Happy Women’s History Month! This is a time to acknowledge the contributions and change effected by women throughout history. And while we can always grow, learn, and do better, let’s celebrate all that has come before us, and all we hope to accomplish.
In the music industry, we’ve seen our share of unfair treatment towards women – but we’re also seeing more women than ever standing up, recognizing their value, and stepping out from the shadows. They are the women reclaiming their power by taking back the narrative and rewriting negative clichés.
We’ve put together six songs by women that are doing exactly that. Sometimes, it’s difficult to find the strength to speak up. But these women are showing us that we do have power, we do have a voice, and it’s up to us to use it.
“Most Girls” by Hailee Steinfeld
How often do women hear the negative cliché of being told (by both men and other women) that “you’re not like most girls”? What Hailee does is flip the perspective and say that she wants to be like “most girls”, because most girls are smart, strong, and beautiful.
The song opens with lyrics that celebrate all women, regardless of what they wear, who they love, or what they do: “Some girls feel best in their tiny dresses/ Some girls, nothing but sweatpants, looking like a princess. Some girls kiss new lips every single night/They’re staying out late ’cause they just celebrating life”
Hailee shows us that there is no right or wrong way to how women live their lives or feel their best. They should live their lives the way they want without comparison or judgment.
In the end, Hailee reinforces the fact that women don’t have to see each other as competition – they’re all special in their own right: “Most girls are smart and strong and beautiful / Most girls, work hard, go far, we are unstoppable / Most girls, our fight to make every day / No two are the same / I wanna be like, I wanna be like most girls”.
“Girl Can’t Be Herself” by Alicia Keys
Back in 2016, Alicia Keys’ #NoMakeup movement shed light on the pressure that women face to look a certain way.
“Girl Can’t Be Herself” is an extension of that movement and the overwhelming expectations of women from society as well as the media. As the title suggests, it talks about the feeling of not being able to feel like yourself anymore.
Instead of giving in to those pressures, the song advocates for reinventing and redefining what it means to be a woman. “Maybe all this Maybelline is covering my self-esteem/ Whose job is it to straighten out my curves?/ I’m so tired of that image, that’s my word”.
It’s a powerful cry for societal change as well as self-acceptance. She ends the song with poignant lines: “The truest pleasure is the fact that we can breathe / Think it into existence, do it, then achieve”.
“The Man” by Taylor Swift
While Taylor Swift is not the first woman to write about the differing perceptions of men and women in society and the media, what makes this song so powerful is how blatantly she narrates it.
She starts the song imagining what it would be like to be a man: “I would be complex, I would be cool / They’d say I played the field before I found someone to commit to/ And that would be okay for me to do /Every conquest I had made would make me more of a boss to you”.
She goes on to illustrate a scenario sans the double standard that women so often experience: “They’d say I hustled, put in the work /They wouldn’t shake their heads and question how much of this I deserve/ What I was wearing, if I was rude /Could all be separated from my good ideas and power moves”.
Taylor very aptly calls out sexism from her personal experiences. She encourages women to take back their power and own the things they’ve accomplished – even if the world hasn’t caught up yet.
“Pretty Girl” by Maggie Lindemann
In 2017, Maggie Lindemann wrote about being overlooked, and in a broader sense, what it’s like to be a young woman today. Speaking about the song, she says “[“Pretty Girl”] is about being more than just what people see online and girls being more than our physical appearances. I think people need to look past just that and find what’s deeper.”
The song aims to redefine what it means to be a woman — that they can be feminine and delicate, but also edgy, adventurous, or however they choose to be.
“Some days I’m broke, some days I’m rich / Some days I’m nice, some days I can be a bitch / Some days I’m strong, some days I quit / I don’t let it show, but I’ve been through some shit”.
With these lyrics, Maggie emphasizes that women are more than what you see on the surface – they are complex and they have their own inner demons, just like all other humans.
“Scars to Your Beautiful” by Alessia Cara
This song addresses the struggles that so many women go through on a daily basis just to feel like they’re worthy of love – either from themselves or others. It talks about the way these habits and beliefs seem inherently instilled in them, and the common notion of not feeling good enough.
With lyrics that go: “You should know you’re beautiful just the way you are /And you don’t have to change a thing, the world could change its heart /No scars to your beautiful, we’re stars and we’re beautiful”, Alessia reminds women that they don’t need to change to fit the demands of society, a friendship, a partner, a workplace, the world.
We are who we are and if we can find beauty and happiness in it, that’s what matters.
“Good as Hell” by Lizzo
Is there anyone on planet earth who hasn’t heard this song, stopped what they’re doing, and jammed out with a burst of confidence? Not only is this an incredibly catchy song, but it’s also an ode to self-love – and we’re feeling it.
Sometimes, it takes a swift (loving) kick in the butt to shake yourself out of a situation you know is no longer serving you. While we can overcomplicate and excuse behavior all day long, this song is about putting yourself first, recognizing your value, and no longer making excuses for the things that bring you down.
With lyrics like “”I know that it’s hard, but you have to try / If you need advice, let me simplify / If he don’t love you anymore Just walk your fine ass out the door”
“Boss up and change your life You can have it all, no sacrifice / I know he did you wrong, we can make it right”
No more making excuses. No more being timid. No more playing small. That’s what this song , this movement, this month, is all about.
About the author: Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR where artists have seen placements on Spotify, Alternative Press, American Songwriter, PopWrapped, & more. She loves ice cream, reality TV, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.
Photo credits: Mary Ellen Matthews, Milan Zrnic, Steve Granitz, Arik McArthur, Daniel Regan, Getty Images
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