Girl bands raise the volume on women’s stories


I’m powering up my Spotify and hearing it, scrolling through my Twitter feed and reading it, and I can’t ever avoid it—song lyrics riddled with sexism so thick it oozes into my headphones and dampens my feminist spirit. I’m exhausted from hearing about how I should look in the club and jaded by frequent and misogynistic allusions to my body parts. It’s obvious the industry spoils the patriarchy, but instead of bemoaning the writing featured in the Billboard Top 100, I want to celebrate music that’s amplifying feminism. I’m talking about girl bands. 

My iTunes library has been laden with ladies—powerful, proud, and loud artists belonging to groups like Little Mix and Fifth Harmony, and those of the nineties like Destiny’s Child and TLC. These all-girl bands are literally giving voice to the feminist movement. They’re writing the female narrative and its political rhetoric into mainstream pop and flooding speakers and charts with empowering messages about a woman’s experience. We need to recognize their positive impact on the business and on listeners.

About a year ago, my roommate introduced me to Little Mix. They formed from a collection of solo singers during the UK’s 2011 edition of The X Factor. Throughout the competition, they preached their support for fellow lady artists and dared to use the “F” word on nationally broadcast television. “Salute,” from their second album, shows their intentions. The song is a harmonized call to action: “Ladies all across the world/ Listen up, we’re looking for recruits/ If you’re with me, let me see your hands/ Stand up and salute.” Little Mix is singing the discourse of empowerment and illustrating how when an album’s authors are all women, their experience becomes the dominant narrative. 

Collaborative work from these teams of women is political because these lyrics are airing marginalized stories. Music crafted out of this liberated space, a place where male voices aren’t speaking over women’s voices, means ladies are in control. Girl bands naturally facilitate conversations about what it means to be a woman, or to identify as a one. They are tuning audience’s ears to something not usually heard—anthems of unity, sisterhood, and female leadership. In girl ensembles, women become the subject rather than the object.

Throughout history, many girl groups have spearheaded activist movements. The underground hardcore punk movement Riot Grrrl brought feminism to stages during their brief yet powerful saturation of the 1990s. They spawned ideas in songs and in politics that continue to breathe and breed today, creating more and more bands critical to the representation of women as musicians. 

In regards to feminism finally having a place in the industry, musician Liz Phair once said in a 1996 interview with New York Magazine that, for girls, watching a woman onstage is like having someone in a movie that you can follow. It’s like having a character you can live through. These people reverse the oppressive dichotomy of performance spaces. At most concerts, patriarchal hegemony manifests on the stage—men compose the majority of the bands literally standing above a crowd on a platform. But when an entirely female crew occupies this space, our notion of authority, power, and success is dramatically altered. The concert-goer sees herself and identifies with the power and beauty of confidence in the female performer’s command of the stage. 

A bunch of women talking about being women is important, and now it’s happening loudly. Girl bands are reclaiming space and the song of empowerment is not only turned up and perfectly harmonized, but it’s resonating with young fans, too. It makes us feel good to hear lyrics celebrating our womanhood—our power, our prowess, and our potential. Let’s praise these ladies and put on our headphones as we strut down our sidewalks to the tune of feminism.

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