National Catholic Register


Young America’s Love AffairWith The Spice Girls

BY Kathleen Howley

July 5-11, 1998 Issue | Posted 7/5/98 at 1:00 PM


When it comes to the Spice Girls, a scantily-clad English group that has evoked almost as much high-pitched screaming as The Beatles, it's not the lack of talent that bothers me.

Or the banal lyrics. Or the elevator-music quality that seems to infest their melodies.

No, I could live with all that. I could laugh at a British invasion by women with names like Baby, Posh, Scary, and Sporty. I could chuckle at the devotion expended on the group by so many pre-pubescent American girls who idolize the gang of four. (Spice Girl watchers will remember that flame-haired Ginger recently left the group, a move that broke many a young heart.)

Of course, when mentioning the remaining girls to young devotees, it is proper to use “Spice” in place of their last names: Baby Spice, Posh Spice, Scary Spice, and Sporty Spice. Just a word of advice, to avoid correction by those in the know.

Once, I was immature, too. When I was 12, I idolized Mickey, one of the singers in The Monkees. The other girls in my class were devoted to Davey, the bestlooking member of the four-man band. But I loved curly-haired Mickey, the joker of the bunch. He wasn't as handsome, but he had hidden depths to his personality, or so I imagined. He never answered the letter I sent to him.

The Spice Girls, though, are a different sort of animal. They are a band with a message that is distinctly anti-women. They are saying to young girls: you are sex objects.

For a brief history lesson, it's a philosophy that originated with men in the decades and centuries prior to the Women's Movement of the 1970s. In that long-ago era, males who did not accept Christian teachings concerning the dignity of women tended to be the only ones who used women as sex objects.

Today, many women have learned, though exposure to modern culture, to treat themselves like sex objects. To see examples of such behavior, take a look at the best-selling “women's magazines” the next time you're standing in a grocery checkout line. You're likely to find a half-naked model on the cover, in an animalistic pose. Remember — these are magazines aimed at women, not men.

And you're sure to find one or two cover stories on sex — getting it, improving it, or changing it — as well as a quiz to check to see whether you're up to par with your sex life (an odd term that could only exist in an age that encourages the fragmentation of the human personality).

As well, there is likely to be a cover story on “how to get him to commit.” Leading to the next natural question: why should he?

The Spice Girls represent a giant step forward in the campaign to strip women of their dignity. The group is like a human smart bomb. Why wait until girls are in their late teens or early 20s to teach them that their human worth is based on sex? Get them when they're young — even as young as seven or eight, the age of many devotees.

If you doubt my words, check out the pictures that accompany the June 23 story on the group in the Life section of USA Today. One shows a 12-year-old girl with a bare midriff and low-slung jeans, a fan who attended a recent Spice Girls concert in Virginia.

Her T-shirt is pulled up and knotted so high that it borders on being indecent. Written on her stomach is the battle cry of the band: “Girl Power.”

She's just copying the style and behavior of her idols, the Girls.

“Let's get naked,” one of the Spice Girls announced as the group performed one of its hits, straddling chairs that strategically conceal what is supposed to look like nudity.

Perhaps the scariest part of the story is the input from the adult women who were at the concert — the so-called “Spice Moms,” who dress like the members of the band and encourage their young daughters, or, in some cases, their nieces, to idolize the Girls.

“They teach girls how to be independent,” said a 38- year-old woman who brought her 13-year-old niece to the concert. Both are pictured, dressed in crotch-revealing shorts, high heels, and immodest shirts. Not surprisingly, the 13-year-old looks like a grown-up woman.

Is that what being independent means? Dressing and acting like a prostitute?

Today, young girls need examples of strong-minded women who will teach them the meaning of human dignity. They're not going to find that in the Spice Girls.

Kathleen Howley is a Boston-based journalist.