It’s time to embrace the true girl power of this quartet.
For a generation of women, the Spice Girls and their specific brand of Girl Power was more than a savvy marketing slogan. Girl Power was a fortification of the sisterhood, a show of strength and solidarity, a way of making feminism fun. It was a mood, a ralling cry and an anthem. It meant something.
It’s one of the reasons why, decades after the Spice Girls first found success, the band can still sell out an arena tour in minutes, even when they’re one member down. (We still love you, Posh.) It’s also why fans are so upset that the original Girl Power advocates are distancing themselves from their most empowering legacy.
“It’s people power,” Emma Bunton told The Sun last week. “We’re about equality and bringing everyone together.”
But just as the Spice Girls are backing away from Girl Power another quartet of female singers are moving ever closer to it. Jesy Nelson, Jade Thirlwall, Perrie Edwards and Leigh-Anne Pinnock, the four women who make up Little Mix, women who came of age in the era of the Spice Girls, are not only embracing Girl Power’s message but elevating it.
I know I can’t see your face through the blue-lit screen as you read this, but I imagine it bears an expression of surprise. Little Mix! Feminist heroes! Stylist.co.uk, you jest, surely.
We do not. Little Mix are the feminist icons you need right now. Their latest album LM5 is an uplifting ode to women, from the body positive Strip to the sex positive Love a Girl Right to the straight-up woman positive Joan of Arc. Each song’s bass track pulsates with empowerment. They have wrested control of their record and image from Simon Cowell’s Syco label, releasing their latest album under a different imprint. For the first time, the four women are credited as executive producers on the album and as writers on half of their new tracks. LM5’s fierce attitude, replete with Big Feminist Energy, is an unmistakeable statement.
“We definitely speak our mind now. If we don’t like it, we always say it,” Pinnock told The Sun, of the split with Cowell and Syco.
“It’s double standards when you’re young women,” Edwards added. “When we started out it was almost like, ‘This is your lane, stay in your lane. You’re the faces and the name.’ We’re not. We’re the brand. We’re businesswomen. It’s our baby. So everything we do creatively comes from us.”
In case you missed the memo, Little Mix aren’t bossy, they’re the boss. When speaking about their new record, the foursome use words like “ballsy”, “strong”, “confident”, “more in control than ever before” and “liberated” to describe their latest music and its themes.
“This is the album we’ve always wanted to make,” Thirlwall told Billboard. “We’ve just stopped caring as much about what people think. We’re not as scared anymore to write about things that pack more of a punch or are a bit more controversial.”
That includes online abuse, the patriarchy, inequality, masturbation and sex, sex, sex. LM5 is sexy and self-assured on every single track. From Joan of Arc (“I love me so much I put my hands on myself”) to Strip (“Finally love me naked, sexiest when I’m confident), the latter accompanied by a video clip featuring a diverse range of women including journalist Bryony Gordon, body positive activist Felicity Hayward, blogger Dina Torkia and FGM activist Nimco Ali.
In the middle of the video, shot by photographer Rankin, the four women of Little Mix appeared naked, covered in the slurs they receive most frequently on social media: ‘Ugly’, ‘Bossy’, ‘Flabby’, ‘Stupid’, ‘Insignificant’ and ‘Not Good Enough’.
This is Girl Power in action, dancing joyously in video clips, celebrating bodies and sexuality, embracing femininity, lifting each other up. And even if commentators like – deep, weary sigh – Piers Morgan want to call it a shameless grab for record sales, it is empowering. To hear the most successful girl group in the world singing about how every woman is beautiful, every woman is worthy, every woman is enough, is empowering. It’s as simple as that.
The Spice Girls might think that, 20 years after they first sang about it, the world doesn’t need Girl Power anymore. But we do. Luckily, we have Little Mix to give it to us.