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20 Girl Anthems That Made Me A Feminist

20 Girl Anthems That Made Me a Feminist

20 Girl Anthems That Made Me a Feminist

You aren't born a feminist — you become one. Growing up, I didn’t have access to theorists like Bell Hooks or Judith Butler, but music served as a launching pad for my fiery. feminist inclinations. Here are 20 songs that influenced me to harness and cultivate my inner femme power.

1. Respect - Aretha Franklin

This is an OG girl power classic. Watching my demure grandmother go crazy each time this song played was enough to sell me on the beat. For Franklin, as a black woman and a lover, to demand anything in her time was revolutionary, which is probably why this song will always be influential.

2. I’m Coming Out - Diana Ross

This song doubles as both a femme empowerment and queer pride anthem. Any woman who dares to call herself, “The Boss” and wear mountains of boas, feathers and sequins is an inspiration.

3. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - Cyndi Lauper

Lauper's classic will forever be an ode to youthful, feminine exuberance. She expresses the importance for women to live outside of societal expectations.

4. Control - Janet Jackson

This track is the ultimate coming-of-age anthem for those who bend their truth to satisfy others.

5. I’m Every Woman - Whitney Houston

While some don't connect “The Voice” with feminism, Houston was increasingly declarative of her agency as she matured. In the music fideo, she highlights many of her powerful peers, gives a shout out to Chaka Khan for recording the original track and debuts her pregnancy belly for the first time a la Beyoncé (VMA style). 

6. U.N.I.T.Y. - Queen Latifah

Many people forget that Queen Latifah was originally a rapper — and a damn prolific one at that. Here she shuts down cat-calling way before mainstream feminism even took it up as a major issue.

7. Not A Pretty Girl - Ani DiFranco

No feminist-anthem list is complete without an Ani DiFranco track. The rebel girl covered nearly every mainstream feminist and civil rights issue imaginable in her 25-year music career. It tackles the beauty myth and so much more.

8. Free Your Mind - En Vogue

En Vogue may be a girl group that’s been largely eclipsed by others, but “Free Your Mind” was a super direct, womanist track discussing slut-shaming, racial profiling and other issues from an unapologetic black woman’s perspective.

9. That Don’t Impress Me Much - Shania Twain

Very few country songs double as feminist anthems, but this Shania Twain crossover hit serves as the original “No Scrubs.” In the video, she plays a not-so-distressed damsel and her leopard get-up serves so much ferociousness.

10. You Gotta Be - Des'Ree

Here Des’Ree drops some wisdom on how to navigate life and the importance of honoring your roots.

11. Human Nature - Madonna

Madonna has never been one to shy away from controversy. In this song she directly calls out the media and society for trying to force her into a box and her use of BDSM aesthetics eclipse Christian Grey.

12. Unpretty - TLC

Before Beyoncé gave us “Pretty Hurts,” TLC called out beauty standards in an affirming way. There's no shame in changing the things you don’t like about yourself and acknowledging the fact that true change comes from within.

13. Doo Wop (That Thing) - Lauryn Hill

Here, Lauryn Hill acts as the quintessential big sister, giving advice on how to deal with the pressures of growing up, temptation and desirability.

14. He Wasn’t Man Enough - Toni BraxtonToni is known for power-ballads like “Unbreak My Heart,” but here she is all about letting her ex-beau’s new woman know that she’s not hung up on him at all. In fact, she offers reasons for why the new chick need not be hung up on him either. In the video, Robin Givens helps Braxton expose his infidelity.

15. No Scrubs - TLC

This is the ultimate girl-power banger. There's no one, regardless of gender, who doesn’t know the words and won’t sing along when the girls of TLC lay their standards bare. Left-Eye’s rap in the extended version is the icing on this empowered cake.

16. Independent Women (Part I) - Destiny's Child

Destiny’s Child had numerous girl power hits including “Say My Name,” “Bills, Bills, Bills” and later, “Survivor,” but this song is bluntly a “for us, by us” empowered girl anthem.

17. Stronger - Britney Spears

Brit Brit isn’t known much for her feminist leanings, but this entire song serves as a new age “I Will Survive." No doubt Janet, Brit Brit's role model, served as a major influence for this song.

18. Can’t Hold Us Down - Christina Aguilera

The “Xtina” era shocked the world when the former sugar pop princess, Christina Aguilera, brazenly started discussing her sexuality and so much more. In “Can’t Hold Us Down” she pairs up with another empowered woman, Lil’ Kim, and let’s the world know she has no problem challenging the patriarchy.

19. I Don’t Need A Man - The Pussycat Dolls

The Pussycat Dolls have always had a bad rap for pandering to the overly sexual music industry, but this song turns all of that on its head. They suggest that their viability, agency and sexuality exists independent of the male gaze.

20. Run The World (Girls) - Beyoncé 

By the time Beyoncé released this track, both her and I were flirting with a full-on embrace of feminist theory. Once I saw the video of her and an army of women “at war” with men, I knew my identity as a feminist had bloomed.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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Raquel Willis

A black trans queer feminist media maven. A proponent of all things equality.

A black trans queer feminist media maven. A proponent of all things equality.