Songs For Women

When I think about famous songs about Men’s Liberation, I think of songs like, “I Am Man” by H. Reddy, “Brothers Are Doing It For Themselves” by A. Lennox and A. Franklin and “Just A Boy” by No Doubt.

These songs are powerful statements either declaring an end to unequal treatment based on gender or just saying, “Enough is enough.” They are indicative of our current times. Even though men have equal rights under the law, men today still feel a certain amount of social injustice. Men are subject to pay inequities. They are viewed as employment risks because of parenting obligations. In addition, in some circles they are seen as the “weaker sex.” That is why these songs of empowerment are so important.

Of course, none of the above is true. Change the gender to female and it is.

The songs are also fabrications, or reverse embellishments, if you will. What I noticed about the songs I made up is that they were difficult to fabricate. I could not think of a way to make them sound real. This suggests three things to me:

  1. I know these songs too well and cannot think of them outside of my own context.
  2. Maybe I am bad at creating parody.
  3. The idea of them is too absurd.

All of these maybe true, however, I believe #3 is the biggest reason. To the best to my knowledge (please challenge me on this) there are no songs declaring the state of independence for men. The reason is there is no need.

Men do not write lyrics like these first verses and chorus from Helen Reddy’s song, “I Am Woman.”

“I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
‘Cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again

Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to
I can do anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman

You can bend but never break me
‘Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul”

I can imagine how Reddy’s message could be lost on someone in today’s society, believing it to be dated. Gender inequities have become fewer since 1972. Since then, it is common for women to be CEOs, to hold high political offices, or to be independently wealthy. Alternatively, it is possible to say that when Reddy wrote this she was poor, not a powerful person in the music industry, and just complaining because she needed someone to blame for her troubles. I know for myself, the song seems dated. I recognize it as an important song to that era. I understand its historical significance. However, I was only a seven-year-old boy in 1972 and I have no emotional attachment to it.

I am more impacted emotionally when songs like it are still written today. Women may hold higher positions in society than they did thirty years ago. However, there still exists an inequity in social structures. Women are still viewed as emotionally weaker and I see examples of this in the media on a constant basis. If you watch the television for a minimal amount of time, you will see commercials reflecting women, whose only interest is cooking, cleaning and taking care of children. When I see these images of women being faithful house servants, I think of a number of songs. Usually I think of the song “What It Feels Like For A Girl” by Madonna.

This is one of the richest and powerful women in the world at the turn of the century writing this:

“Girls can wear jeans
And cut their hair short
Wear shirts and boots
‘Cause it’s OK to be a boy
But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading
‘Cause you think that being a girl is degrading”

“Strong inside but you don’t know it
Good little girls they never show it
When you open up your mouth to speak
Could you be a little weak”

“Hurt that’s not supposed to show
And tears that fall when no one knows
When you’re trying hard to be your best
Could you be a little less”

When Madonna wrote this in the year 2000, she was certainly not bereft of money, influence, or power. However, she still did not believe she received the same respect given to men just because she was female. It is a sad state when the difference in gender is justification for lower pay, lower responsibilities, and lower prowess. It is just as sad when those differences in pay, responsibilities, and prowess are nonexistent and the reasons for disparate treatment is because of the belief women are emotionally or socially inferior. What is sadder still is these differences simply do not exist outside of the mind of the discriminator. Fortunately there will come a day when the rest of the world believes this as well.

There is an almost thirty-year gap between Helen Reddy’s song and Madonna’s. It would be great if thirty years from now, woman can sing that it is wonderful to be equal in all walks of life. It would be greater still if it happened before thirty years have passed. I imagine when it does it will be someone like Lady Gaga (who will be age 54) and the song title will be something like, “I Told You So.”

About the Author

Paul Smith

Paul Smith is a human resources manager at a non-profit organization, music & social media enthusiast, bicycle advocate and host of the HR blog, Welcome To The Occupation. Connect with Paul on Twitter as @pasmuz.

6 Comments

suba suba

My brother smiled and told me to see your post, and I want to thank you for putting up a very important information here. Thank you!

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laurie ruettimann

I love how music and art reflect the state of the world. For me, Madonna was/is the embodiment of independence and feminism. Is she full of contradictions? Heck yeah. And so is being a woman.

Lady gaga can do for another generation what Madonna did for me — help me see feminism as a continuum and not just a singular, pre-determined destination defined by others.

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Diane Prince Johnston

Paul:

With events such as Ted Turner insisting yesterday @TedWomen that putting women-only in politics for the next 100 years will end war; The well-cited “End of Men” Atlantic article published in June http://bit.ly/eUdf09 asking if men are the second sex, and Newsweek’s featuring Brad Pitt as “Men’s Lib” poster boy in September http://bit.ly/ihNMNi, I wonder how our pop culture and lyrics will evolve.

Thanks for bringing up an interesting subject. I appreciate your thought-provoking post. It is one that will stay with me throughout the years.

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