Feminist anthems call in all shapes and sizes, from the riot grrrl hard-hitters to pop radio chart-toppers. The lyrics don’t have to read like Judith Butler, but it doesn’t hurt when they do get into the nitty gritty of womanhood.
In celebration of empowering women, Billboard has put together 25 feminist anthems, below.
“Bad Girls” – M.I.A.
M.I.A.‘s hypnotic slogan, “Live fast, die young/ Bad girls do it well,” came as a form of support for the Women To Drive movement in Saudi Arabia. Until just recently in Sept. of 2017, women were forbidden to drive motorized vehicles. “Bad Girls” and its car stunt-filled visuals predate the law change by five years.
“Hijabi (Wrap My Hijab) – Mona Haydar
?Mona Haydar started her music career strong with this debut track. Hailing from Flint, MI, Haydar points out that it isn’t her responsibility as a Muslim to educate the ignorant on her beliefs, “Not your exotic vacation/ I’m bored with your fascination/ I need that PayPal, PayPal, PayPal/ If you want education.”
“Thunder Thighs” – Miss Eaves
Off the 2017 album Feminasty, “Thunder Thighs” was easily the body-posi banger of the summer. It’s impossible not to feel great when Miss Eaves declares chub as beautiful, as she raps, “Chub Rub/ The day is just heating up…/ So what?/ These boy shorts are inching up/ Thick thighs, sundress, I’m looking good.”
“Amigas Cheetahs” – The Cheetah Girls
Disney Channel was quite ahead of itself when it aired the girl-power-packed film The Cheetah Girls. The finale to the film’s sequel, The Cheetah Girls 2, upped the ante when the band enlisted the woman who was pitted against them for the entire movie to join them onstage to sing — in both English and Spanish — about sticking up for one another.
“Typical Girls” – The Slits
British rock band The Slits were way too cool when they offered their feminist bangers to the male-dominated punk world. The song narrates ultra-lame things that typical girls are expected to do, before asking, “Who invented the typical girl?/ Who’s bringing out the new improved model?/ And there’s another marketing ploy/ Typical girl gets the typical boy.”
“Independent Woman” – Destiny’s Child
“Charlie, how your Angels get down like that?” All the honeys who are making money have to admit this song is a timeless feminist hit. Destiny’s Child had a common theme of buying their own things for themselves, and not needing to wait on a man to come around to do the same things (hello, “Bills Bills Bills”).
“Quiet” – MILCK
MILCK saw viral fame after her feminist battle cry at the Women’s March on Washington acquired millions of views in a short time. After an emotional start to the song, “Put on your face/ Know your place/ Shut up and smile/ I could do that” MILCK breaks out into the sweeping chorus, garnering strength with “I can’t keep quiet, oh/ A one woman riot.”
“Cinderella” – Play
Swedish girl group Play was singing feminist anthems left and right in their heyday. At the same time they threw down the damsel-in-distress trope in this hit, the group also released “Us Against the World,” another track about backing each other up and taking on the world together.
“Woman” – Kesha
Aside from all the other reasons to be absolutely stoked on Kesha’s most recent album Rainbow, which marked her long-awaited return to music making, “Woman” is the icing on the cake, ‘cause she “run this shit, baby.”
“The Future is Female” – Madame Gandhi (TT the Artist Club Remix featuring UNIIQU3)
This super recent track is packed with cold hard facts, like “We have to value girls more than their looks/ The biggest threat is a girl with a book.” Plus, the artist’s main goal in performing is to “make gender equality culturally even more relevant,” and that’s about as feminist as a goal can get.
“I Am Her” – Shea Diamond
Shea Diamond has been a trailblazer for trans-women in the music industry. “I Am Her” starts with a bold statement, “If you had to wear my shoes, you’d probably take them off too.” The NYC-based singer-songwriter packed the track with strong lyrics, singing “Your ignorance leaves a hell of a stench/ The aroma lingers on generations unknown.”
“***Flawless” – Beyoncé
Beyoncé reminds us all that she is queen, not living in JAY-Z’s shadow, “I took some time to live my life/ But don’t think I’m just his little wife/ Don’t get it twisted, get it twisted/ This my shit, bow down b—-es.” Because apparently some people forgot that she is the real ruler of America, and that “We flawless, ladies tell ‘em.”
“Just a Girl” – No Doubt
Iconic ska-punk band No Doubt had Gwen Stefani kicking ass since the very start. “Just a Girl” proves that she’s anything but a demure stereotype. “Oh I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite/ So don’t let me have any rights/ Oh…I’ve had it up to here!”
“Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” – Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin
“So we’re comin’ out of the kitchen,” the song comes out to a firey start before “Respect” diva Aretha and Eurythmics sing a groovy anthem of liberation. After all, “The ‘inferior sex’ got a new exterior,” and that’s not to be argued with when it’s coming from Aretha.
“Girls Like Girls” – Hayley Kiyoko
Kiyoko has been pushing for lesbian representation for the entirety of her career, and “Girls Like Girls” is the perfect intersectional jam, as she notes that she’s not afraid of tearing down walls in the lyrics. “I’ve been crossing all the lines, all the lines/ Kissed your girls and made you cry, boys.”
“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” – Cyndi Lauper
Perhaps less of a hard-hitter than some of the other tracks on this list, but the sentiment is still in Lauper’s legendary hit. “Some boys take a beautiful girl/ and hide her away from the rest of the world/ I want to be the one to walk in the sun/ Oh girls they wanna have fun.”
“A Living Human Girl” – The Regrettes
Lead singer Lydia Night points out the not-so-pretty things many women have in reality, like “pimples on my face and grease in my hair,” in this super cute number. Night continues dishing cold hard facts in the second verse, “I’m not being bossy, I’m saying how I feel/ And I’m not a bitch for stating what is real.”
“Can You Deal?” – Bleached
The Clavin sisters were so, so over answering the sexist question, “What’s it like being a girl in a band?” when they penned this number. “Yeah, I’m a girl and I play in a band/ Can you deal?”
“Rebel Girl” – Bikini Kill
In this song, you’ll hear the revolution. The original riot grrrls were preaching female solidarity and empowerment in their every move.
Though the track makes reference to rumors spread by Eminem, the real focus here is the double standards that women have faced, and still face. Nobody can hold women down, and these two artists make it clear.
“You Are The Problem Here” – First Aid Kit
These Swedish sisters ditched their usual warm sound for a direct hit to rape culture with this rockin’ track. Released on International Women’s Day, the duo hits even lesser acknowledged issues surrounding the way we discuss women, singing, “And we don’t need to be diminished/ To sisters or daughter or mothers/ I am a human being, that is how you relate to me.”
“Hard Out Here” – Lily Allen
It’s still hard out here for a b—-, and Lily Allen really gets it on this track. “We’ve never had it so good, uh huh/ We’re out of the woods/ And if you can’t detect the sarcasm/ Then you’ve misunderstood.” The video only adds to the effect, with Allen getting rejected from late night shows because she “let herself go.”
“Oh Bondage, Up Yours!” – X-Ray Spex
Nothing like some good grrrl punk to start a revolution. “Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard/ But I think ‘oh bondage, up yours!’”
“BO$$” – Fifth Harmony
Off stage there’s no doubt the women of Fifth Harmony are all about feminism, and it even comes through in a few of their hit tracks. “BO$$” directly references two boss b—-es, Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, as the girls sing “C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-T, that’s me, I’m confident/ Don’t want yo compliments, use common sense,/ I’m on my Michelle Obama (shhh).”
“Men Explain Things To Me” – Tacocat
?Tacocat took on the annoyance of man-splaining in this track, putting it simply in the lyrics, “Explain it to me again/ Though I know all about/ The words you’re spitting out/ The floor is yours without a doubt.”