Oliver James: The spice racket

One thing I have never been able to comprehend is the idea that the Spice Girls provided a shot in the arm for feminism. Girl Power proclaimed that by sheer self-will, any girl can make her career dreams come true. Mouthy and as falsely positive as a dud HIV test, they were self-obsessed, greedy and rude.

The truth is that the Spice Girls were good old-fashioned totty by another name. Had they been middle-aged rather than nubile, they would have had more chance of becoming the Queen than pop stars. All that mattered was that they flashed their knickers a lot, the flesh revealed was youthful and they were very cleverly marketed (by a man).

If any reader can explain to me why this is a boost for an ideology whose central tenet is that women should be treated as people rather than cheesecake, I would like to hear from you. Surely, the Spice Girls were a licence for men to ogle women as gormless sex products (a different make for every taste). Their gobby spiel was doublethink, probably cynically encouraged or invented by their male puppeteers, which actually reduced the intellectual reputation of their gender.

The Spice drivel was a symptom of the Americanisation of feminism into a grasping pursuit of power, status and money. Feminism there has become synonymous with women's career success. The Spices were using their 'talent' to fulfil this (American) dream.

Never mind that the bit of talent required was the sort that lecherous men refer to. Never mind that the vast majority of girls and boys will never be rich or famous or powerful, however hard they try.

Most of all, never mind that even if they do by some miracle become 'someone', it will not improve their self-esteem or mental health one jot. Having interviewed several young female stars, I can attest that their success usually is more a symptom of personal despair or trauma than a source of fulfilment.

But the most worrying thing is that young girl fans are embarked on the road towards being good little consumers. If our 15-month-old daughter starts wanting make-up parties when she is five, as the daughters of the affluent are now wont to do, I will despair. Yet she probably will, because the interest in clothing, haircuts and designer gadgets among prepubescent girls seems limitless.

Dressing up and playing at being older is fine by me - thank heavens for little girls. But these ones are already engaged in a competitive checking out of each other, not play.

The fun of pretence, of fantasy play, has been hijacked by profiteers. The seeds of depression have been sown all too soon to be watered and fertilised in teenagers by the pressures of educational and sexual avarice.

One of the most staggering statistics of our time is that 37 per cent of 15-year-old girls in the top social class (versus 24 per cent in the bottom class) now suffer from clinical anxiety or depression. Hats off to the Spice Girls and their puppeteers!

· Next week: the status of the mothering role.

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.