One of my favorite forms of media and art is music. You can always find me with one headphone in my ear as I’m getting work done. Music has the ability to transcend anyone into the artist’s minds and give the tools for the listener to create their own worlds. Artists also have the ability to share their personal and political beliefs, bringing them to listeners in a personal manner.
My admiration for music and feminism brought me to create artwork that showcases new women artists reimagined as older feminist singers that share similarities. Through these illustrations I hope to share the history of iconic women musicians and show that their impacts have led the next generation to similar heights.
Charli XCX as Cyndi Lauper
Charli XCX (Charlotte Emma Aitchison) is a British experimental pop singer known for her blend of innovative musical styles and feminist themes. You may have heard her song “Boys,” which champions the female gaze. The music video for the single features an array of male celebrities placed in situations that women are often subjected to in videos to please the male gaze.
Aitchison is what I imagine to be today’s version of what 80s young feminists thought of Cyndi Lauper. Lauper is best known for her anthem “Girls,” which I specifically remember dancing to in my car in elementary school as it played on a throwback station. The anthem is about women revolting in a time where Reaganism dominated mainstream America.
Both Charli XCX and Cyndi Lauper prove that pop music can be more than catchy tunes. Through their works, both artists tackle a male dominated industry doing it on their own terms with their own roles.
Rina Sawayama as Sporty Spice (Melanie C)
Rina Sawayama made headlines in 2017 with her debut album RINA, that looks at what our digital world means to our personal lives and mental health. Sawayama uses her platform to bring forth representation and inclusivity. Her inspiring song, “Cherry” shares her personal story of coming out as pansexual. By sharing her background in studying political science, psychology, and sociology, she was able to bring relevant political statements to pop music.
When you think of feminist powerhouses from music history, the Spice Girls are surely to be up on your list. To young girls of the 90s they were a gateway into feminism. Each member had a persona that they took on showing that feminism did not look one way.
If there was a group like the Spice Girls today -one that would however be more intersectional- I’d put Rina Sawayama right in the lineup. Like Sporty Spice (Melanie C), she is authentic and purely herself with her style both musically and aesthetically. Both artists are not afraid to show who they really are and make a statement.
Janelle Monáe as Janet Jackson
Both Janelle Monáe and Janet Jackson are musical powerhouses who use their creativity and talent to take the audience into their own worlds. Monáe’s latest Grammy nominated album Dirty Computer explores womanhood and identity beyond the white feminist agenda and dated gender constructs. Monáe herself says that her album is, “extremely black, queer, and feminist.”
Janet Jackson is also not afraid to make an impactful statement in her music. Her music video for her anthem “Rhythm Nation” calls for all of us to stand up for social injustices like racism and homophobia. Jackson like Monáe also presented feminism in a way that was not filtered through a white or male perspective.
If you ever watch either of the artists performing, you immediately become entranced with their spectacular way of commanding an audience. Both are impactful with their themes and messages they have continuously presented throughout their careers.
Hailee Steinfeld as Stevie Nicks
Hailee Steinfeld has been starring in films since childhood and ventured into music with a strong take on what girl power means to the up and coming generation. Her song “Love Myself” shows us all that self-love is the most important type of love to strive for. One of her most girl-powered themed anthems though is “Most Girls.” The single is inspired from a time when a man told her the saying that too many of us have heard- “that she’s not like most girls.” Steinfeld takes this backhanded compliment and flips it around saying that she wants to be like most girls since “most girls, work hard, go far, we are unstoppable.”
While Stevie Nicks’s discography is a different genre, she reminds me of Steinfeld in many ways. She made her presence known in a time where it was mostly men who were being seen legit rockstars. Through her profound lyrics and original voice, the Fleetwood Mac singer remains one of the great rock legends, who also advocated for women’s rights.
Steinfeld even starred in a film based on the same name as one of Fleetwood Mac’s hits, “Edge of Seventeen.” Both artists bring familiar situations into the limelight and inspire women to share their personal stories and fully be themselves.
All of the artists listed above are special and an important part of feminist music in their own right. While these are just a few feminists that I have chosen to feature, there are many women and non-binary individuals making their voices heard and bringing forth important political and societal topics to audiences. I encourage you all to find an artist you love and look at their work and see the messages they convey through their work. Learn about who inspired them or who is continuing to carry on the impact they have made. Who knows, maybe 20 years from now someone else will be looking back on the singers of today and creating their own illustrations.