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Girl power is a slogan that encourages and celebrates women's empowerment, independence, and confidence. The slogan's invention is credited to US punk band Bikini Kill, who published a zine called Girl Power in 1991.
Early usage and origins
In 1991, US punk band Bikini Kill published a feminist zine called Girl Power. The band's lead singer, Kathleen Hanna, said was inspired by the Black Power slogan. The term became popular in the early and mid 90s punk culture. The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll credits the zine with coining the slogan: "In their feminist fanzine Bikini Kill they articulated an agenda for young women in and outside of music; the band put those ideas to practice. (Ironically, the zine first coined the "girl power" slogan, later co-opted by England's bubblegum pop band the Spice Girls.) Bikini Kill earned a reputation in the punk underground for confronting certain standards of that genre; for example, asking people to slam at the side of the stage, so that women would not get pushed out of the front, and inviting women to take the mike and talk about sexual abuse."
Some other musical artists who have used the slogan in their music are Welsh band Helen Love, with it appearing in the chorus of their 1992 song “Formula One Racing Girls”, and pop-punk duo Shampoo, who released an album and single titled Girl Power in 1995.
Spice Girls and scholarship
British pop quintet Spice Girls popularized the slogan in the mid-1990s. In her 2002 book Girl Heroes: The New Force in Popular Culture, Professor Susan Hopkins suggests a correlation between girl power, Spice Girls, and female action heroes at the end of the 20th century. Geri Halliwell, a member of the Spice Girls, credited former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a leading conservative, as the pioneer of their ideology of girl power.
The slogan has also been examined within the context of the academic field, for example Buffy studies. Media theorist Kathleen Rowe Karlyn in her article "Scream, Popular Culture, and Feminism's Third Wave: I'm Not My Mother" 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.
Oxford English Dictionary
A 2001 update to the Oxford English Dictionary defined girl power as:
Power exercised 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 grrrl" movement in the United States (cf. RIOT GIRL n.); then, in the late 1990s, with the British all-female group The Spice Girls.
The dictionary 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 1980s, the 1990s weren't so kind to the superwoman format—Xena Warrior Princess excepted. But it's a new 2000 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.
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. 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.” Media can sometimes present a narrow definition of what it means to be a girl today. One common example being popular toys such Mattel's Barbie. The recent “I can be” Barbie embodies this concept of “girl power”: that little girls can be anything they want when they grow up. Arguably, Barbie's image may also present narrowed options with which girls can identify. Hannah Jane Parkinson of The Guardian criticized the term as something "young women [that] are feeling more confident about calling themselves feminists and standing up for principles of equality" hide behind and denounced it for including the word "girl", claiming it promoted the calling of adult women as girls.
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- E y e s <-> <-> O n l y Archived 2008-01-05 at the Wayback Machine
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-  Archived January 31, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
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