By Brianna Pierce
In present day United States, society finally has the privilege to say that a female has the rights and potential to become one of the most powerful figures in the nation. Hillary Clinton- first lady turned runner for the 2016 U.S. Presidential Candidacy-has become a prime example of growing female power: that although the country still struggles with gender inequality, there is no doubt that women have successfully fought their way to fairer grounds. However, the fight for equal rights is still a very prominent battle for our country, and has been for centuries.
Men and women were created equally to coincide and contribute equally to the world. So, why is it that society adopted the fact that women were inferior? While it’s difficult to justify gender inequality in our nation, it is not hard to identify the raging fight against it; We call it “Feminism”.
Feminism, for those who are unaware, is defined as “the belief in social, political, and economic equality between the sexes”.
Due to the constant growth in the feminist movement, women have become much more powerful and creative in their messages to eliminate sexism, discrimination, misogyny, and many other issues due to “gender roles”. Particularly in music, numerous female artists use their platform and voice to fight the patriarchy. I personally have connected with three popular figures in music/media that have contributed and become accessories to the fight for equality: The infamous movement of Riot Grrrl, the spunky Spice Girls, and the one and only Beyoncé Knowles. Each group/individual have impacted the movement in different ways, but all powerfully nonetheless.
Kevin Dunn and May Summer Farnsworth collaborated on an article titled “We ARE the Revolution”, with the central theme of how the Riot Grrrl movement emerged and grew into one of the most powerful feminist movements in years. The article begins with the beginning of punk rock in the 1970’s around the world: women at first were idolized in the genre, many being lead singers or having parts in popular bands. However as time passed, punk became “less hospitable to women as the scene reflected some of larger society’s patriarchal tendencies” (Dunn & Farnsworth, 138). In response to the growing anti-female barrier punk put up, Riot Grrrl was created.
While the Riot Grrrl Movement was so much more than music – with its own fanzines and art in general – the music made its own profound mark. The women in the movement were tired of being seen as only the “girlfriends of the boys” in the bands, so they decided to make names for themselves. Over 50 bands associated themselves with Riot Grrrl, some of the most notable being Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Sleater-Kinney. The movement remained persistent in opposing mainstream media and focusing on inner beauty, strength, and intelligence.
In 1994, following the success of the Riot Grrrl movement, a group of young British women took it upon themselves to strengthen the movement in the pop music genre. They called themselves the Spice Girls. Mel B (Scary Spice), Mel C (Sporty Spice), Emma (Baby Spice), Victoria (Posh Spice) and Geri (Ginger Spice) put their diverse styles and mindsets together to strengthen the womanly image. The girl group became an international sensation in 1997, soon after the release of their first hit single, Wannabe.
Spice Girls made feminism a style. “Girl Power”, the slogan of the Spice Girls, was being sold on merchandise worldwide. It proved what a woman, or girl, represents. Along with their brand becoming a feminist commodity, their music empowered w
omen to another level. While Wannabe’s message seemed as simple as the lyrics “if you wannabe my lover, you gotta get with my friends!”- it was way more than that, as well as in many of their songs. It represented the fact that a man could not control the lives of women or what was important to them, which highlighted the strength of
a woman’s choice and mind. Although the Spice Girls had extreme sex appeal, which many thought was against the feminist movement, they stood for the fact that they deserved the freedom to be as womanly as possible while assuming the normative “male” position.
As if the message of feminism was not clear enough, popular singer Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, who considers herself a “modern day feminist”, made the message very clear in one of her recent hit songs, Flawless. In the song, Knowles herself chose to sample Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who proclaims,
“We teach girls to shrink themselves to make themselves smaller. We say to girls,’You can have ambition, but not too much You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man.’ Because I am female I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support, but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage And we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors; not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings In the way that boys are.
Feminist: the person who believes in the social Political, and economic equality of the sexes.”
From the beginning of her successful career as a member of Destiny’s Child, to her extremely powerful solo career, she has never failed to epitomize modern-day feminism: the feminist that can have a husband and take care of her child while being self-made and self-employed. Beyoncé started out with girl-power in the beginning of her career, with songs like “Bills, Bills, Bills”, which explains a woman’s independence attracting the dependent male. As she grew, she more blatantly became a feminist in her music; for example, “Independent Woman”, or even better, “Run The World (Girls)” (and this is just a small list of examples. Have you heard Sorry?)
Janell Hobson , an associate professor of women’s studies at the University at Albany, covered the many examples of Beyonce’s fight for feminism throughout her career. She argues against those who say that “a woman who makes a song like ‘Cater 2 U’ cannot possibly be a feminist”: “shouldn’t a woman who sings about independence and female power also be multifaceted in her expressions, whether about romantic desire, heartache or dominating the music scene?”
You said that, girl.
These three pro-feminist figures, although VERY influential, have been only small contributions in the big scheme of equality among the sexes. With their strong, womanly efforts to inspire the girls of the next generations to come, one can only wonder how far the female population can go.
Who are your favorite feminist figures and why? Comment and let us know!