9 Songs from the Early '00s That You Didn't Realize Were Feminist

The turn of the century and the turn of the millennium was a good decade for music. It was a quiet time before Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, when boy bands and pop stars were idols and we were only just starting to feel ashamed of our Hanson posters. Of course, some of the music back then was a little awkward, like all the sexist songs we didn't realize we were listening to, but some of the music back then was awesome as well. After all, not every band and artist was shoving bad gender messages down our throats. Some were doing just the opposite.

For many of us, feminism wasn't a word that was in our vocabulary back then, if only because at 11 and 12, you're not really thinking about sociopolitical issues. However, it's a good thing that we're able to look back on some of these songs — especially in light of recent sexist songs like anything Robin Thicke is doing — and appreciate that they were giving us good messages before we even noticed how good those messages were.

Each of the nine songs below had a surprisingly feminist ideal buried in the song, even if we didn't realize it before.

"21 Questions"

50CentVEVO on YouTube

Year: 2003

Artist: 50 Cent

Explanation: Considering he's best-known for songs like "P.I.M.P." and "Candy Shop," it's a little surprising that rapper 50 Cent released a song like this. It's an earnest plea to a fictional girlfriend to continue to stand by him even when he's not as successful and things aren't going as well as they are when he's asking these 21 questions.

Best Line: "I treat you how you want to be treated, just teach me how."


NellyVEVO on YouTube

Year: 2002

Artist: Nelly

Explanation: Why, yes, this is a song about cheating, as if we fully got that back then. However, unlike most songs about cheating, this one is actually pretty fair to all three parties. In "Dilemma," Nelly is giving the girl an ultimatum while still remaining understanding of why she's so conflicted and it's as respectful as a song of this nature can possibly get.

Best Line: "But it ain't that easy for you to pack and leave him. You and [him] got ties for different reasons. I respect that."


DestinysChildVEVO on YouTube

Year: 2001

Artist: Destiny's Child

Explanation: Picking just one Destiny's Child song is hard, but "Bootylicious" gets the most points for burying its feminist message in a sexy club song. It throws some of the objectification that women typically get in a R&B song back the men's way while still remaining tasteful about it. After all, the ladies are just finding someone who can handle all this hotness, okay?

Best Line: "Read my lips carefully if you like what you see. Move, groove, prove you can hang with me."


NBedingfieldVEVO on YouTube

Year: 2004

Artist: Natasha Bedingfield

Explanation: Although it tried to paint itself as more of an anthem than a specifically girl power anthem, Natasha Bedingfield left a lot of clues in the lyrics of "Unwritten" that she was speaking for females as a whole. Listening to it again, it can be heard as encouraging women to surpass a society encouraging them to stay quiet and docile and write their own story instead.

Best Line: "I break tradition. Sometimes my tries are outside the lines. We've been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can't live that way."

"The Middle"

JimmyEatWorldVEVO on YouTube

Year: 2001

Artist: Jimmy Eat World

Explanation: For a song that doesn't actually have that many lyrics, Jimmy Eat World sure knows how to make a girl feel good. It's easy to miss the fact that the whole song is directed toward women while screaming the chorus at the top of your lungs, but, hey, don't write yourself off yet.

Best Line: "It just takes some time. Little girl, you're in the middle of the ride. Everything will be just fine."

"Perfect Day"

PWestlake0114 on YouTube

Year: 2001

Artist: Hoku

Explanation: Considering the song was in Legally Blonde, we might have picked up on the feminist undertones even if we hadn't learned what feminism was yet. Just as Elle Woods didn't let Harvard teach her that being a girly girl and a lawyer were mutually exclusive, so, too, did this song encourage girls to be who they were and screw anyone who tried to rain on their parades.

Best Line: "I'm in the race, but I've already won. And getting there can be half the fun, so don't stop me 'till I'm good and done."


CAguileraVEVO on YouTube

Year: 2002

Artist: Christina Aguilera

Explanation: Well, duh. "Beautiful" is another song that was uplifting women even before we realized that feminism was a thing. It advocates celebrating your uniqueness because it's what makes you beautiful and it also spreads that message around to "you" and "we," because it's not just exclusive to one person or gender. It's universal, just like feminism.

Best Line: "We're the song inside the tune, full of beautiful mistakes."

"What You Waiting For?"

GwenStefaniVEVO on YouTube

Year: 2004

Artist: Gwen Stefani

Explanation: Gwen Stefani may have tried to bury her message with such charming phrases as "take a chance, you stupid ho," but overall "What You Waiting For?" is about refusing to let your fears and insecurities or even society's glass ceiling stop you from smashing through it and achieving your dreams.

Best Line: "Your moment will run out 'cause of your sex chromosome. I know, it's so messed up how our society all thinks."

"Try Again"


Year: 2000

Artist: Aaliyah

Explanation: When a girl hesitates to go out with a guy, she's always accused of playing hard to get. Aaliyah's "Try Again" taught us that it's okay to be unable to make up your mind about throwing yourself into a new relationship. It's okay to be scared to try again, and the right guy will wait for you.

Best Line: "You know, our chemistry is off the chain, is perfect now, but will it change? This ain't a yes, this ain't a no. Just do your thing. We'll see how it goes."