“Girls invented punk rock, not England” was the statement on a t-shirt worn by Kim Gordon during the nineties when the feminist musical movement known as Riot Grrrl was at its peak. It's no surprise that the guitarist of Sonic Youth embraced these ideas that went beyond the fight to eradicate misogynistic conceptions through music.
This movement was essential to the development of musical feminism and inspired many other bands and musicians to get involved with this fight; some of them were Bikini Kill and Pussy Galore. In Latin America, bands like She Devils joined the fight to defend women's rights over their bodies and their freedom.
Many male musicians have raised their voices in favor of women's rights. For instance, Riot Grrrl was supported by bands like Fugazi, and Janis Joplin was backed by Hendrix. However, many female musicians have joined the cause by themselves, like Patti Smith, M.I.A, and Betty Wright. They have proven they're strong enough to overcome anything without anyone's help. It really doesn't matter how they did it, the truth is that we all must raise our voices, protest, or shout to pursue freedom.
It seems like society wants to avoid telling women how strong they are, and because of that, sometimes we need to remind ourselves that we must find our own power and stand against anything holding us back. For that reason, here are some songs, created by important artists, that will make you feel even stronger.
"I Am Woman" – Betty Wright
In 1971 this song became an anthem to those who fought for women's autonomy.
Oh yes, I am wise,
but it’s wisdom born of pain.
Yes, I’ve paid the price,
but look how much I gained.
If I have to, I can do anything.
I am strong
It was a very meaningful moment to see an African American woman, during the seventies and early eighties, singing about women's pride and what it represents to be part of this gender. She proved that being a woman is a sign of strength, but above all, a pride worth shouting.
"Bad Girls" – M.I.A.
In this song, M.I.A tells us that we are capable of making the world explode if we put our minds into it. Everybody can be afraid of a strong woman who achieves her goals: “Hands up, hands tied. Don’t go screaming if I blow you with a bang”.
This song deals with self-confidence and defending who we are and how strong we are. While it isn't a direct feminist declaration, M.I.A exalts the fact that being a woman is a synonym of strength, fury, and power.
"Talkin’ ‘Bout A Revolution" – Tracy Chapman
If someone has songs that can inspire you to stand and fight back, that person is Tracy Chapman. With words such as: “Sitting around waiting for a promotion. Don’t you know, they’re talkin’ ‘bout a revolution…” She encourages women to overcome any obstacle and understand that change is up to us.
"Run the World (Girls)" – Beyoncé
Nowadays, the singer exalting the "girl power" concept is Beyoncé. She praises women by letting them know they can break paradigms. She states that we are more important than we think and that, if we wanted to, the world would crumble into pieces.
Who run the world?
Some of them men think they freak this like we do,
but no they don’t
"U.N.I.T.Y" – Queen Latifah
When you hurt one, you hurt us all:
I saw you wilding, acting like a fool,
I peeped you out the window
jumping girls after school
Queen Latifah makes us realize that we're not alone and that if someone offends us or hurts us, we'll unite and defend her. The song's message is to look at ourselves and know that no one can't hurt us. It's a song about self-love that results in unity.
"Rebel Girl" – Bikini Kill
As one of the most representative bands of the Riot Grrrl movement, Bikini Kill created one of the most inspiring songs dealing with women's rights. It doesn't talk about utopias or long term goals but about the girl we'd all wished we were. She's not the typical popular girl who has hundreds of admirers around her neighborhood. She's a rebellious, revolutionary girl who always says what she thinks. This is the ideal to mirror. It's not about following established patterns. We have to break the rules and the institutionalized figures. We must change stereotypes:
When she talks, I hear the revolution in her hips,
there are revolutions when she walks,
the revolution’s coming.
"Can’t Hold Us Down" – Christina Aguilera
This song reminds us that no matter how many times life puts us to the test, no one can force us to become someone we're not. It's fine to be yourself and fight for what you believe in, but above all, it's all about how a woman can say and do more things than what others believe. No one can underestimate you or, if they do, they might suffer the consequences:
When a female fires back
suddenly big talker don’t know how to act,
so he does what any little boy would do
making up a few false rumors or two
"Cactus Tree" – Joni Mitchell
This song has a slow rhythm that evokes old and new love songs. Lovers come and go, but no one can own you nor change you. Sometimes free souls live in the wrong bodies and the only thing they want is to come out to the world. You're the only one in charge of your body and mind. Just as the song states: “He will find it hard to shake her from his memory and she’s so busy being free.” It's not about trying, but about doing what we think is best for us.
All these women know they're strong and prove it with each note they sing. It's their way of revolutionizing the world and standing up for who they are. But above all, they make us realize how valuable and important we are. If you're still doubting, check these 5 Women Who Broke Gender Stereotypes To Pursue Their Dreams.
Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards