princess excepted. But it's a new millennium now, and while Charlie's Angels and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are kicking up a storm on movie screens, it's been down to James Cameron to bring empowered female warriors back to television screens. And tellingly, Cameron has done it by mixing the sober feminism of his Terminator and Aliens characters with the sexed-up Girl Power of a Britney Spears concert. The result is Dark Angel.[14]


Dr. Debbie Ging, Chair of the BA in Communications Studies in Dublin City University, was critical of the "Girl power" ideals, and linked it to the sexualisation of younger children, girls in particular.[15] Some question whether the concept of “girl power” is an effective media campaign to empower young women. In the last decade, it can be argued that the original Grrl Power movement has become co-opted by the media and marketing industries. Amy McClure of North Carolina State University, warns against placing too much hope on girl power as an empowering concept. She says, “An ideology based on consumerism can never be a revolutionary social movement. The fact that it appears to be a revolutionary movement is a dangerous lie that not only marketers sell to us but that we often happily sell to ourselves.”[16] “Girl Power” may actually limit young women’s identity development. There are numerous examples of how the media presents a narrow definition of what it means to be a girl today. A common and overused example is Mattel’s Barbie. The recent “I can be” Barbie[17] embodies this concept of “girl power”: that little girls can be anything they want when they grow up, but ultimately, it could be argued that identity options are narrowed by Barbie’s image and superficial values[18]

See also



  • Buffy The Patriarchy Slayer - Bibliography of scholarly articles on Buffy Studies.
  • Early, Frances and Kathleen Kennedy, Athena's Daughters: Television's New Women Warriors, Syracuse University Press, 2003.
  • Gateward, Frances. Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice. Cinemas of Girlhood. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2002.
  • Helford, Elyce Rae. Fantasy Girls : Gender in the New Universe of Science Fiction and Fantasy Television. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000.
  • Hopkins, Susan, Girl Heroes: the New Force in Popular Culture, Pluto Press Australia, 2002.
  • Inness, Sherrie A. (ed.) Action Chicks: New Images of Tough Women in Popular Culture, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
  • — ——. Tough Girls : Women Warriors and Wonder Women in Popular Culture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999.
  • — ——.Nancy Drew and Company : Culture, Gender, and Girls' Series. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1997.
  • Karlyn, Kathleen Rowe. "Scream, Popular Culture, and Feminism's Third Wave: 'I'm Not My Mother'. Genders: Presenting Innovative Work in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences No. 38 (2003).
  • Karras, Irene. "The Third Wave's Final Girl: Buffy the Vampire Slayer." thirdspace 1:2 (March 2002).
  • "Frustrating Female Heroism: Mixed Messages in Xena, Nikita, and Buffy." The Journal of Popular Culture, Volume 39 Issue 5 (October 2006).
  • Tasker, Yvonne. Action and Adventure Cinema. New York: Routledge, 2004.

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