It’s summer! It’s time to sing out loud, perhaps sitting around a bonfire… something that greatly reminds us of our teenage years. But if you’re a woman – whether you’re a teenager or not – there are a handful of songs, scattered throughout the decades and around the world, that every single girl should know. Why? Because they are enveloped in a feminist aura that is always worthwhile remembering, even around a bonfire in the summer. Let’s have a look at them.
When you think about feminism in the world of music your thoughts often go Riot Grrrl, the feminist punk movement born in the USA in the early nineties, which comprised several punk bands (e.g. Bratmobile, Bikini Kill, L7). Pussy Riot, a Russian feminist punk rock band that generated collective activism and protest, dates back to the early 2010s, when Vladimir Putin announced he would run for President once again.
The history of music is dotted with projects that were born with specific feminist aims and others free from record labels, which gained success thanks to their proposal of a new type of woman, ready to claim her individuality – from a sexual standpoint too. A woman that doesn’t accept being a victim; but also a woman that has no need to claim some sort of membership or affinity with something and that by no means has to justify herself.
Tori Amos – Me and a gun: entirely sun a cappella, this song is about the violence the singer suffered just after performing in a club in Los Angeles, when she was 21. Tori Amos brutally and clearly describes what she experienced when she was raped, specifically focusing on the irrational thoughts that sprung to her mind in those terrible moments.
Hole – Asking For It: we seldom talk about Courtney Love as a musician, since she was often involved in controversies, being fiercely criticised and targeted by a very chauvinist narration. Asking for it is a brutal and violent song that zeros in on the fans’ perception of women performers and on the fact that – since they have paid to see the show – they feel authorised to treat them like toys and that they can lay their hands on them.
La Rappresentante di Lista – Questo Corpo: a real ode to the reappropriation of one’s own body, this is the opening song of the third album of one of the most interesting and successful bands of Italy’s current music scenario. It considers an era (ours) where beauty – especially female beauty – is constantly locked with a cage of specifically defined standards that are often unreal and unattainable.
Angèle – Balance ton quoi: widely considered to be one of the rising stars of Anglophone music, Angèle writes here a sort of pop feminist manifesto. The title refers to the slogan #Balancetonporc, used by the French fringe of the #METOO movement. The irreverent video clip directed by Charlotte Abramow shows a utopic Anti-Sexism Academy, where the students are informed about misogyny, consent, harassment and sexual abuse.
Janelle Monáe – Django Jane: if there is someone who showed the utmost commitment over the past years in order for women with African ancestry to find a safe haven where to show up, take part actively and claim their rights, that’s Janelle Monáe. In April 2018 she released her third studio album, Dirty Computer, featuring fourteen tracks full of empowering messages mentioning, among other things, feminism, the queer universe and black culture.
Lizzo – Like a Girl: a powerful and colourful pop song, apparently clashing with the image of a strong and independent woman such as Melissa Viviane Jefferson, aka Lizzo, the new heroine of the women and of the international critiques, very popular because of her feminist messages, associated with her body positivity.
Margherita Vicario – Giubbottino: a woman claiming her right to climax takes centre stage. The idea this song conveys is not that of the stereotypical maneater. Rather, it tells about a woman who wishes to finally talk to her man on equal terms.