11 Musicians That Every Feminist Should To Listen To
"This is a man's world," croons James Brown in his 1963 album Live at the Apollo. No thanks, Mr. Brown, I prefer a little less patriarchy in my slow jams, please. But never fear, you queens and flawless beauties, there are plenty of places to find feminist friendly songs and artists. Though the patriarchy has its iron fist around the music industry as well, there have been feminist artists paving the way for the sake of our ear buds for years from Joni Mitchell, to Lil' Kim, and even Kurt Cobain. These women (and some men) heard our cries for some slight sigh of equality and responded with a vengeance. The hitting lyrics and melodies envisioned by these artists have us tapping our feet to the tune of the patriarchy's final d
This isn't a man's world anymore, nor has it always been, and there are countless musicians who are fighting the good fight for equality. It’s time we listened to musical artists who represent the truth that this isn’t a world completely decided by gender.
The following are eleven artists whom, with their songs and actions, have proven themselves to be peaceful soldiers in the battle against patriarchal values. These are the artists who every feminist among you should listen to at least once in his or her lifetime. Let the fresh waters of feminism lap gently over you as you listen to your new playlist, which I'm going to go ahead and call “A Diva Is A Female Version Of A Hustla,” featuring some works by these artists. And because these men and women wouldn't have it any other way, dance however you damn well please.
1. Joni Mitchell
In an interview with Jian Ghomeshi on CBC Radio’s Q in 2013, the folk singer Joni Mitchell claimed she was not a feminist and went as far as to say, "The feminists I met were so hostile. They would say, 'You like men and they just want to f*ck you.'"
That being said, her songs touch on issues that cut to the core of womanhood. Mitchell was one of the first artists to comfortably sing about women's sexuality, primarily on her 1971 album, Blue. An example comes from the emotional lyrics of “A Case of You,” in which Mitchell sings some subtly sexual lines,
"Oh you are in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter but you taste so sweet
Oh, I could drink a case of you."
In “Little Green” she sings about giving her daughter up for adoption –– a process many women who’ve been pregnant before they felt ready have considered –– with lines like,
“Child with a child pretending weary of lies you are sending home.
So you sign all the papers in the family name,
you’re sad and you’re sorry but you’re not ashamed.”
So Mitchell may have refused the official title of feminist, but she's still a good listen if you're trying to feel some strong lady vibes.
2. Joan Jett
According to a 2010 interview with Joan Jett in Interview Magazine , when she was a young girl first starting to learn instruments and requested to learn rock and roll, a teacher basically ignored her request on a gender bias. In the interview she said:
“Being told that girls can't play rock 'n' roll –– I mean, even as a kid, it was so illogical to me –– it's like, what do you mean? That girls can't master the instruments?"
With hits like “I Love Rock n Roll," which she performed with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and her solo hit "Bad Reputation" Joan proved those people wrong. Furthermore, Jett rocked her own grungy style, which appeared to be less for the male gaze and more for the benefit of her own expression.
3. Kurt Cobain
I would be remiss to not accentuate the importance of male allies in the feminist movement including Kurt Cobain, the lead singer of Nirvana who was conscious of the huge problem of sexual assault. Cobain wrote several songs about the trauma of rape including “Rape Me” and “Polly” and spoke out in a 1994 interview with NME in which he said:
“Rape is one of the most terrible crimes on earth and it happens every few minutes. The problem with groups who deal with rape is that they try to educate women about how to defend themselves. What really needs to be done is teaching men not to rape.”
4. Lil' Kim
Hip-hop is odd territory for a woman, what with lyrics containing a great deal of misogynistic speech, like lyrics from the song "B*tches Ain't Sh*t" by Dr. Dre and featuring Snoop Dogg, Daz, and Kurupt. The lyrics go:
"We flip flop and serve hoes like flapjacks
But we don't love them hoes, b*tch
And it's like that."
Unfortunately, the use of the word b*tch is very commonplace in hip-hop, even among its most revered leaders. In fact, in a 2012 Time article, a group of writers writers went through Jay Z’s songs and found that 109 out of 217 songs contain the word “b*tch.”
But as soon as Lil' Kim rolled up on the scene in 1994 she made it very clear that she could compete with the hip-hop boys' club in terms of raunchy speech and speaking her mind. She made her point on her album, Hard Core with lines like
“You ain't lickin' this
You ain't stickin' this
I don't want d*ck tonight
Eat my p*ssy right"
Her defiant claiming of her sexuality in a world where men seemed to have all the power is totally inspiring.
5. The Spice Girls
Even if you don't love '90s pop music, The Spice Girls' girl power message was a strong one. They preached about friendship on "Wannabe" with lines like, "“Make it last forever, friendship never ends." Though this song can be a little confusing –– what with the “gotta get with my friends" part –– I’m assuming here they mean “get with” in the friendly sense and not the hot-and-heavy sense sense. In this case, the singers are really calling for the potential significant other to listen up about their friends, because friends are important above all else. It's all here:
"So here’s the story from A to Z
You wanna get with me
you gotta listen carefully.”
This showing of uteruses before duderuses makes them feminist icons. Preach, Girls of Spice, preach!
Who runs the world? Beyoncé.
No, but really, she hit the feminist pigskin out of the arena (yeah, I’m mixing sports metaphors, but I have a fear of contact sports, so deal with it), when she performed at the 2014 Super Bowl. I don't even want to get started on her 2016 Super Bowl appearance, because I should keep this limited to a paragraph and I just won't be able to stop myself from extolling her numerous virtues. With both Super Bowl performances, and every other performance, Bey shows that she is an artist who uses her sexuality as her power and not as a way of garnering anyone else's. Bey is extremely powerful and confident and we should all take a page out of her feminist manifesto.
8. Pat Benatar
Benatar's music career was spent three ways: performing, recording, and fighting her record label about her look, according to her memoir, Between A Rock And A Heart Place. In a 2010 interview with The New York Times Benatar discussed the tomboy look she crafted for herself.
"It was a power thing. I wanted to be Robert Plant in every way: the swagger, the sexuality," she said. Benatar continued by stating that her look was "always just for me." In a more in-depth look at her style, Benatar brought up how when she attempted to change her look, her label at the time, Chrysalis, wouldn't allow it, and she said,"The look was a great idea when it was mine. When they turned it into a marketing tool, I was incensed." Benatar's openness about her struggle and her desire to craft a look that was for her only earns her on the spot on the list.
9. The Dixie Chicks
Not to be outdone by hip-hop, country music also has its place in the annals of sexist behavior. The Dixie Chicks were a breath of fresh air with songs like "Goodbye Earl," in which the main characters of the song take down an abusive and murderous boyfriend (not condoning murder or anything, but that music video is tight and the concept is certainly interesting). Meanwhile, they were very open about their beliefs, and in 2003, singer Natalie Maines proclaimed in a London concert:
"Just so you know, we're on the good side with y'all. We do not want this war, this violence. And we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas."
The response in the country community was overwhelming. According to a CNN article from 2003, radio stations in Texas stopped playing their music and listeners of a Kansas City radio station were encouraged to attend a "chicken toss" where they could burn all their Dixie Chick merchandise. The group needed metal detectors at their stateside concerts because of all the death threats they received. Despite all this, the Chicks released a new song in 2007, "Not Ready To Make Nice," a blatant non-apology for their anti-Bush sentiments. Oh, and then they won three Grammys: Record of the Year (for the album Taking the Long Way), Song of the Year, and Best Country by a Due or Group with Vocal. These ladies are country-music singing role models. And, I mean, have you heard their cover of "Landslide"?
10. Lady Gaga
Any list of this type would be incomplete without Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. Since her rise to fame, Gaga has been a huge LGBT activist, which is already a notch in her feminism belt. However, with her latest endeavor in collaboration with Diane Warren, "Til It Happens To You" she has clinched the title. This Academy Award-nominee for Best Original Song in The Hunting Ground shows that Gaga stands behind women who have been sexually assaulted and whose voices deserve to be heard.
11. Pussy Riot
To say that "Russia isn't the easiest place to be a feminist" is a huge understatement, but the Russian ladies of Pussy Riot aren't letting that hold them back. Two members of the feminist punk band were arrested and put in jail on a two-year sentence (they were later granted amnesty) for "hooliganism" during a protest against the Russian Orthodox Church leader's support of Vladimir Putin. Then comes the video that depicts an instance in which they were whipped and attacked with pepper spray by Cossacks at a protest of Putin at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. And yet, they keep writing and performing and speaking out. Their bravery is incredibly inspiring.
It's not officially a man's world, but My Goddess, there is most definitely an uneven power distribution and women have gotten the short end of that stick. At least we have these artists to give us the strength to go on in our various feminist crusades. Remember, this may be a man's world in James Brown's eyes, but he doesn't fail to mention that "it wouldn't be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl."