I was scrolling through my iTunes library trying to have a bit of a music purge and I really started to notice how much of my music is by men. Of all of the female artists I have, the vast majority of their music is about feeling sad because of men, failed relationships with men and, unfortunately, a lot of songs about not being able to survive without men.
I set myself a task to find my top ten songs with a feminist message performed by women and/or that generally send a powerful, positive message from a female perspective.
How hard would it be to find music that had this message? Well apparently quite hard…but I did find quite a lot!
I’ve whittled it down to my top ten and was trying to go for some slightly less obvious choices (so I’ve got no ‘Independent Women’, ‘Can’t hold us down’ etc.) I realise there are so many more songs than what I’ve chosen so comment your own choices as well please 😉
None of Your Business, Salt ’N Pepper
No need for an explanation here really: “If I wanna take a guy home with me tonight, IT’S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!” – something most women have wanted to shout from the rooftops on various occasions.
These Boots Are Made For Walking, Nancy Sinatra
Nancy Sinatra really puts whomever she has been seeing in their place in this song. It’s one of my favourite sassy songs and is a refreshing song to hear sung by a woman when mostly all you hear from female artists is: ‘I can’t see myself leaving you’, ‘I’ll die without you’ etc. etc…
Although this song was written by a man, it doesn’t take away from the definite feminist message behind the lyrics.
Dirty Talk, Wynter Gordon
This song is essentially a celebration of female sexual pleasure! It’s not, maybe, what would spring to mind straight away in a discussion of songs with a feminist message but the whole song is about this woman’s pleasure and also is a massive protest (as I am interpreting it) against the idea that women are ‘angels’ (“I am no angel!”) and must be ‘innocent’. The whole song is essentially a list of the dirty things she wants to do in bed and emphasises her consent in wanting to take part in this kind of sexual activity. There is also no mention of the sex of the person she wants to sleep with, making this a very refreshing song about female sexual pleasure that isn’t a specifically heterosexual one. It also features the lyrics ‘Can you go down…are you up for it?’ (A nice link to my initial post on Harpy I feel)
You Don’t Own Me, Lesley Gore
This song came out in 1963. It’s incredible that a song with such a strong feminist message came out as early as that and that it is still, sadly, relevant today. Again, (it was the 60s…) this song was written by men, but the message is undeniably feminist and was inspirational for women then as much as it remains so today.
Oh! Bondage Up Yours! , X-Ray Spex
‘Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard, but I think: OH BONDAGE UP YOURS!’
X-Ray Spex singer, Poly Styrene, called this song ‘a call for liberation. It was saying: bondage – Forget it!’ Not only is this a great feminist anthem, but also Poly Styrene herself was inspirational as a female in the British Punk scene.
Man Is The Least, Lady Saw
Just listen to the lyrics. Everything about them is incredible but my favourite line has to be ‘Man a da least I drive ‘em like Jeep’
Don’t Call Me Baby, Madison Avenue
My mum used to screech the chorus of this song in the car when I was younger and that probably rubbed off on me a bit but this is another sassy dance track:
‘Don’t think that I’m not strong, I’m the one to take you. Don’t understand estimate me boy’
‘It’s time you knew I’m not your baby, I belong to me, so don’t call me baby’ AMEN.
I know I do seem to be banging on about this a lot…but again this is a song about female sexual pleasure, specifically, cunnilingus. I couldn’t really have a list of feminist songs without including Beyoncé, but this is my favourite.
Strange Fruit, Billie Holiday
One of the most chilling and important protest songs of all time, sang and recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939, ‘strange fruit’ protested American racism and the lynching of black people that had reached a peak during that period in the US. This song is visceral and disturbing (stating the obvious, considering the content). You may think it a strange choice for this list but, for me, it’s important for everyone to remember how racist feminist movements have been in the past (and unfortunately in some circles continue to be today). For me, this is one of the most important songs ever performed by a woman. This part of history should never be forgotten and is particularly relevant to the feminist movement that needs to continue to strive forward to be anti-racist, intersectional and inclusive.
(N.B. there is a great Radio 4 programme called ‘Soul Music’ with an episode on this song which I would encourage you all to listen to. Here is the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03jb1w1).
Manager, Nadia Batson
This euphoric song has some great lyrics with a fundamentally feminist principle: be your own woman, do not let a man control you.
It’s a shame that it is so difficult to put together a list of songs like this when a list with songs about women being sad, lonely and betrayed by men would be easy. It also saddens me that it would be so much easier for me to put together a list of music performed by men. It’s important that people make the effort to listen to and enjoy female artists. There’s a strange notion sometimes that female artists attract only other women and gay men but this is clearly ludicrous.
I’ve left off incredible female artists like Patti Smith, Kate Bush, Aretha Franklin…the list is extensive, but my point is that it’s not by any means as extensive as the list of male artists I could reel off.
Let’s all try and support female artists in the music industry and appreciate all the amazing women in the industry that are fighting their way through the shit now, and those who fought in the past.
Harpy also has a Spotify account where this playlist (and others!) will be posted. Embedded link below!