International Women’s Day had WERS’ writing staff combing through our catalog of songs that express female empowerment. While we love classic feminist anthems like Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” we wanted to explore fresher, lesser known takes. Read through our 11 picks for uncommon feminist anthems, and be sure to tune in to 88.9 this weekend — March 11th and 12th — to hear our all-female playlist continue, broadcast live from the Boston Common!
“THÉRÈSE” — MAYA HAWKE
Maya Hawke’s “Thérèse” is about radical self-acceptance. The whimsical folk song is the lead single from Hawke’s second album, MOSS. Its sound is delicate and subdued, with lyrics that subvert the shame typically associated with female sexuality. Additionally, lyrics like “Thérèse does not belong to you, the horses, cars, and cowboys do,” combat the ever-growing culture of female objectification. Overall, the song is a sweet-sounding celebration of confidence and empowerment, making it an ideal feminist anthem for Women’s History Month.
- Claire Dunham, Blog Coordinator
“NOTHING NEW (TAYLOR’S VERSION) (FROM THE VAULT)” — TAYLOR SWIFT FEAT. PHOEBE BRIDGERS
After Taylor Swift released “Nothing New,” it quickly became a go-to sad girl anthem. The song details the harsh reality of growing up and growing into and out of your femininity. Phoebe Bridgers sings, “How did I go from growing up to breaking down?,” highlighting the all too common experience of women feeling like they need to be put together all the time. While the song keeps the somber tone, there is still a message of hope and resilience, with the two singers saying, “I know someday I'm gonna meet her. It's a fever dream” … “She'll know the way, and then she'll say she got the map from me.” Swift and Bridgers are calling out to themselves and saying they know it will get better through resilience.
- Elle Dickson, Staff Writer
“SHEELA-NA-GIG” — PJ HARVEY
The mere image of a 12th century Sheela-Na-Gig carving is enough to associate it with the passion and thirst of womanhood. PJ Harvey’s song that takes the same name as this iconic figure comes off her debut classic Dry. The album features screechy tracks that she sings over with the tender cries of bloody murder. “Sheela-Na-Gig” highlights the restrictions placed upon women in discussion of sexuality. Harvey proclaims her frustrations of labels; as a woman, you’re either indiscriminately sexual, or excessively modest. PJ Harvey implores her audience “Look at these, my child-bearing hips. Look at these, my ruby-red ruby lips.” She allures the listener into her world of hysteria and refuses to cure this ailment of hers.
- Ash Jones, Staff Writer
“DON’T HURT YOURSELF (FEAT. JACK WHITE)” — BEYONCÉ
Beyoncé reminds us exactly who she is on this track from her 2016 album Lemonade. She knows her worth and reminds the men in her life of exactly what it is, in case they’ve forgotten. In a climate where black women are constantly undermined and undervalued by society, Beyoncé doesn’t allow anyone the chance to downplay her, especially not her own husband. She says, loud and proud, “When you hurt me, you hurt yourself.” It's an acknowledgement not only of the great cultural contributions of black women but also the repercussions of trying to undermine them. Beyoncé will always come back harder and stronger, and this song reminds all the women listening to do the same in the face of disrespect.
- Sidnie Paisley Thomas, Staff Writer
“DOVES IN THE WIND” — SZA FEAT. KENDRICK LAMAR
“Doves in the Wind” is a song bluntly “dedicated to vaginas,” says singer-songwriter SZA. With the help of TDE labelmate Kendrick Lamar, the song discusses the lengths men will go for sex, despite women offering so much more than that. The two sing in agreement that, despite men only reducing women to sexual beings, they have a supremacy over them because of it. Because of this, “Doves in the Wind” is indubitably a contemporary feminist anthem, sending the message that women are not to be trivialized.
- Breanna Nesbeth, Music Coordinator
“SOMEBODY” — DREAM WIFE
In their 2018 single “Somebody,” London-based indie punk-rock trio Dream Wife powerfully declare, “I am not my body. I am somebody.” According to Consequence of Sound, The feminist track “is a call for solidarity and for changes in the fabric of our society,” specifically in how women and their bodies are perceived and treated. The band will release their new album, Social Lubrication, on June 9th. It will delve even deeper into topics of female sexuality and the idea of being a “good girl,” as is expected of women by our society.
- Isabella Kohn, Staff Writerdf
“ASEXUAL WELLBEING” — OKAY KAYA
Okay Kaya doesn’t hold back on her track “Asexual Wellbeing,” as she discusses only being okay at sex, yeast infections, and other intricacies of womanhood. The song narrates the story of a push-and-pull relationship that acknowledges other ways in which we can feel intimate when your sex is, at best, mediocre. She sings “Sex with me is mediocre, but I can give you asexual wellbeing. Sex with me is mediocre, but I can probably feel what you’re feeling.” The Norwegian singer-songwriter reminds women that although your sex may not be the most passionate, you can still feel the passion in the aftermath of its awkwardness.
- Breanna Nesbeth, Music Coordinator
“FETCH THE BOLT CUTTERS” — FIONA APPLE
Fiona Apple’s unbound song “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” is all about liberating yourself from whatever doesn’t fulfill you. It serves as the title track to an album which overflows with musings about the contradictions that make up the patriarchal world. The track, in particular, delivers insights on what it’s like to feel trapped— whether it be in your own mind, or from feeling required to follow society’s rules. The use of percussion from found objects like a metal butterfly and Apple’s deceased dog bones is a rebellious statement against society’s ideas on what’s normal.
- Kathia Dawson, Staff Writer
“MAN’S WORLD” — MARINA
MARINA's "Man's World" is a modern feminist anthem aimed at questioning the men who currently run the planet. MARINA produced the song with an all-female team. She told Vogue, "It’s my responsibility to make sure I’m hiring women who represent what I like talking about. ‘Man’s World’ was an opportunity to do that." She ends the song with a call for men to realize women don't live in the same world as them, and to recognize how their actions hurt the women in their lives.
- Cate Cianci, Staff Writer
“HYPERBALLAD” — BJÖRK
On “Hyperballad,” Björk speaks to the multifaceted nature of womanhood. The dynamic singer is known for her loud, bold lyrics and musical performances; but also, for her soft-spoken, poetic lyricism. With this track, Bjork continues to prove her nuance as she asks for more independence in a committed relationship. The song is feminist anthem that focuses on a woman’s need for autonomy over a slow and sentimental ballad that, at its core, is still all about love. The duality of women, am I right?
- Breanna Nesbeth, Music Coordinator
“NAMELESS, FACELESS” — COURTNEY BARNETT
A stark contrast to the mellowness of Courtney Barnett’s most recent work, 2018’s Tell Me How You Really Feel sees her hit listeners with a healthy dose of feminist rage. “Nameless, Faceless” shines as one of the fiercest examples. In the track, Barnett addresses a man who criticized her lyricism with a simple but biting snapback: “He said ‘I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and spit out better words than you.’ But you didn’t.” She makes clear that this isn’t a problem with just one man, however. Rather, he serves as a reflection of a larger, toxic patriarchal society. Barnett paints the irony and sad reality of how women can’t even “walk in the park in the dark” without fearing for their lives, while men are scared “that women will laugh at them.”
- Nora Onanian, Web Services Coordinator