Are you ready for a span of 60 years and more than 2 hours of women’s music to celebrate Women’s History Month? Our staff shared their favorite works from women artists, from Aretha to Japanese Breakfast. There are empowering anthems, and obvious second-wave feminist choices. But there are also sad, conflicted, or playful songs, a compilation as nuanced as women are.
Watch and listen here or check out the full playlist on Spotify, with bonus tracks.
Sheila Lettsome says that she loves that the woman should be the one defining respect, not accepting someone else’s definition.
32 Flavors—Ani DiFranco
Emily Muttillo calls out the “Grrrrl power in the late 90’s! This song’s lyric: ‘I am a poster girl with no poster, I am 32 flavors and then some,’ speaks to the complexity of being a woman and the many things we are at one time.”
Emily Campell likes the “message that women can take care of themselves and demand more from a relationship than nice gestures. ‘I can buy myself flowers. I can hold my own hand. Talk to myself for hours, say things you don’t understand.’ It feels like an evolution from ‘I Will Survive.’ I liked it even more after I read speculation that it specifically refers to things her ex-husband did or songs he liked. Plus she dropped it on his birthday, taking the social media attention.”
HAIM—Now I’m In It
This song seems like it explores the experience of being locked in a fight with a friend. Turns out the friend is the singer herself, describing the sentiments from when she was suffering from depression. Interesting that the song itself is upbeat, catchy, and approachable. Sort of how women are expected to present ourselves, even when in pain or conflict. One lovely thing to note in the video is how her sisters care for her without judgment.
I am Woman—Helen Reddy
Sheila appreciates the line “’And no one’s ever gonna keep me down again.’ This line is way ahead of its time. Our political climate looks like we’re going backwards on women’s rights, and this line is so appropriate as there are some who want to hold us back again.” And Roslyn Kaleal notes that “throughout history, women have been ‘down there on the floor’ whether by abuse, exploitation, or neglect—often blamed for being there. Yes, as a group, women have ‘paid the price’ and have proven to be ‘strong…invincible… determined.’ ‘If [we] have to, [we] can do anything.’”
The Pill—Loretta Lynn
Julie Patterson chose this pivotal song. “’There’s a gonna be some changes made, Right here on nursery hill, You’ve set this chicken your last time, ‘Cause now I’ve got the pill” Sexual power and control over our bodies! It’s everything.”
This is a reminder that women do not exist for the enjoyment of others!
Patti Carlyle likes this one for the “flipside of strength. We’re expected to be strong and resilient, but not SO strong. When others are overwhelmed by you, and your bigness, your instability, you can still care for yourself. Even if it’s lonely, the “only love I haven’t screwed up” is the one you have for yourself.
Good As Hell—Lizzo
Eboney Thornton picked this song “because you need to be reminded just how great you are.” There are two excellent videos for this song; check out the other one if you like the energy of an HBCU marching band.
Tara Britton names this song “the ultimate Girl Power song of the 90s. The Spice Girls exuded confidence and were their own individual, people, when that wasn’t necessarily the norm in pop music at that time. Definitely passed this one down to my daughter, who had a Spice Girls t-shirt at age 2.”
The Man—Taylor Swift
Sarah Hudacek wonders “how many of us have re-written an email, carefully planned our words, not spoken up, or let someone else take the lead so we wouldn’t be seen as bossy, weak, emotional, needy, high-maintenance, or worse? On a daily basis, I have to stop and think about how I’m coming across to other professionals and if I need to adjust – am I too strong, too timid, too loud, too quiet, smiling too much, not smiling enough. If I were a man, professional life would be a lot easier.”
Shake It Out—Florence and the Machine
Emily Campbell invoked the complexities of this song, where “there’s pain, there’s self-forgiveness, there’s power. Loved it from the first time I heard it. It was performed on the show ‘Glee’ very mournfully in reference to intimate partner violence that gave another layer of meaning.”
9 to 5—Dolly Parton
Emily Muttillo says, “Dolly Parton is a badass. She took control of her career in a male-dominated industry, is unapologetic about looking however she wants to look and supports other women. She continues to perform in her 70s and uses her fame and wealth to improve lives.”
You Don’t Own Me—Lesley Gore
Tara reports that she “first heard this in First Wives Club (not sure why I was allowed to watch this as a small child??) and really just loved the sentiment. You can’t lose yourself in ANY relationships in life. And thinking about Lesley Gore singing this in 1963 is pretty incredible.”
Nothing New—Taylor Swift feat. Phoebe Bridgers
This song feels like a snapshot of the double standards of being a woman, especially a young woman. High-achieving success but endlessly criticized. Dreading the eventual waning of youth, and how much patience or room do we get when we are no longer the engenue. ‘Will you still want me when I’m nothing new?’ is a question every woman will face, as we each approach the age of cultural invisibility.
Girl on Fire—Alicia Keys
Emily Campbell shares that “this song gets BELTED in my house. Especially by my two young daughters when they are feeling especially confident! They love the lyric ‘she’s got her head in the clouds but she’s not backing down.’”
Man! I Feel Like a Woman—Shania Twain
Suzanna Thiese is concise: “Let’s go girls. Need I say more?”
I Will Survive—Gloria Gaynor
Eboney appreciates this “reminder to do great things, even when you are afraid.”
Back In My Body—Maggie Rogers
Patti thinks this song is “about coming home to yourself. I feel like I can get stuck in my head, my intellect and forget that I’m not just a brain floating around. The best part is that you don’t have to sit and meditate, don’t have to create huge space for change. Just be open to it. ‘Lost you in the border town of anywhere, I found myself when I was going everywhere.’”
Eboney sees this song as “perfect way to check someone who is disrespectful.”
This is the “perfect car karaoke song! I love how it’s a reminder that you are that chick, even when you don’t feel it.”
Emily Muttillo says this is “such a fun, empowering song to blast in the car with the windows down, screaming along with Katy.”
All Too Well—Taylor Swift
Patti says “while the 10-minute version is a masterpiece, for casual listening I choose the 5-minute original. When she wrote it as a 22-year-old in 2012, Swift was quiet about her politics and left out her most searing lyrics, two things she has since corrected. Her feminism, whether secret or nascent before, is now one of the most notable elements of her music. I appreciate the decade of growth, obvious in these exact-same, completely-different songs.”
Eboney finds this one “a beautiful song full of emotion to combat self-image issues.”
Raise Your Glass—P!nk
Eboney reminds us that “this was a song for the not-popular girls and it gave you permission to be you loudly.”
Patti first heard this song live. “This was the last live concert my daughter and I saw before the pandemic, in February 2020. At 13, it was her first real show. While we knew every other song, this one was new to us, and she closed with this slow-build jawdropper. It was life-giving, being among 2,500 young women losing their minds, swooning at this tiny 20-year-old queer rock star, destroying the stage. I marvel regularly at the fierceness (and tenderness) and un-appeasing-ness of women musicians in their 20s right now, and Mikeala Strauss is a perfect example.”
In Heaven | The Woman that Loves You—Japanese Breakfast
Alex Dorman loves this couplet of beautiful and devastating songs detailing the experience of lead singer Michelle Zauner losing her mother. Zauner sings her simple yet powerful conclusion in the latter of the two songs, “you should try to do as little harm as you can to the woman that loves you.” Words to live by. Listen to In Heaven; The Woman That Loves You, below.
I Am Woman—Emmy Meli
Sarah loves this song. “Almost my generation’s version of Helen Reddy’s anthem of the same name. I am woman, but don’t presume to know what being a woman means to me or how it impacts my life. There’s no box. Woman = anything I want.”
She Got It—Jai’Len Josey
Just a Girl—No Doubt
Suzanna celebrates this song “written in response to Gwen Stefani’s strict upbringing. It brings a new meaning when it was sung by Misterwives on the night that Roe v Wade was overturned. When this song originally came out in the 90s, women had more bodily autonomy than when it was covered in June 2022.