Five-Song Feminist Playlist

Jezebel has a Feminist Play List of five feminism-inspired songs, and they pick some good ones. But I know Feministe readers are primo Insufferable Music Snobs, so add your selections in the comments. And maybe the most fun thing about making this list? There are so many more than five songs to choose from. Feminism win.

My five:


Thao – Swimming Pools

Bikini Kill – Rebel Girl

Queen Latifah – UNITY

Loretta Lynn – The Pill

Madonna – Human Nature

Leave your suggestions in the comments.

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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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41 Responses

  1. dan
    dan March 16, 2010 at 11:28 am |

    Thao is awesome. Bonus points to Loretta for rhyming “garbage” with “yardage.”

    I submit “Dreams in the Hollow” by Jesca Hoop, both as a statement on gender relations and a damn good song.

  2. Kathy
    Kathy March 16, 2010 at 11:28 am |

    Second “U.N.I.T.Y.” That song meant so much to me as teenager growing up in an era of hair band misogyny.

    I can’t load the Jezebel post, so I’m sure there are some repeats, but I’ll add Sleater-Kinney’s “Anonymous,” Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s “None of Your Business,” and Nina Simone’s “Four Women.”

  3. becky
    becky March 16, 2010 at 12:00 pm |

    I totally second jezebel’s “you oughta now”. what a song! i also second u.n.i.t.y., and would add (very mainstream, i know…), pink with “u and ur hand” (i love it, it has so much power and makes me feel happy and strong, if only for the line “i’m not here for your entertainment!”), lauryn hill with “lost ones” (actually most of “the miseducation of lauryn hill”-album, i can’t believe it’s been more than 10 years by now), and “one girl revolution” (by superchick/saving jane). there must be so much more – i’ll think about it… :)

  4. Natalia
    Natalia March 16, 2010 at 12:07 pm |

    Good call on Madonna! “I’m not your bitch don’t hang your shit on me” is probably one of my favourite quotes of all time. Hm. BRB, updating Facebook profile.

    I have a hard time qualifying a song as feminist, but some of the songs that speak to my feminism are “Take It Off” by the Donnas, “Welcome to England” by Tori Amos, “On the Radio” by Nelly Furtado, “Control” by Poe, and, naturally, “Independent Woman” by Destiny’s Child.

  5. Samantha b.
    Samantha b. March 16, 2010 at 12:14 pm |

    Rose Maddox’ “Single Girl” brings me joy. As far as the dead obvious, Le Tigre’s “FYR.” Dead obvious, Salt N’ Pepa edition: “Ain’t Nothing But a She Thang.”

    It makes me more than a little twitchy to have Jezebel casting a song with the lyrics,”Are you thinking of me when you fuck her,” as somehow feminist. Odes to feminine rivalry, I tend to think, are difficult to consider empowering.

  6. norbizness
    norbizness March 16, 2010 at 12:24 pm |

    If I’ve told Lloyd Dobler once, I’ve told him a million times: you need to work out your delts with free weights, not a boombox.

    “Barbie Be Happy” by Essential Logic, and something by Sister Sledge.

  7. Flowers
    Flowers March 16, 2010 at 12:27 pm |

    I’m so glad you included Loretta Lynn’s “The Pill!!” That was my first thought. Harper Valley PTA was my second thought…. mostly because I grew up in a conservative area just like the one described.

  8. Lauren
    Lauren March 16, 2010 at 12:32 pm |

    Those are some pretty awesome songs and Liz Phair will always be on any feminist song list of mine, but here are a few others that I would add to that list.

    A Dame With a Rod by Julianna Hatfield
    Can’t Hold Us Down by Christian Aguilera feat. Lil’ Kim
    Daddy I’m Fine by Sinead O’Connor
    None of Your Business by Salt-N-Pepa
    Missfit by the HorroPops
    Bata Motel by Crass

  9. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl March 16, 2010 at 12:38 pm |

    Hm…. I would have to say

    L7 – Everglade (well, most of their catalog for that matter)
    White Town – Your Woman (bonus, it’s performed by a man!)
    Lush – Ladykillers
    Rasputina – If Your Kisses Can’t Hold the Man You Love, Your Tears Won’t Bring Him Back (live version is better… not that the song is tremendously feminist, but it does fight a certain mentality that sets my feminist teeth on edge).
    Bis – Girl Star

  10. Alex
    Alex March 16, 2010 at 1:17 pm |

    I’d like to put forward Virus of the Mind by Heather Nova.

  11. Roxsie
    Roxsie March 16, 2010 at 1:34 pm |

    A bit of a cliché but
    Sisters are doing it for themselves – Eurythmics
    RESPECT – Aretha Franklin

    Valentines Day is over – Billy Bragg

  12. Roxsie
    Roxsie March 16, 2010 at 1:38 pm |

    Almost forgot Patti Smith’s Gloria.

    That’s quite impressive seeing as she’s staring at me from the wall in front of my desk ¬_¬

  13. norbizness
    norbizness March 16, 2010 at 1:49 pm |

    And don’t forget about this Gloria. I haven’t subjected its lyrics to rigorous analysis, so let’s just say I’m going on gut instinct.

  14. Bushfire
    Bushfire March 16, 2010 at 1:53 pm |

    Married in London by Janis Ian (It’s about same-sex marriage)
    Brushing Her Hair by Ani DiFranco
    He Thinks He’ll Keep Her by Mary Chapin Carpenter (written after hearing a man say about his wife “I think he’ll keep her”)
    That’s Not My Name by the Ting Tings (open to interpretation, but to me it’s about other people trying to define someone’s identity)

  15. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin March 16, 2010 at 2:08 pm |

    “6’1″ by Liz Phair, “Sheela Na Gig” by PJ Harvey, and “Slow Dog” by Belly.

  16. Samantha b.
    Samantha b. March 16, 2010 at 2:25 pm |

    @Norbizness, your “Gloria” (you’ve officially taken possession) was written by an Italiano dude, but I’m not questioning his ally status.

  17. Cha-Cha
    Cha-Cha March 16, 2010 at 3:10 pm |

    Bikini Kill – Rebel Girl
    Patty Smith – Free Money
    Le Tigre – Keep on Livin
    The Pansy Division – James Bondage
    The Blow – Come On Petunia

  18. Lurkin Merkin
    Lurkin Merkin March 16, 2010 at 3:41 pm |

    “Pocket Knife” by PJ Harvey

    Natacha Atlas’s awesome feminist cover of James Brown’s “It’s a Mans World”

    “Sister” by Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra. I wish I had a copy of the lyrics to post, but it basically starts with the singer apologizing to women for any past disrespect, and (paraphrasing here) saying “What kind of brother am I if I call my sister “bitch” before blinking an eye, but then shake with fear to say the word “feminist”?

    A lot of songs by Oumou Sangare. I don’t speak or understand Bambara, but I’ve read translations of some of her songs and a lot of them deal with women’s place in society in Mali. Also she’s just super talented and awesome.

  19. Mule
    Mule March 16, 2010 at 3:47 pm |

    Melissa Ferrick’s “Drive” probably isn’t top 5, but it deserves to be nominated! Tori Amos’s “Silent All these Years” is a more obvious choice.

  20. sillyrabbittrix
    sillyrabbittrix March 16, 2010 at 4:47 pm |

    oooh, how about Donna Summer’s “She Works Hard For The Money”, Fiona Apple’s ANYTHING, Lilly Allen’s “Fuck You”, Tina Dico’s “Sacre Coeur”, India.Arie’s newest song “Lion and a Butterfly”, Cyndi Lauper “She Bop”, Mandy Moore’s “Extraordinary” and “Gardenia”, Kelly Clarkson’s “Maybe”, Anna Nalick’s “Shine” and “In The Rough” (although almost any song by her is awesome, including “Paper Bag”).
    That’s already more than 5, and I could go on! I love music that makes me feel happy for all the right reasons…

  21. nahui
    nahui March 16, 2010 at 5:21 pm |

    @Samantha b: I agree. the Alanis song is not exactly the most woman-friendly thing ever. Amanda over at the Sexist said it well when she put it among her Top 5 Pseudo-Feminist Anthems.

    @Mighty Ponygirl: completely second Ladykillers. an awesome awesome song.

    My five:
    “Typigal Girls” by The Slits. Which makes one of the most effective arguments against compulsory femininity: It’s boring.

    Huggy Bear’s “Herjazz”. Because. Boy/Girl Revolution!

    “Me Jane” by PJ Harvey. It’s just not Jane’s job to deal with Tarzan’s shit.

    Robyn’s “Who’s that girl”. With some really really insightful things to say about impossible standards and being reduced to your appearance.

    Heavenly’s “Atta Girl”. From their EP of the same title, about unhealthy fixations and date rape. “I don’t have to be cute right through, and can’t you concentrate on something other than me?”

  22. Ellestar
    Ellestar March 16, 2010 at 5:31 pm |

    “I’m Just a Girl” by No Doubt.

    “Not a Pretty Girl,” “32 Flavors,” (and pretty much anything else) by Ani DiFranco.

    “Hunter” by Dido.

  23. cathy
    cathy March 16, 2010 at 6:09 pm |

    How about Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5? Great song for a working woman:
    ’9 to 5, for service and devotion
    You would think that i
    Would deserve a fair promotion ‘

    ‘Its a rich mans game
    No matter what they call it
    And you spend your life
    Puttin money in his wallet ‘

  24. Spilt Milk
    Spilt Milk March 16, 2010 at 6:26 pm |

    Loretta Lynn’s ‘Rated X’
    Veruca Salt – Seether
    Lily Allen – It’s Not Fair
    I want to say Martha Wainwright’s Bloody Motherfucking Asshole but I might just be projecting what isn’t there. It’s worrying that I can’t think of many more off the top of my head actually.

  25. kung fu lola
    kung fu lola March 16, 2010 at 6:55 pm |

    “When I Was A Boy” by Dar Williams.

    I love Madonna, and even though it’s not explicitly feminist, I have always felt freed by the lyrics to “Swim”, because it’s about liberating yourself from oppressive thoughts and being reborn as someone wiser and stronger, which is the story of so many women I know who are living feminist lives.

  26. william dyer
    william dyer March 16, 2010 at 8:02 pm |

    The Distillers- Seneca Falls
    Crass- Bata Motel
    Propagandi- Refusing to be a Man
    Chumbawumba- Mary, Mary
    Jello Biafra & Mojo Nixon Will the Fetus Be Aborted?

  27. Hannah
    Hannah March 16, 2010 at 8:11 pm |

    Lost Woman Song by Ani D!
    Me and A Gun, by Tori Amos, though it’s mostly a personal slant on something that feminism is highly concerned with.
    As Cool as I am by Dar Williams.
    most everything by Tracy Chapman. <3

    i'm totally going to come up with non-90s ones later…

  28. sabotabby
    sabotabby March 16, 2010 at 9:46 pm |

    No one’s mentioned the Indigo Girls yet? “Hammer and Nail” gets my vote.

    For oldies, “Rebel Girl” by Joe Hill, covered by some folkies but clearly not enough.

  29. Mule
    Mule March 16, 2010 at 10:05 pm |

    I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor.

    And — as a man — I am ashamed that you all have not yet mentioned it. (Then again, I spent all afternoon listening to Cat Power, and Ani, and Mates of State, and Jill Sobule, and… and… and I just not thought of it!)

  30. Dianne
    Dianne March 17, 2010 at 2:33 am |

    My five:

    Bravedancing: Rachael Sage

    The story of a woman getting back on her feet after a breakup.

    “So let faith fall on me now:/ I’m gonna be my own best friend./ If you do not see me bend/ Then you will know I have been bravedancing.”

    Everyday Goddess: Celia

    I could listen to this all day: a beautiful picture of a woman making her own way in a man’s world.

    “She’s a goddess on the phone/ She’s closing up a deal/ And though her back is aching, she’s a goddess in high heels./ They say she’s working like a man/ But they don’t understand/ She’s dancing with the goddess in her heart.”

    Joan: Heather Dale

    Joan of Arc has always been one of my favorite feminist figures.

    “And they won’t call me Mother or Sister or Wife/ They will know me or not by the strength of my life/ I will burn with a light of my own./ They’ll know me as Joan.”

    Mother of Mine: Susan McKeown

    The bond between a mother and daughter.

    “There with the beauty, the briars and the thorns/ For the ways in which all women are bound/ From the garden, I watched the world/ And hoped that it could be/ A better place for a little girl.”

    Wunderkind: Alanis Morrissette

    This was written for a “The Chronicles of Narnia” movie. I love it for the choruses.

    “I am a magnet for all kinds of deeper wonderment/ I am a wunderkind/ I am a Joan of Arc and smart enough to believe this:/ I am a princess on the way to my throne.”

  31. Amy H.
    Amy H. March 17, 2010 at 6:18 am |

    Most things by Pink, really. Stupid Girls, U + Ur Hand, Dear Mr. President.
    4 Non Blondes — What’s Up?
    Vagiant — Seven
    Flyleaf — I’m so sick
    Meredith Brooks — Bitch

    There are loads of popular bands out there with what I consider feminist messages too, but many people consider them more socially aware and not particularly feminist.

  32. Eugenia
    Eugenia March 17, 2010 at 7:29 am |

    These get my feminist woman-power going:
    Cat Power – The Moon
    Tegan & Sara – Speak Slow
    Patty Griffin – Florida
    Lori Carson – Twisting My Words
    Lily Allen – Smile

  33. Salome
    Salome March 17, 2010 at 11:03 am |

    Hey, don’t hate on us Insufferable Music Snobs :)

  34. Marie
    Marie March 17, 2010 at 6:11 pm |

    I Get Out – Lauryn Hill

    Precious Illusions – Alanis Morissette

    Oh Bondage, Up Yours! – X-Ray Spex

    Cool Thing – Sonic Youth (“I don’t wanna. I don’t think so”. That line is my personal mantra!).

    Woman – Neneh Cherry’s stunning answer to It’s A Man’s World.

    http://www.lyricsfreak.com/n/neneh+cherry/woman_20099542.html

  35. Niki
    Niki March 18, 2010 at 8:29 am |

    Just about anything from Metric’s Live it Out album, but especially Patriarch on a Vespa – and also, “Feminism is for everybody” by Anti-Flag. I heart feminist dudes.

  36. Mina
    Mina March 19, 2010 at 10:09 pm |

    1) I will survive -Gloria Gaynor
    2) Sisters are doin’ it for themselves (who sings this one again?)
    3) Independent Women -Destiny’s Child
    4) Black Eyes, Blue Tears -Shania Twain
    5) Enough is Enough -Donna Summer and Barbara Streisand

  37. Dana
    Dana March 20, 2010 at 1:57 am |

    India.Arie – Video and I Am Not My Hair

    There wasn’t a lot of India love in the Jezebel post either, which is weird because she’s SO feminist:

    “I am not my hair, I am not this skin, I am not your expectations”

    and

    “Sometimes I shave my legs and sometimes I don’t, sometimes I comb my hair and sometimes I won’t, it really just depends on whatever feels good in my soul… I ain’t build like a supermodel but I learned to love myself unconditionally because I am a queen”

  38. olivia
    olivia March 20, 2010 at 6:59 pm |

    Precious – Esperanza Spalding
    badass jazz bassist/singer in general, but this song rocks:
    “I’m not gonna sit around
    And waste
    My precious divine energy
    Trying to explain
    And being ashamed
    Of what you think
    Is wrong with me “

  39. Jen
    Jen March 21, 2010 at 6:09 pm |

    So I spend a lot of time trying to find new songs of this sort, and for this reason I’m going to break the 5 rule and list as many as I can think of for everyone else :)

    1. Christina Aguilera – Can’t hold us down, fighter, here to stay, keep on singin’ my song, make over, hello
    2. Fefe Dobson – if I was a guy, as a blonde (both unreleased…you have to look hard to get a copy), bye bye boyfriend
    3. Pink (favorite artist EVER) – U and Ur Hand, Stupid Girls, Try Too Hard, ‘Cuz I can, Fingers, Hell Wit Ya, Most Girls, So What
    4. Sophia Ramos – Let me tell you something
    5. India.Arie and Pink – I am not my hair, Video (just India.arie)
    6. Care Bears on Fire – Everybody Else
    7. Kristina DeBarge – Goodbye
    8. Lily Allen – Knock ‘em out
    9. Natascha Sohl – If I was a boy
    10. The Pussycat Dolls – Whatcha think about that, I don’t need a man
    11. Natasha Bedingfield – Single
    12. Britney Spears – Womanizer
    13. Kelly Clarkson – I do not hook up, Never again, whyyawannabringmedown,
    14. Destiny’s child – independent woman (pt. 1 & 2), survivor
    15. Nelly Furtado – Powerless, One Trick Pony
    16. Donna Summer – I will survive
    17. The Veronicas – Revolution
    18. Sara Bareilles – Fairytale, bottle it up
    19. Beyonce – Single Ladies
    20. Kate Earl – Can’t treat me that way

  40. Brenna
    Brenna March 23, 2010 at 5:37 pm |

    … And We Exhale And Roll Our Eyes In Unison by Los Campesinos!

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