The music behind the feminist movements in our country – Rolling Stone

Although women in America still have a long way to go in our fight for true equality, our nation is no stranger to feminist movements. For centuries, American women have united to fight for their rights. And many of these battles took place to some innovative music.

Women’s Suffrage Movement

An American in a polling booth –

You may remember learning about the women’s suffrage movement in history class. It was the decades-long battle for women to win the right to vote that ultimately led to the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

What can no have learned in history class is the role of music in this movement. First and foremost, according to the Library of Congress, “suffragists consistently united, rallied, and asserted their indomitable spirit in song.” So what kinds of songs would these historical figures have collected? Well, according to the Library of Congress, suffragists would write their own lyrics set to the tune of popular songs of their time, “often patriotic like ‘Yankee Doodle,’ ‘America,’ and others.”

But the songs did more than lift their spirits; they even sometimes helped suffragettes spread their message. According to the Library of Congress, a June 1911 article published by The New York Times describes a moment when suffragists held a public rally in Los Angeles and when told by the police that they could not make speeches about “votes for women”, they circumvented the law by singing their speeches.

Women’s Liberation Movement

Woman holding My Body, My Choice sign. Protest against the tightening of the abortion law. Nationwide women’s strike. Wearing a protective face mask against the COVID-19 Coronavirus. High quality photo

CameraCraft –

The women’s liberation movement aimed to give women the same social protection and capital in society as men. Some notable victories of this movement were the passage of Title IX legislation, which, per time“prohibits sex discrimination in any educational program that receives federal financial assistance.” It was also a significant driving force behind securing American women’s reproductive rights—most notably, (recently repealed) in 1973. Roe v. Wade answer, which legalized abortion nationwide.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, music was a unifying force for women as they fought for their rights during this time. “During the second wave of feminism in the United States, women’s music albums and concerts invited thousands and thousands to find confirmation in their identities as women and as lesbians and to experience being a majority overnight: not in a smoke-filled, testosterone-filled bar, but in a music hall with some of the country’s best songwriters on stage.

Black feminism

Multi-ethnic young protesters marching for women’s rights showing a women’s sign. African woman in front holding women empowerment sign.

Lomb –

Unfortunately, mainstream feminist movements in America have focused primarily on securing the rights of white women. And so, black feminism grew in parallel, centering the rights and experiences of black women.
Historically, one of the ways black women have shared their lived experiences has been through music. In the 1920s and 1930s, black female artists and groups dominated the blues scene. Over time, black women have cemented themselves in American music history, singing their hearts out in nearly every genre, from hip-hop to rock and roll to pop. Through song, black feminists were able to share their messages and stories not only with their peers, but with society at large.

Riot Grrrl


Shingi Rice – stock.ado

How could this be a list of details about feminism and music without mentioning the third wave feminist punk movement, riot grrrl? “Riot grrrl is because we girls want to create mediums to speak to us,” wrote a punk magazine in 1991. “Because every time we pick up a pen, or an instrument, or do something, we’re creating the revolution. We are the revolution.”

Born in the Pacific Northwest, the riot grrrl movement ‘blasted feminism into the future’, according to New York Times commemorating the era in 2019. “Focusing on the needs of a new generation through direct action strategies, witty mantras and slogans like ‘girl power’ and ‘support girl love,’ it has become one of the most visible offshoots of what it was called third wave feminism.”
The riot grrrl message was spread largely through music. New York Times goes on to describe how, if not creating it themselves, women across the country absorbed the messages of many female-led punk bands by listening to their iconic brutal cassette tapes or playing with them in person at concerts organized by local riot grrrl chapters.

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