In a time where the president brags about sexual assault and a TV series interpretation of the dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale is frighteningly relevant, overt feminism in pop culture is not just important, but necessary. Musicians approach the topic in a variety of ways, though, sometimes separating their politics from their art and sometimes combining them.
Often laden with lyrical objectification, dance music has never been the prime place for music and politics; folk music and singer/songwriter styles often lend themselves much more easily to such social commentary. But as politics have become more divisive and women’s rights more regularly attacked through attempted healthcare “reform,” many musicians have taken to expressing feminist issues—ranging from body shaming to unequal pay (and respect) in the workforce and more—through music that still makes you want to bust a move. Here are six bass-heavy, grind-worthy feminist anthems simultaneously fit for danceable and political raging.
After years of legal battles against Dr. Luke, Kesha is—as the rallying cry went—free. But now that Sony has allowed her to work without her alleged assaulter’s influence, the pop singer/songwriter unleashed the tragi-ballad “Praying” along with the announcement of her new record, Rainbow, due August 11. However, just a few days later, Kesha offered “Woman” as the emotional flipside to “Praying.” Featuring the legendary Dap-Kings as her backing band, “Woman” is a funk-fueled song of defiance. Disguised as a ladies party anthem, Kesha announces her real intent when the chorus hits and she sings, “I’m a motherfucking woman,” It’s the sound of bold feminism rejecting white male privilege.
This Brooklyn-based singer and rapper arguably initiated the season of DGAF, 2017. Her anthem about chub rub, mom jeans, and body acceptance and positivity made waves in all crannies of the internet, which was both surprising and delightful. Although the hilarious video was apparently shot about a year ago, Miss Eaves’s new album Feminasty includes “Thunder Thighs” and drops August 4.
Self-proclaimed “noise witch” Kim Boekbinder recently released her first new song since her 2013 album The Sky Is Calling. “H.B.I.C.” (which, of course, stands for “Head Bitch In Charge”) is a ferocious slice of electro-pop that aims to reclaim the word, “bitch.” But while the song begins almost as spoken word, the whips crack and synths build until the song reaches peak club banger. Boekbinder counts out the insults women receive on the reg: “1. You think I’m bossy / 2. You think I look mean / 3. And you don’t like me,” before pausing briefly to deliver the knockout, “4. I don’t care.” “Head Bitch In Charge” will appear on Boekbinder’s forthcoming LP NOISEWITCH, due out September 8.
First of all, THEESatisfaction’s Catherine Harris-White fearlessly using SassyBlack as her solo stage name is some identity pride-filled badassery. In particular, “What We Gonna Do” (off last month’s New Black Swing) brings the slow jams to this list. But in the mid-section rap, she speak-sings, “My body is a temple and access ain’t that simple / You must be a member to feel total surrender.” In so doing, Harris-White captures a sense of confidence from being vulnerable.
This is a rap about wrapping hijab. And it is incredible. Buoyed by a fiddle line playing in a pentatonic mode, rapper, poet and activist Mona Haydar namedrops all the geographic places and cultural sects where women wear hijab. She raps about how much swag she has in her hijab and rallies, “Make a feminist planet / Women haters get banished / Covered up or not don’t ever take us for granted.” Plus, as the intersectional dancers in the video for “Hijabi” illustrate, any human on Earth with a sense of rhythm—no matter of race, creed, sexuality or other divisive construct—can get down to this song.
In a perfectly concluding track for this list, sisters Venus and Lizzy Lightyear of chant-pop duo Big Hair Girls sum up what we all know. “Future is Female” layers as many influences in as the sisters’ own genealogy (which, for the record, includes Russian, Romanian, Surinamese and Caribbean). Chunky ska-like guitar riffs mingle with funky bass lines as the sisters rap unabashedly about girl power. Plus, the video shows feminist icons like Frida Kahlo, Michelle Obama and Rosie the Riveter alongside everyday women protesting during the Women’s March all singing along, fighting for rights (and to party).