It's International Women's Day! The holiday, celebrated annually on March 8, has a theme this year called "Make It Happen," and the official website notes that it's a time to "celebrate women's achievements" and "call for greater equality." Naturally, there's a hashtag included, #MakeItHappen, to raise awareness of these important tenets, which, let's face it, should be advocated every day, not just on International Women's Day.
But no matter what you're doing to call for greater equality, whether it's raising awareness through social media, making a powerful speech, or reaching out to lawmakers and other relevant individuals about ways to make the world a better place for women, it's good to take some time to celebrate how far we've come. What better way to celebrate and get inspired than watching some female empowerment music videos?
And by female empowerment, I don't mean cutesy declarations of "girl power." I mean honest addresses of real issues affecting real women. After all, it's easy to say you're for equal rights; it's harder to actually use your platform for that cause. After all, you're opening yourself up to plenty of criticism about whether your cause is worthwhile and whether you're actually a feminist — just look at what happened to Beyoncé after her feminist declaration. But regardless of criticism or skepticism from others, these stars spoke out and used their talent for causes they believe in. So sing along with these tunes, take in the bigger message from the videos, and follow their lead to #MakeItHappen.
Christina Aguilera Featuring Lil Kim, "Can't Hold Us Down"
I can't think of a better music video that addresses the ongoing and still very troubling problem of street harassment. In "Can't Hold Us Down," Aguilera is groped on the street by a man who probably thinks he has the right to touch her just because she is scantily dressed (never mind the fact that he himself is not covered up). After she rebukes his disrespectful manner, he predictably reacts by swearing at her. Little does he know, she has backup from her fellow ladies who are sick of his sexism!
Beyoncé, "Pretty Hurts
Say what you want about whether Queen B is a "real feminist" or not, but it cannot be denied that body image is a serious issue for many women out there. How can women put their energy into demanding gender equality when they're so focused on making sure their waist is small enough and their hair looks good enough, like the pageant queens in this video? Putting all the emphasis on looks is ultimately damaging for women, as Bey points out here in an epic scene where she destroys all her trophies (which of course, she has a lot of).
2Pac, "Keep Ya Head Up"
This video is about the mistreatment that women, specifically black women, receive on a daily basis, including harassment, domestic violence, and even rape. Though 2Pac released a wide variety of songs during his career, "Keep Ya Head Up" shows his support for women in difficult situations and calls for the men in question to change their behaviors.
Lady Gaga, "Born This Way"
True, this video is mostly seen as a call for acceptance for members of the LGBTQ community. But guess who's included in that group? That's right, women! As long as you can get past the alien birth segment of this video, you will be treated to Mother Monster showing quite an impressively diverse range of individuals loving themselves for who they are. In a day and age that still struggles with coming to terms with intersectional identities of people (gender, race, sexual orientation), this is a good song for women of any combination of those identities to celebrate with.
Aretha Franklin, "Respect"
You really can't get more classic than this tune. Though "respect" seems like such a simple thing to expect from your significant other, it was quite difficult for women to ask for it back in the day. It can still be difficult today, especially if you're in a relationship with someone but they aren't treating you properly as an equal partner. If you need inspiration to stand up for yourself and what you believe in, look no further than Aretha.
Madonna, "Papa Don't Preach"
What better way to close up our roundup than with the Queen of Pop? In this video, Madonna's character struggles with coming to terms with an unplanned pregnancy and the pressure from society to give up her unborn child. But if anyone was up to the challenge, it was Madonna. She's keeping her baby, and she's not afraid to say it. It was radical then and is still radical now for a woman to say exactly how much she can handle.