The Top 10 Most Empowering Feminist Songs
You Don’t Own Me – Lesley Gore
Lesley Gore recorded the song in 1963 when she was 17 years old. It soon became popular among young women at the time—it expresses a need for a woman’s respect and freedom within a relationship. Gore tells her lover that he does not own her or possess her like a mere objectified trophy. The song’s lyrics became an inspiration for young women at the time and are oftentimes cited as an anthem within the second wave feminist movement. Gore said of her work: ‘I’m 17, what a wonderful thing, to stand up on a stage and shake your finger at people and sing you don’t own me’.
Respect – Aretha Franklin
A 1967 hit for Aretha Franklin, the song is a declaration of a strong and independent woman who knows that she has all that her man wants and thus demands his ‘respect’. Her version of the song was considered a social demand for increased respect to women during the Civil Rights Movement as well as the Vietnam War, where women were playing roles as civil rights activists oftentimes without suitable recognition and acknowledgment.
I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
Sung by American singer Gloria Gaynor in 1978 the song’s lyrics tell of an inner discovery of personal strength and the desire to persist following the end of a relationship. Since its release 40 years ago Gaynor’s evocative track has been heralded as a symbol of female empowerment and a gay anthem, due to its message of strength and finding one’s identity despite hardships.
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
Re-released in 1983, Cyndi Lauper’s version of the song gained immediate attention as a feminist anthem, as it conveyed the message that all women really want is to be able to have the same experiences and enjoyment as men. The upbeat tempo accompanied lyrics which emphasise the every-man desire to be accepted. Lauper used the theme in her music video by finding women of all shapes, sizes, and colours to represent those around the world.
U.N.I.T.Y – Queen Latifah
The Grammy Award-winning song by Queen Latifah was released in 1993 from her album ‘Black Reign’. In the song, she spoke out against the mistreatment of women within society by addressing issues including street harassment, the commonality of misogynistic language, and domestic violence. Her aim was to call out those, especially within the music industry, who would seek to tear women down for fear of their success outshining their own.
Just a Girl – No Doubt
From American band No Doubt’s third album and written by Gwen Stefani, the song was considered “new wave” due to the sarcastic lyrics as well as the title of the song itself being an ironic inversion of the helpless woman stereotype. Written from the perspective of a girl frustrated with her parents, Stefani vocalises the disgust of all women at being referred to as ‘just a girl.’
Listen – Beyoncé
Written for the 2006 musical film ‘Dreamgirls’ and recorded by Beyoncé, Listen is sung by the singer’s character Deena Jones. The emotional punch of ‘and I am telling you I’m not going’ comes at a time in the film where Deena reveals her disdain and frustration at being seen merely as her manager’s property. The song is a guttural exclamation of independence and the right to exist as a woman without needing to have an attachment to a man to succeed.
Hard Out Here – Lily Allen
From Lily Allen’s 2013 album ‘Sheezus’, this song was followed by a stream of critical acclaim due to its pushing back against the body image and misogyny issues within the music industry itself. Rolling Stone called the song a ‘feminist anthem through and through’ as Allen tackled the ‘tired gender roles and expectations to double standards regarding sex and appearance for men and women.’
God Is a Woman – Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande’s ‘God Is a Woman’ was released in July 2018 and soon became heralded as the feminist anthem which the world was so desperately in need of. Mike Nied of music blog Idolator referred to the song as ‘a sexually liberated bop.’ The music video featured a voice-over monologue by Madonna as well as a homage to the creation of Adam, Romulus and Remus, astrological imagery, and visuals illustrating the power of female pregnancy.
PYNK – Janelle Monáe
Released in April 2018, this song is from Janelle Monáe’s third album ‘Dirty Computer’ and currently has over 10 million views. Due to its euphoric expression of female empowerment and embracing oneself, the song has been dubbed an iconic feminist anthem for the modern age. Monae herself describes the song as ‘a celebration of creation, self-love, sexuality’ and the colour pink was chosen as it ‘unites all of humanity’ as it is ‘found in the deepest and darkest nooks and crannies of humans everywhere.’