I don’t listen to much popular music anymore because, as a New Yorker, my iPod has permanently replaced my car radio. I’m not forced to listen to the mostly repetitive Top 40 list I did in high school anymore – I’ll live happily in my world of feminist spoken word poets and classical opera, thank you very much!
But on a recent trip back home to Texas I spent a lot of time in my brother’s Camaro listening to the tunes he and his friends and probably most Americans my age are hearing every day. I’ll say this, in my humble opinion: if the music we listen to is seen as a representation of the social worth our generation, as are the Beatles and Joan Jett and Bob Dylan of previous generations, we might just be the sex obsessed, materialistic, shallow people that cranky adults are always telling me we are.
Yes, I’m pointing at songs like 3Oh!’s “Don’t Trust Me,” which features a story line about a girl whose very presence alone at a bar listening to her favorite band is enough to merit repeated warnings of “don’t trust a ho,” and a lyric that at once encourages women to be silent sex objects and disparages Helen Keller. I’m talking about every time Kanye West says “No Homo” to assure everyone of his hyper masculinity and belittle gay people everywhere, as if his rude, drunken interruption of Taylor Swift’s VMA speech wasn’t enough to remind us that, to him, manhood is talking over women and taking up too much space. I’m calling out David Guetta and Akon for “trying to find the words to describe this girl without being disrespectful” and then calling her one the most disrespectful epithets a girl can endure over and over again.
I could go on and on – these songs and the videos that accompany them are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to pop music’s specialization in objectification, marginalization, and sexualization.
Yup, this is how I start a post on songs that are actually empowering for girls, mostly because I think it’s important to call out and question the bad stuff as often as we can.
But, it’s also a good idea to recognize the good – so here are three pop songs that uplift women’s experiences – and happen to be pretty good listening at the same time!
Beyond the pole dance she did to this song at the VMA’s, I totally respect Miley for writing a song about her experience as a young Southern celeb arriving in Los Angeles and feeling insecure about what she’s wearing and who she is. She could play cool and make like she’s 100% comfortable in high-stress situations but she doesn’t. Instead, she harkens back to the music that inspires her and commits to finding and being herself again.
(Totally dorky personal admission: I’ve been traveling to lots of cool events recently where people know me but I don’t know them – and sometimes it still makes me self-conscious. The lyrics “My tummys turnin and I’m feelin kinda home sick/ Too much pressure and I’m nervous” remind me that I am still really young and it’s ok to be intimidated – but if Miley can do much more stressful things at 16, so can I at 23!)
Priscilla Renea’s song is playing all over popular radio and it’s all real girl:
I tried to be a picture perfect girl
But you were in your own fantasy world
Try to control me like some kind of Barbie
But that just ain’t me
I come with imperfections
Epitome of perfection
If you can’t understand, loving the way I am
Then you’re no good for me, so glad I kept my receipt.
I adore P!nk – she’s definitely my favorite and empowering enough for a whole post, so I won’t say too much. With ‘So What’ she casts off her famous motocross racer ex with the reminder that she’s an actual ROCK STAR and she’s going to be fine without him! (Happy ending to that story: they got back together!)
I’ve been playing this on repeat recently – no matter what someone does, whether it be an ex or a mentor or a family member, to try to bring you down, it’s a good reminder that you rock all on your own!
Got more songs that inspire and empower you? Well, share the love – post ‘em in the comments!
I love Miley’s song, but I have to tell you, she didn’t write it. It was written by a team of people, mostly men. Which I bring up mostly because I’m curious a) about how many of our most girl empowering songs out there were written by men, and b) if it matters. Does it matter more who wrote it or the singing and delivering of the message?
Maybe what matters most is the receiving of and processing of the message itself.