The Vagenda

Your Ultimate Feminist Mixtape

I’ve got a playlist on my iTunes called ‘feminist’ and it inspired me to write a post about the best feminist songs out there. Some are catchy pop tunes, a few are impassioned rants, and there are a few heartbreaking ones too. All of them will inspire you and make you want to smash that fucking patriarchy more than ever. 
Christina Aguilera feat. Lil Kim – Can’t Hold Us Down
One of the best feminist anthems comes Xtina, who had been ridiculed for her skimpy clothes and appearance so much she fought back.
‘So what am I not supposed to have an opinion? Should I be quiet just because I’m a woman? Call me a bitch ’cause I speak what’s on my mind, guess it’s easier for you to swallow if I sat and smiled.’ You tell ‘em, girl!
‘Lil Kim joins in with a rant about slut shaming in her guest rap: ‘If you look back in history it’s a common double standard of society: the guy gets all the glory the more he can score, while the girl can do the same and yet you call her a whore.’ Yes, THIS.
It’s an anthem, a call to arms: ‘This is for my girls all around the world who’ve come across a man who don’t respect your worth. Thinking all women should be seen, not heard. What do we do girls? Shout out loud!’
It gets me riled up and makes me want to start a revolution.
Tori Amos – Me and a Gun
This acapella song was written about Tori’s rape which happened when she gave a fan a lift home when she was performing in her old band. She was inspired to write it after she watched the rape scene in “Thelma and Louise” (she was in fact raped at knife-point, not gun-point as in the song and movie).
She addresses victim-blaming, asking ‘yes I wore a slinky red thing, does that mean I should spread for you, your friends, your father, Mr Ed?’ It’s an incredibly hard song to listen to, but all the more powerful for that. It floored me the first time I heard it. Tori used to perform it live at every show, but rarely does anymore. I was lucky enough to watch her perform it in London a few years back and it was incredibly intense, moving me to tears.
Tori went on to co-found RAINN (the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) which had a campaign called “Unlock the Silence” inspired by her music – because her music had helped break the silence surrounding abuse.
Pink – Stupid Girls
Pink has a go at all the Paris Hilton-ites who just want to be famous for the sake of it, arguing that we need better role models for the girls of today. ‘What happened to the dream of a girl President? She’s dancing in the video next to 50 Cent.’ Indeed, indeed.
Madonna – Human Nature
Madonna received a massive backlash after her “Sex” book, and this was her response – basically, ‘I don’t give a fuck.’ Not that she ever does. 
‘Oops, I didn’t know I couldn’t talk about sex!’ Madge drawls sarcastically. ‘Oops I didn’t know I couldn’t speak my mind!’ She will not be silenced or shamed.
‘Would you like be better if I was a man?’ she asks at one point. Sadly, the answer for many was probably yes. 
Ani DiFranco – Not A Pretty Girl
Even though Ani’s a gorgeous lady, the feminist icon’s song is more about not aspiring to be beautiful, and wanting more from life than that. ‘And I am sorry, I am not a maiden fair, and I am not a kitten stuck up a tree somewhere’, she sings.
Not only is Ani ‘not a pretty girl’, she also tells us, ‘I don’t really want to be a pretty girl; no, I want to be more than a pretty girl.’ Amen to that, sister.
Destiny’s Child – Independent Woman (Part One)
A celebration of female empowerment from Beyonce as she tells us she will never rely on a man for financial support. ‘I buy my own diamonds and I buy my own rings’, Ms. Knowles tells us. ‘The shoes on my feet? I’ve bought it.’ ”Cause I depend on me.’ Sing it, Bey!
Hole – Asking For It
Courtney Love addresses victim blaming in this song, as she taunts the perpetrator: ‘Was she asking for it? Was she asking nice? If she was asking for it, did she ask you twice?’
Garbage – Sex is Not the Enemy
Shirley Manson has a go at the people who slut shame and act like women shouldn’t enjoy sex in this song. ‘I don’t feel guilty no matter what they’re telling me, I won’t feel dirty and buy into their misery. I won’t be shamed’, she sings.
‘A revolution is the solution.’ Hells yeah!
Beastie Boys – Sure Shot
Although there aren’t that many feminist songs by male artists, I wanted to include one because there are some great ones out there. Although the Beastie Boys had a few sexist songs in the past they realised the error of their ways, rapping:
‘I want to say a little something that’s long overdue, the disrespect to women has got to be through. To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends, I want to offer my love and respect to the end.’
Let’s have some more of the above from men, and less of Robin Thicke.
Sleater Kinney – #1 Must Have

This song from my favourite Riot Grrrl band begins w
ith a tale of a feminist grown tired and apathetic:

“And I think that I sometimes might have wished for something more than to be a size six / But now my inspiration rests in-between my beauty magazines and my
credit card bills

In this, “the number one must have is that we are safe.”
It’s a call to arms with the final lines:

“No more! And for the ladies out there, I wish we could write more than the next marketing bid. Culture is what we make it, yes it is / Now is the time to invent.”

Only we can make a change – so we must, they urge.

Le Tigre – Hot Topic


Kathleen Hanna, formerly of Riot Grrrl wonders Bikini Kill, didn’t stop the feminist anthems with her new band. In this awesomely catchy song she sings about strong, inspiring women including Gertrude Stein, Aretha Franklin, Joan Jett., Yoko Ono and Billie Jean King amongst many others. It’s an inspiring song that packs a punch.

Now it’s over to you guys (and if anyone wanted to make us a spotify playlist, then that would be awesome – Ed). What would be on your list? 

43 thoughts on “Your Ultimate Feminist Mixtape

  1. Looking through my playlists it seems I have more lesbian songs than feminist, but I’ve loved India Arie’s “Video” since the first moment I heard it. A sample:

    “Am I less of a lady if I don’t where panty hose?
    My momma said a lady ain’t what she wears but what she knows…
    But I’ve drawn the conclusion, it’s all an illusion
    Confusion’s the name of the game
    A misconception, a vast deception,
    Something got to change”

  2. Awesome list. I think there should be some Jack off Jill and My Ruin in there- perhaps Girlscout by Jack off Jill and Get Pretty and Made to Measure by My Ruin from the album the Horror of Beauty.

    “Pretty girls they make friends
    Fake smiles that don’t offend
    it’s not hard to play pretend
    then again – then again
    Ugly girls make enemies
    just go ask the NME
    This is what they’ve said to me”

  3. A few years ago, I had a horrid boss, so everyday on the way to work I would stick Xtina’s ‘Fighter’ on. I am a little ashamed of this. But not much.

    ‘Made my skin a little bit thicker
    Made me work a little bit harder
    Made me that much stronger
    Thanks for making me a fighter!’

    So THERE, The Patriarchy!

  4. ‘Seneca Falls’ by The Distillers –

    I’ve always found it very inspiring. The beginning of the second chorus in particular, that is when Brody sings: “I don’t steal the air I breathe / freedom rise up for me”. Two big names in the US women’s suffrage movement are mentioned, so I’m not sure whether this song is a homage to feminists past or that the mention of these first-wave feminists is meant to mean something else. Either way, I think it makes a powerful anthem.

    ‘Mirror’ by The Beautiful South

    Can’t find a link but maybe it’s on spotify. I would argue that these are one of the most feminist bands going that are made up of (mostly) men. There’s also ’36D’, though I’ve read mixed reviews.

    Other than those my list would consist of songs already mentioned, such as the Hole song mentioned above and ‘Little Baby Nothing’ by the Manic Street Preachers (which was included in a different playlist, a while back). I would also want to include some songs off No Doubt’s first album, probably ‘Just a Girl’ and ‘Sixteen’. I also used to always see something in ‘That’s not my Name’ by the Ting Tings, with the whole “are you calling me darling? / are you calling me bird?” bridge.

  5. I hadn’t heard The Distillers song before but I love it!

    “Elizabeth Cady
    Forever reminding me
    I don’t steal the air I breathe”

    What an awesome line!

  6. Added ‘The Princess Who Saved Herself’ by Jonathan Coulter – cool fairytale-ish song about a girl who fights and later befriends a dragon, before forming a rock band with a wicked witch.

  7. Thanks for reminding me I had a Spotify account! I have a playlist called “Tings and Dat” which includes a lot of Lou Reed…?? But as to your question, Fairport Convention’s “Who Knows Where the Time Goes”a nd Joni Mitchell’s “Little Green”

  8. janelle monae:

    i will dance when I walk away
    Demon kitty rag

    amanda palmer- Daily Mail Song is especially funny and Leeds United- a video that made her leave her record label because they said she wasn’t skinny enough to show her tummy in a music video, there was an uproar with fans and so people of all sizes sent in photos of their lovely bellies =D


    Fiona Apple- Extrordiany machine

  9. Ooh good choices, I wish Daily Mail Song was on Spotify! I’ve added Ampersand because I loooove the lyrics, especially this part:

    “The ghetto boys are catcalling me
    As I pull my keys from my pocket
    I wonder if this method of courtship
    Has ever been effective
    Has any girl in history said
    ‘Sure, you seem so nice, let’s get it on’?
    Still, I always shock them when I answer
    ‘Hi my name’s Amanda’”

  10. Nellie McKay – Mother of Pearl. She is simple amazing! Check out her videos on Youtube, she’s incredibly witty and proud to be a feminist.

  11. I absolutely love this post and the playlist, thank you!

    Kacey Musgraves’ “Follow Your Arrow” is an excellent ‘fuck you society, I’ll live my life the way I want’ song :)

  12. 2Pac “Keep Ya Head Up” has to be on there!

    ‘And since we all came from a woman
    Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
    I wonder why we take from our women
    Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
    I think it’s time to kill for our women
    Time to heal our women, be real to our women
    And if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies
    That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
    And since a man can’t make one
    He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
    So will the real men get up
    I know you’re fed up ladies, but keep your head up’

  13. Oh wow, I’ve had my own play list for a few years called ‘Now That’s What I Call Feminism’ (heads up to my mate Claire for the title!) and most of it has been named here!

    Some choice tracks tracks no-one’s mentioned yet:
    Put Him Out – Ms. Dynamite
    Sister Suffragette – Glynis Johns (from Mary Poppins!)
    I am Woman, Hear Me Roar – Helen Reddy
    RESPECT – Aretha Franklin

    And my favourite:
    Sisters are doin’ it for themselves – Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin

  14. War on Women – ‘I Like Science’ or ‘Effemimania’, or pretty much anything of their ‘Improvised Weapons’ EP.

    And if perhaps there was going to be a B-side of songs from allies:

    Propagandhi – ‘Ladies Night in Looserville’ (from Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes LP)
    “Fuck Larry Flynt and any campaign to silence women standing up and fighting back. And I fuck to cum, so don’t lay your ‘repressed’ shit on me.”

    ONSIND – ‘That Takes Ovaries’ (from Dissatisfactions LP)

    Latterman – ‘The Biggest Sausage Party Ever’ (from Turn Up The Punk, We’ll Be Singing LP)

  15. Yes, that’s the line! Followed by a very powerful shift into the chorus – “freedom rise up for me”

    Glad I could make a contribution. And thanks for the article. Very fun.

  16. I absolutely love the Christina – Can’t hold us down song – such an empowering song as is fighter. Also, Nelly Furtado – Promiscuous & Michelle K – I just wanna (fuck). Listen to the lyrics, completely links to the article on the 20th (I think) August about women and sex.

  17. Queen Latifiah – U.N.I.T.Y

    Because this literally happens to me all the time…

    “That’s why I’m talking, one day I was walking down the block
    I had my cutoff shorts on right ’cause it was crazy hot
    I walked past these dudes when they passed me
    One of ‘em felt my booty, he was nasty
    I turned around red, somebody was catching the wrath “

  18. Ms Dynamite – It takes more Great song and video, and I love hip-hop, but it rarely has a strong feminist message I can enjoy too, so it’s even more of a pleasure (although strictly speaking, I’d say Ms D is a grime artist)

    I would go so far as to call it a feminist anthem! She’s even a ‘ms’!

  19. Love a bit of sister suffragette! My sister and I used to march round the house singing “cast off the shackles of yesterday, shoulder to shoulder in to the fray”

    We’re both still defo feminists :D (and we still love Mary Poppins)

  20. I already had a ‘strong women songs’ playlist called ‘Bossy’ because it was the Kelis song Bossy that started it. Every playlist should start with Kelis.

  21. Digable Planets–La Femme Fetal–not an easy listen either, but a heart-wrenching testament to the realities of reproductive decision-making

    Dixie Chicks–Goodbye Earl–also not the easiest thing to listen to, but it certainly celebrates female empowerment through revenge