By: Charlotte Eidelman
We, as the marginalized youths of America, the Women, Femmes, and Feminists, have often found ourselves feared, derided, and shut down by the Patriarchal figures dictating the respect and worth allotted to us. Our healthcare continues to be stripped and contested while our clothing continues to be hypersexualized and used to justify sexual violence against our bodies, and in the meanwhile, our voices aren’t even being heard by the privileged boy’s clubs that govern our livelihood! So our feminist pioneers hit the radio waves to spread the message- We women are pissed, and we are not going to take it anymore!
1967: “Respect” by Aretha Franklin
We begin with a classic. Lyndon B. Johnson is President, and just as the largest demonstrations protesting the Vietnam War are taking place in April, Aretha Franklin’s smash hit is released. Preceding the Feminist wave of the 1970s, in which the personal was made the political, Aretha was addressing domestic relationships, commanding respect for the American Housewife. She delivers “all I’m askin’, is for a little respect when you get home”.
1981: “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett and The Blackhearts
Jumping straight into the start of Reagan’s reign, Joan Jett wipes her hands clean of the burdens a woman of the 1980s would carry. Joan yelled through the radio with conviction that she “don’t give a damn about her reputation”, clapping back at the conservatism of the decade.
1995: “Just A Girl” by No Doubt
Definitely my favorite on the list. In the age of Iraqi no-fly zones, Windows 95, the dot com doom, and Monica Lewinsky, the ska-punk sound of No Doubt entered pop-feminist discourse. In Stefani’s first song that she wrote herself, she sarcastically defines her brilliant self as “just a girl, guess I’m some kind of freak, ‘cause they all sit and stare with their eyes!”
1999: “No Scrubs” by TLC
As press over this Clinton-Lewinsky scandal ensues, TLC, one of the many famed girl groups of the 1990s condemns cocky, unfaithful, and unsuccessful men. At this time we hear several commands and accusals in music like this, from “WannaBe” by the Spice Girls to “Bills, Bills, Bills” by Destiny’s Child.
2011: “Run The World (Girls)” by Beyonce
Speaking of Destiny’s Child, this list could not be complete without praising Queen Bey, who went solo in 2005 to cultivate her own sound. The 2010’s definitely felt ripples of the post-racial, post-oppression waves that Barack Obama’s inauguration assumedly made evidence of. Of course, this was not true, but it did pave the way for more shocking statements to be accepted by admired celebrities, like Beyonce. She projects “My persuasion can build a nation. Endless power. Our love we can devour. You’ll do anything for me. Who run the world? Girls”. Encompassing the manipulation and skill that female oppression has created.
2018: “God is a woman” by Ariana Grande
We end with one of the biggest hits written by Ariana Grande, arguably the world’s biggest pop star. In the era of an outspokenly oppressive, xenophobic conservatism in the U.S., Grande has curated a sultry, lustful, religiously motivated, call to feminist acknowledgment. In the age of YouTube, the music video includes images of Grande, naked upon the Earth, twirling clouds, making herself the physical image of God. She preaches “and he see the Universe when I’m in the company, it’s all in me… My one, when all is said and done, You’ll believe God is a Woman.”
These women have given a voice to our historical frustrations. With music as a medium for activism, our voices are heard in a more powerful way, that reaches a broader audience. Our oppressors end up snapping their fingers, nodding their heads, and singing along to our feminist anthems when they hit the Top 100 Billboard. We have found a way to command their elusive attention, and to feed our own hungry souls.