(Pictured, left to right: Taryn Brumfitt, Emma Watson, Professor Adele Green, Malala Yousafzai, Helen Reddy, Dame Quentin Bryce, Delta Goodrem).
You might want to sit down when I break this to you … it’s been twenty years since five young British girls told us what they wanted, what they really, really wanted.
Yes, the Spice Girls’s hit single ‘Wannabe’ skyrocketed up the charts twenty years ago and what did we do with those twenty years besides work hard, have families, age, pay off mortgages, travel, socialise, stay fit and look after our loved ones …? Who knows!
I don’t want to give the Spice Girls all the credit for making us stand up and say what we wanted, because there’s been predecessors, and many fine ones at that – the suffragettes come to mind. But I think it is fair to say, they woke up a new generation of girls.
So in light of the anniversary of ‘Wannabe’, I thought it was timely to recall some significant women that have been role models in their own way.
IN THE SIXTIES
Helen Reddy had us all shouting “I am Woman” (hear me roar … grr) – although I would play my mother’s copy of Helen Reddy’s Delta Dawn the most. Which in retrospect, I was singing about some strange girl jilted and hallucinating in her bedroom instead of ‘roaring I am woman, well it explains a few things. I digress …
Betty Friedan’s 1963 book The Feminine Mystique came about after surveying her classmates at a reunion and finding many of them were unhappy. These unhappy housewives wanted more opportunities … education, careers, and choices!
IN THE SEVENTIES
We had The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer.
This international bestseller was considered an important (some might say life changing) text for the feminist movement. Germaine believed that our traditional suburban lives and our consumerism repressed and devitalized us, making us eunuchs.
Can’t argue with that … however I now have all the independent choices that any man has but I still don’t get enough sex.
IN THE EIGHTIES
Some might say the iron lady, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was a role model as the first ever female Prime Minister in Britain and a woman who played hardball with the boys.
Madonna also told us to express ourselves in her 1989 hit song ‘Express Yourself’ …
“Don’t go for second best baby / Put your love to the test you know” or ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ where Madonna championed the rights of single mums.
And let’s not even go there with ‘Like a Virgin’ in 1984!
IN THE NINETIES
The fab five— Melanie Brown (Scary Spice), Melanie Chisholm (Sporty Spice), Emma Bunton (Baby Spice), Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice), and Victoria Beckham (Posh Spice)—made up the Spice Girls and they told us:
If you want my future forget my past
… mm, that’s good. Very, very good. And, of course:
If you wanna be my lover, you have got to give.
Oh so true, give and take! It told the nineties’ girls, that they could be fussy, they could make some demands and they didn’t have to settle.
Don’t forget there was also the significant feminist work, The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf that got the girls inspired as well.
Who stands out as a role model to the 21st century woman? Is it …
- Beyonce – a businesswoman, talented, ambitious, a mother, a wife;
- Christina Aguilera reminding us that we are ‘beautiful / No matter what they say /Words can’t bring me down’;
- Malala Yousafzai – the young Middle Eastern woman who survived an attempt on her life and who is now an advocate for female rights;
- How about Hilary Clinton or our very own foreign minister Julie Bishop for intelligent women holding their own?
- Delta Goodrem who survived Hodgkin’s lymphoma and now spends a lot of time working for charities;
- Emma Watson (of Hermione in the “Harry Potter” movies fame) who is a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador for gender equality;
- Gail Kelly, Australian businesswoman and CARE Australia’s Ambassador for Women’s Empowerment;
- Oprah Winfrey who empowered us all to feel, act, be…
- Former Governor-General Quentin Bryce who chaired the Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland.
In Brisbane, I’d like to nominate home grown Professor Adèle Green who has been at the frontline of melanoma research for 20 years and dedicated her life to this work.
Nationally, props to Taryn Brumfitt founder of the Body Image Movement (pictured left). Taryn’s documentary ‘Embrace’ and her worldwide ambassadors are shining a light on the culture of body loathing and body shaming and redefining and rewrite the ideals of beauty.
Embrace is now showing at Palace Cinemas nationally, and I am passionate about this film.
Who has made an impact on, or influenced you?
She Brisbane is proud to be a Body Image Global Ambassador.
Don’t miss the Spice Girls Tribute Night
Kristian Fletcher celebrates 20 years of The Spice Girls with a special ‘SPICE GIRLS TRIBUTE NIGHT’. Brisbane performers will bring some of your favourite Girl Power hits to life PLUS Spice Girl concert footage, music videos and rare clips on the big screen. End the night dancing to your favourite Spice Girls songs!
Prizes for the Best Dressed! With licensed bar (18+)
Carmel Elliot is a part-time Brisbane events organiser, mother of two grown men and grandmother of two girls and a boy. When she’s not working or babysitting, she likes to paint in oils, but obviously that doesn’t happen very often.