How I Used the Spice Girls' 'Wannabe' to Teach My 4-Year-Old Daughter About Feminism

by LaToya Jordan

 Image Via LaToya Jordan

Image Via LaToya Jordan

Until last week my 4-year-old daughter Billie had never heard of the Spice Girls.  
 
I saw a Facebook post from Victoria Beckham aka Posh Spice: "20 years on - Girl Power being used to empower a new generation." The post included a video remake of the Spice Girls' song "Wannabe" by Global Goals for girls' and women's rights.

 
 

It was the perfect opportunity to introduce Billie to Girl Power. In the '90s, some people thought Girl Power was a cheesy manufactured slogan, but as a Spice Girls fan — I once dressed as Scary Spice for a lip-sync competition in college — I've always thought their message of empowerment was a good intro to feminism.

 Image via  Giphy

Image via Giphy

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The first five times we watched the video, Billie wanted to learn the "tell me what you want, what you really really want" part. I paused the video, slowly sang the lyrics, and she repeated after me.  

The next time we watched I asked, "What do you think is happening?"  
 
"Well, there's a lot of girls," she said. "They're dancers. These girls are wearing shirts and dresses and pants and other stuff, like sandals... Mommy, what do those words say?" 
 
The video includes goals for girls' rights throughout. I skipped the first one, "End Violence Against Girls," not ready to explain this, wanting her to stay unaware of some of the bad things in the world a little longer.
 
"OK, this one says 'Quality Education For All Girls.' Did you know that in some places girls can't go to school?"
 
"Bad!" she shouted. She loves school so she doesn't quite get why some girls can't go to school simply because they're girls, and I don't know how to further explain it because it makes no sense to me either.
 
"This one says 'End Child Marriage' — they don't want little girls to get married."
 
"Little girls can't get married because they're not old enough; that's easy!"

Duh! I wasn't surprised she understood this one, her dad and I always talk to her about things she'll be able to do when she's an adult: Marriage, babies, drinking wine, and using sharp knives are all on that list.
 
"And this one says 'Equal Pay For Equal Work.'" I told her that she and her friend Franklin were astronauts. I picked astronauts because she's obsessed with space; she dressed as an astronaut for her fourth birthday party. I asked how she would feel if Franklin got paid $100 and she got $20.  
 
"I would like it because I like Franklin, he's my friend." I was touched by her compassion — because Franklin's her friend, she was OK with him making more money. Then she added, "And I would like one thousand and twenty dollars."

That's my girl, ready for salary negotiations.
 
"Girl Power has come a long way," flashed across the screen at the end of the video.  
 
"What do you think Girl Power means?" I asked.
 
"Girl Power means dancing and singing and flying and being like the PowerPuff Girls." She bounced up and down on the couch, hands stretched to the ceiling. "It means girls can lift up stuff! I'm a superhero Billie! I'm Batman!"

 Image via  Giphy

Image via Giphy

"Yes," I said. "Girl Power means girls should be able to do the same things boys can do and that girls can be anything they want to be, do anything they want to do. What do you want to do?"
 
"I want to education work. I want to climb up the ladder." She climbed the couch, pretending it was a ladder. I laughed, realizing she literally meant she wanted to climb a ladder.  
 
After watching the video 10 times, I showed her the Spice Girls original.

 
 

By then she had the "really really want" lyrics down and wanted to learn the choreography. Afterwards, she made up a song about the Spice Girls:
 
Spice Girls here we come
All around
Spicy spicy spice is yummy
Spice is delicious
Spice Girls here we come

 
"Mommy, can you be a Spice Girl when you grow up?"
 
"Of course," I told her.

Girl Power resonates even more with me now than it did in college because I can watch my daughter be inspired by the message. Thanks to the Spice Girls and Global Goals, teaching Billie about equality for girls and women was not as hard of a concept to introduce as I thought it would be. For her, equality is a no-brainer.  
 
"Can we watch the video again?"
 
"Maybe tomorrow," I said.

  IMAGE VIA LATOYA JORDAN

IMAGE VIA LATOYA JORDAN

She jumped up and down on the couch, singing as loud as she could, "I'LL TELL YOU WHAT I WANT WHAT I REALLY REALLY WANT."

 

LaToya Jordan is a writer from Brooklyn, N.Y. who likes to stream 90s hip-hop, R & B, and pop while she works. She is the author of Thick-Skinned Sugar and sometimes tweets @latoyadjordan.