In an age when our most famous “role models” are defying the label “feminist” (ahem, Taylor Swift), sometimes a girl’s gotta drag out her compact discs and mixed tapes to remember the power of a female power ballad. This list celebrates ten bitchin’ rockers who pack some girlpower punches. Whether your boss has been a condescending ass, another unworthy boy has blown you off, or you just wanna eat cookie dough and jam out with your girlfriends in your sweats, these girls are for you.
1. The Go-Go’s
The Go-Go’s start this list because, well, they started this list. As the first formed-by-females, all-female vocals-and-instrumentals, written-entirely-by-women powerhouse to top the charts, these ladies were the Susan B. Anthonys of rock. Starting out, the Go-Go’s were spit on (literally) but taught us (and the following nine groups on the list) that lady rockin’ out is worth fighting for.
Even though they’re currently no longer fighting together (they’re actually fighting each other, as the bassist is suing her sisters), The Go-Go’s got the beat:
“It doesn’t matter what they say/
In the jealous games people play/
Our lips are sealed.”
Sounds like an anthem to me.
2. Dixie Chicks
These drawlin’ and brawlin’ ladies of country taught us that it can take time to grow into your big feminist cowgirl boots. From dreaming of space to grow up in in “Wide Open Spaces” to putting their stake in the ground with “Not Ready to Make Nice,” Natalie and the gang shine light on the difficulty of calling out the man — and show the courage it takes to ride the waves afterwards.
Ten years after the London incident that all but stopped the band in its tracks, the Chicks are regrouping with the Court Yard Hounds and a solo career, planning a concert or two in Canada, and are still, still, not forgivable to one-third of the respondents in a recent Country Music Television poll.
While conservative country fans may have changed the course on their seeming unstopability, they are the highest-selling female group in any genre. This trio sadly might teach us how dangerous it is to be an opinionated woman. Or maybe just how difficult it is to be against war when the majority of your market is not. Either way, I have to wonder if this had been a guy group, if the death threats and “shut up and sing” ideology would have been so prevalent.
But whatever, Chicks: you can just call up your best girlfriend, make sure you’ve got lots of room in your car trunk, and cook up them black-eyed peas.
3. Destiny’s Child
This week, in honor of Senator Wendy Davis, “All you women who are independent throw your hands up at me.”
Wendy and Beyonce both remind us, we’re Grown Women. And we can do whatever we want to. Be a single-mother, Harvard graduate, lawyer, Democratic Texas Senator, and possible (please God, probable) gubernatorial candidate, you got it. Be a wife, mother, singer, dancer, actor, model and international superstar, sure.
While Destiny’s Child could write the book on power-to-the-women ballads (just read Nico Lang’s “9 Destiny’s Child Lyrics That Belong in a Self-Help Book”), “Survivor” takes #1 Destiny’s Child Lesson. If you think you can crush a woman, better get to the left, to the left. Beyonce, Michelle, Kelly and Wendy: here’s to you Bootylicious, Independent Women Survivors. We’re Crazy in Love with y’all.
4. Pussycat Dolls
When I told my mom I was writing this piece, she texts me, “Pussycat Dolls might have set feminism back a few years.” Yes. Yes, this may be true. OR: Ma, maybe Nicole and friends made it possible for me to be more than just a pussy. Hey, I can be a pussy, a kitty, AND a doll! Also, I can boss my man about and have him do the chore of buttoning.
God, I hope my mother isn’t actually reading this.
I know it’s not an all girl-band, but I can’t resist Daughter and her fearsome voice.
We’d like to all believe that feminism means bitches don’t cry. Daughter tells us, bitch, please, CRY. Somebody’s probably stomped on you, and if you’re still standing, you’re that much more of a warrior.
“And if you’re still breathing, you’re the lucky ones/
‘Cause most of us are heaving through corrupted lungs/
Setting fire to our insides for fun/
Collecting names of the lovers that went wrong.”
“Creep.” “No Scrubs.” “Waterfalls.” TLC’s songs are plainly political, heartbreaking, badass dynamos.
My favorite TLC feminist anthem, though, is “Unpretty.” Women around the world know the struggle of looking like society’s ideal perfect body. Never has that pressure been better expressed in song than in this piece. TLC reminds us that our bodies are our own. Ditch the loser who thinks he’s got the right to tell you it ain’t perfect.
“Why do I look to all these things? To keep you happy/
Maybe get rid of you and then I’ll get back to me, hey…
But if you can look inside you, find out who am I too/
Be in a position to make me feel so damn unpretty.”
She’s only 16, and she’s only herself, but Ella Yelich-O’Connor (the New Zealander singer-songwriter known as Lorde) is London’s next big export. Her awesome single “Royals” is what summer hits dream of being.
“Royals” and Lorde give us a battle cry for the days when feminism isn’t just a stuffy text book theory of women-and-men-equality. It’s a day when we gnash our teeth, burn our bras, and scream, “We run this town.”
“Let me be your ruler/
You can call me queen bee/
And baby I’ll rule/
Let me live that fantasy.”
For days when you wear the bossypants, this song’s for you.
8. En Vogue
“Before you can read me you got to learn how to see me, I said/
Free your mind and the rest will follow/
Be color blind, don’t be so shallow.”
God, does it get any better than this song from 90’s sensation En Vogue? These ladies are Funky Divas, Born to Sing, and they’re belting yet another feminist anthem. The quartet reminds the ladies (and the gentlemen) that only so much lives on the surface. Whenever I feel the impulse to tear down another woman because she wore leggings and I can see her thong through them, I will remember this quartet and free my mind from that cattiness. And that view.
Courtney Love’s wild quartet brings fierce to feminism: when you need to scream about the injustice of being a girl in this world, do your hair like this ferocious blonde and scream out “Doll Parts.” Trust me, you’ll feel better.
Following the story of Courtney’s childhood is a lesson on perseverance — from an autism diagnosis to juvenile detention centers to emancipation at 16 and then supporting herself as a stripper — Love turned her lemons into lemonade (with good vodka). Founding Hole in 1989, she went on to show us all what Girl Rock Bands can be, and damn she can do it just as good as the dudes. From “Celebrity Skin” to “Letter to God” to “Dicknail,” this band’s for stickin’ it to the man.
10. Spice Girls
I’m certain my feminist beliefs largely stem from my time spent in diapers, wearing my favorite necklace, jamming out to Janet’s “Nasty” while eating fudgesickles. The Spice Girls took up the mantle of feminist education when I grew into junior high — meaning I begged my parents to purchase the Girls’ pay-per-view concert and have my friends over to rock out for my birthday. Yes, there were costumes at this party. No, you may not have pictures of either aforementioned childhood milestone.
Spice Girls’ could have just been this entire list. From honoring your ma to setting your boundaries to just plain dancing it out, they take the cake on girl power.
I have to give the number one spot, however, to “Wannabe.” Sometimes I’m on the brink of joining up with the separatist feminists and marching off bra-less into the wilderness, but I love my hair dryer. And Spice Girls taught me to tell the man (or woman) what you want. No one else is gonna do it for you. Speak up.
On that note: speak up below on what your favorite lady rockers taught you. But please refrain from dissing the Spice Girls. I played Scary Spice, and I played her well.