14 Songs that Empower Women
Midterms are over and finals are quickly approaching. I find myself overwhelmed with readings, essays, and studying galore. But in the midst of the chaos that is being a UCLA student, I always find time to blast my favorite anti-patriarchal and women empowering songs. I’m not the only one with that specific playlist, am I?
With all of our personal responsibilities and the social pressures we endure on a day-to-day basis, we all need a pick-me-up playlist that makes us feel stronger, inspired, confident, and empowered!
Here are a few of my favorite songs that make me feel like the independent superstar diva that we all are:
INDEPENDENT WOMEN- DESTINY’S CHILD
“Question: Tell me what you think about me
I buy my own diamonds and I buy my own rings
Only ring your cell-y when I’m feelin lonely
When it’s all over please get up and leave
Question: Tell me how you feel about this
Try to control me boy you get dismissed
Pay my own fun, oh and I pay my own bills
Always 50/50 in relationships”
This song was my seven-year-old self’s anthem. Although I did not fully understand the implications of what it meant to be an independent woman quite yet (unaware that women were not seen as these equal, independent women that I always believed them to be), I still strutted around my elementary school singing this song. I always like to think that girl bands such as Destiny’s Child and Spice Girls were my first taste of feminism and “girl power.”
Yes, this song is a bit more on the cheesy side, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t throw my hands up in the air every time they sing, “All the women who are independent / Throw your hands up at me.”
JUST A GIRL- NO DOUBT
“Don’t you think I know
Exactly where I stand
This world is forcing me
To hold your hand
‘Cause I’m just a girl, little ‘ol me
Don’t let me out of your sight
I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite
So don’t let me have any rights”
Gwen Stefani’s incredible critique of the social pressures and expectations of women gets me fired up. Just like No Doubt, “I’ve had it up to here!” Songs like this make me want to stand up against the patriarchal society that tells me what it means to be a “girl” or a “woman.”
BRAVE- SARAH BAREILLES
“Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave”
I think this is a catchy, fun, and light-hearted tune that encourages us to say what we want to say. To speak out is not an easy task— this song can help empower women (and men too!) to gain the courage to speak up!
KEEP YA HEAD UP- TUPAC
“ And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it’s time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
And since a man can’t make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So will the real men get up
I know you’re fed up ladies, but keep your head up”
This is so much of my feminist beliefs “rapped” up (literally) in one verse. Particularly the line, “And since a man can’t make one / He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one,” is representative of a woman’s right to choose and lead the life she wants to live. This song instills hope and reminds us all to “keep your head up!”
REBEL GIRL- BIKINI KILL
“Love you like a sister always
Soul sister, Rebel girl
Come and be my best friend
Will you Rebel girl?
I really like you
I really wanna be your best friend
Be my Rebel girl”
This list would be definitely incomplete without a Bikini Kill song. Bikini Kill was a part of the Riot Grrrl movement: the underground feminist punk rock movement addressing female empowerment and fighting against patriarchy. You can never have too much Bikini Kill on this playlist!
I AM WOMAN- HELEN REDDY
“I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
‘Cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again”
Forty years later, this song is as relevant as ever. Helen Reddy provides an anthem of female strength and liberation. This song is what being a woman is all about!
YOU GOTTA BE- DES’REE
“You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser
You gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together
All I know, all I know, love will save the day”
This will forever be one of the greatest songs ever. It inspires us to each strive to be the best versions of ourselves. Never let anything or anyone get you down. Be the most bad, bold, wise, hard, and tough person you can be.
CAN’T HOLD US DOWN- CHRISTINA AGUILERA
“This is for my girls all around the world
Who have come across a man that don’t respect your worth
Thinking all women should be seen not heard
So what do we do, girls, shout louder”
This song addresses the notion that women are supposed to be “seen not heard.” Christina challenges the societal expectation of women to be docile, meek, and subservient and tells us all to “SHOUT LOUDER.”
BAD REPUTATION- JOAN JETT
“I don’t give a damn ’bout my bad reputation
You’re living in the past it’s a new generation
A girl can do what she wants to do and that’s
What I’m gonna do
An’ I don’t give a damn ‘ bout my bad reputation”
These lyrics are self-explanatory; it does not matter what a girl’s “reputation” is or “should be.” Every woman has the right to do whatever she wants to do, without fear of judgment from those around her.
U.N.I.T.Y- QUEEN LATIFAH
“Instinct leads me to another flow
Every time I hear a brother call a girl a bitch or a ho
Trying to make a sister feel low
You know all of that gots to go”
Queen Latifah touches on multiple serious issues in this song, from sexual assault, to domestic violence, to misogynistic and derogatory language toward women. I think we can reach a consensus that all of that “gots to go.”
ROAR- KATY PERRY
“I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar”
This song is a guilty pleasure of mine. I really can’t complain about a tune that tells me, amongst many other boys and girls, that we are all tigers, fighters, and champions. It encourages us to speak up and be empowered by our passions and voice.
NOT A PRETTY GIRL- ANI DIFRANCO
“I am not a pretty girl
that is not what I do
I ain’t no damsel in distress
and I don’t need to be rescued
so put me down punk”
DiFranco is fighting against the “damsel in distress” stereotype of women. She makes a statement that she is strong, independent, and does not need to be “rescued.” A powerful line in this song is, “Don’t you think every kitten figures out how to get down / Whether or not you ever show up.” This helps us to remember that women should not be victimized because we are capable of much more than just a “damsel in distress.”
Q.U.E.E.N.- JANELLE MONAE FT. ERYKAH BADU
“March to the streets ’cause I’m willing and I’m able
Categorize me, I defy every label
And while you’re selling dope, we’re gonna keep selling hope
We rising up now, you gotta deal you gotta cope
Will you be electric sheep?
Electric ladies, will you sleep?
Or will you preach?”
This is a great song to empower all of the disenfranchised. In an interview with Fuse, Monae states, “[This song is] for everyone who’s felt ostracized. I wanted to create something for people who feel like they want to give up because they’re not accepted by society.”
WANNABE- SPICE GIRLS
“What do you think about that now you know how I feel,
Say you can handle my love are you for real,
I won’t be hasty, I’ll give you a try
If you really bug me then I’ll say goodbye.”
I had to end with a Spice Girls song– I just had to! This may not be the most earth-shattering song on the list, but whenever I hear this song (which is not nearly as often as I would like), I get overwhelmingly happy and excited. Spice Girls was my first favorite band. For my fifth birthday, I even had a cake with the Spice Girls on it and “GIRL POWER” all over it. They may not be groundbreaking, but they made me feel confident, strong, and important as a young girl. And to this day, I still really want a zigazig-ah (what that means, I still don’t know).
So there you have it, fourteen songs that make me feel stronger, braver, independent, beautiful, proud, and empowered! Of course, the list doesn’t end here. What are your favorite songs that make YOU feel empowered?
Nicely done, Angelina! You need to make sure cousin David sees this 🙂
Great Tunes Miss Murphy and Miss! Very nice! Though If I were a gurl, and I’m not. In fact, I quite comfortable with my sexual identity; even if I don’t rock the most Macho of Hustles. I would pick:
“Call Me” (Blondie)
“Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” & “Respect” by Aretha Franklin.
“Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” The Ramones, “You Don’t Own Me” Lesley Gore
“Gloria” & “Rock and Roll Nigger” Patti Smith
“Woman Is the Nigger of the World” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono
“Harper Valley PTA” by Jeannie C. Riley
“September Gurls” by Big Star and The Bangles
“The Ballad of Hattie Carroll” by Bob Dylan!
“Half-Breed” by Cner*, (which would have amalgamated the whole Gender/Race thesis)
Oh and “Get off The Road” By The Cramps!
Very proud of you!
Oh and remember that, “Papa Don’t Preach” Madonna
Bravo Angelina! Exceedingly well done article & magazine, especially the arcane part of the issue entitled “Kickass Women”, I took a great deal pleasure in the appraisal of the subdivisions peice on “Ma Rainey: The Mother of the Blues”. It was incredibly sound structure and put together with fidelity. I believe Ma Rainey’s music along with that of Cordell Jackson, Big Mama Taylor, and The Queen of the blues on the bluff, Memphis at this juncture, Miss KoKo Taylor “Voodoo Woman” as well as Jesse May Hemphill also known hereabouts in Panther Burn Territory as The She-Wolf.
Keep fighting the good fight, like a steppin’ razor,
Memphis/Paris and all points beyond…
Very nice list!
Is with no surprise that I can’t seem to find many online female empowering of anti-patriarchal songs/anthems. I’m compiling something similar to your list, but in Spanish, and there’s certainly a lot of actually quite popular songs in a myriad of rhythms that I’ll share here alongside their translated lyrics once I’m done.
I’d appreciate if anyone could offer suggestions for online resources on the subject, as well as empowering feminist/anti-patriarchal prose in any category. The project I’m embarking on aim at creating a bilingual english/spanish (and perhaps some limited portuguese material too) collection. I can answer any questions at length elsewhere, and would definitely gladly take suggestions or guidance as well.
Love Sara B! Awesome list!
On my list –
Firework – Katy Perry
Express Yourself – Madonna
Edge of Seventeen – Stevie Nicks
“YOU GO, GIRL!” 10 GREAT SONGS THAT CELEBRATE WOMEN: