In the most basic sense, feminism is exactly what the dictionary says it is – the movement for social, political, and economic equality of men and women.
If it’s such an easy concept, why still today is it more commonplace to hear songs that sexualize women than not? Music is the most influential art form, especially to younger audiences, and more often than not music and music videos focus on women as objects and not as people. Equal rights have come a long way but the music industry has remained largely unchanged.
Here is a list of feminist musicians that not only support feminism but have helped in paving the way for gender equality. Keep on fighting the good fight!
Lesley Gore was an American singer, songwriter, actress, and activist. At the age of 16, in 1963, she recorded the pop hit “It’s My Party“, and followed it up with other hits including “Judy’s Turn to Cry“, “You Don’t Own Me“, and “California Nights“. She paved the way for women in music.
Bikini Kill was an American punk rock band formed in Olympia, Washington in October 1990. The group consisted of singer and songwriter Kathleen Hanna, guitarist Billy Karren, bassist Kathi Wilcox, and drummer Tobi Vail. The band is widely considered to be the pioneer of the riot grrrl movement, and was notorious for its radical feminist lyrics and fiery performances. Their music is characteristically abrasive and hardcore-influenced.
Tacocat is a surf pop quartet from Seattle, Washington founded in 2007 and consisting of Emily Nokes, Bree McKenna, Lelah Maupin, and Eric Randall. Tacocat humorously addresses feminist themes in many of their songs. For example, the song Hey Girl uses sarcasm to mock street harassment and the song This is Anarchy mocks the politics of the “white male” anarchist. The song Crimson Wave is a period-positive beach anthem featuring red imagery and humorous menstruation metaphors.
Evolving in tandem with the Olympia, Washington-based riot grrrl movement led by feminist bands such as Bikini Kill, Huggy Bear called themselves “girl-boy revolutionaries,” both in reference to their political philosophy and the gender makeup of their band.
For the majority of their existence, they refused to be photographed or interviewed by mainstream press, nor give their full names once they began releasing records formally.
SALT AND PEPA
The group entered the music industry at a time when hip hop music was believed to be a fad and major record companies were reluctant to sign hip hop artists. Salt-N-Pepa made their impact on hip-hop by being the first all women rap group. With lots of concerns about sexist lyrics and video clips that objectified women’s bodies in hip hop music, many feminists disliked rap and hip-hop music because of its bad portrayal of women. However, Salt-N-Pepa changed the look of hip hop. They wore scanty, sexy clothing and were not afraid to talk about sex and their thoughts about men. Their song “Let’s Talk About Sex” was a huge hit.
Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist punk rock protest group based in Moscow. Founded in August 2011, it has a variable membership of approximately 11 women ranging in age from about 20 to 33. The group stages unauthorized provocative guerrilla performances in unusual public locations, which are edited into music videos and posted on the Internet. The collective’s lyrical themes include feminism, LGBT rights, and opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom the group considers a dictator, and to his links with the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Propagandhi is a Canadian punk rock band formed in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba in 1986 by guitarist Chris Hannah and drummer Jord Samolesky. The band is currently located in Winnipeg, Manitoba and completed by bassist Todd Kowalski and guitarist David Guillas.
While their earlier work was aligned with the punk rock and skate punk tradition, in later years Propagandhi records have moved towards a heavier and more technical heavy metal-influenced sound. Both in their lyrics and hands-on activism, the band’s members champion various radical left wing and anarchist causes and veganism, and have taken a vocal stance against human rights violations, sexism, racism, nationalism, homophobia, imperialism, capitalism and organized religion.
BETH DITTO (GOSSIP)
Mary Beth Patterson, known by her stage name Beth Ditto , is an American singer-songwriter, most notable for her work with the indie rock band Gossip (previously known as The Gossip) and whose voice has been compared to Etta James, Janis Joplin and Tina Turner. She is often reported describing herself as a “fat, feminist lesbian from Arkansas.”
Do you have any feminist musicians we should be keeping our eyes on? Let us know in the comments!