International Women’s Day: My Top 10 female empowerment anthems

There have been countless female empowerment anthems over the years, and pretty much every female artist or group has recorded a song to celebrate womanhood, assert their sexuality, stand up for women around the world, etc. Here is a rundown of my top 10 favourite:

10) “She Works Hard for the Money” by Donna Summer

Inspired by a restroom attendant the Queen of Disco met whom she references in the song, video and in the above performance, this 80s bop is universal across all women in other professions.

9) “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” by Shania Twain

A feel-good song that Shania Twain said was about how much fun it is to be a woman. Of the song, she said: “the whole expression is a celebration of being a woman these days, I think we’re kind of spoiled in a lot of ways, with the advantages we have. Feminists may not feel that way, but I do.”

8) “Superwoman” by Alicia Keys

This Grammy and NAACP Image Award-winning song didn’t quite get the chart recognition it deserved but it was the fourth and final single from the album As I Am, so its moderate commercial success is understandable. A standard female empowerment song but a powerful one complete with a video that depicted a variety of everyday women going about their usual day. Its sweeping soulful R&B instrumental is atypical of classic Alicia.

7) “U.N.I.T.Y” by Queen Latifah

During the boom of female rappers in the 90s, Queen Latifah stood out from the rest with her less revealing sense of style but also her preference for a more diverse musical style. She steered clear of overtly sexual songs and wasn’t seen as troublesome or prone to feuds with fellow females unless provoked. U.N.I.T.Y was a game-changing song that addressed many issues faced by women, particularly those “on the streets” and in hip hop culture.

6) “Woman’s World” by Cher

A pioneer for divas everywhere since she came on the scene in the 60s, Cher returned to the charts with this great female empowerment anthem that everyone loved. The video featured a number of women of all backgrounds to truly convey the song’s message. Ironically though – and this is the reason it misses out on the top 5 – the song was written by a group of men. Come on, guys!

5) “Fall in Line” by Christina Aguilera, featuring Demi Lovato

The first of two Christina songs on this list, Fall in Line and its subsequent video were hailed as feminist anthems for its lyrics and imagery about fighting against oppressors and not bowing down to rules or aggressors. Commenting on the song, Aguilera said she was inspired by the domestic abuse her mother faced and that this song was for all those women who struggled to have their own voice. The unconventional march-like stomper of a song and Xtina’s vocals coupled with Demi’s earned them critical praise but unfortunately failed at giving them much deserved commercial success.

4) “Independent Women, Pt.1” by Destiny’s Child

Beyoncé and her backing singers are well known for their advocacy in a lot of songs for empowering women and this aptly titled hit was a major success and the fact it appeared on the Charlie’s Angels soundtrack further cemented its rightful place as one of the best female anthems. Ariana, Miley and Lana, who attempted to replicate the success with Don’t Call Me Angel from the reboot film, could never. Despite it being called Pt. 1, there was unfortunately no follow-up.

3) “Respect” by Aretha Franklin

This song was originally by Otis Redding and already quite successful in its own right until the Queen of Soul covered it and its success was further catapulted into the musical stratosphere. Very few women – in fact, no other women – can boast their ability to take a man’s song, make it their own and garner more success with it. It was a pivotal song during the 60s when a change was on the horizon for women’s rights in many places.

2) “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” by Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin

Originally offered to Tina Turner (man, I bet she regrets not being able to do it now), Annie Lennox and music partner David A. Stewart turned to Aretha, who now occupies two spaces in the top 3! The lyrics speak for themselves as does the title about why this was such a powerful feminist anthem. Annie has long been a vocal feminist and this song is one of a few she’s done over the years attaining to that. The song has been covered and performed countless times by hordes of female singers wanting to embrace this girl-power banger, but these two legendary queens remain atop their thrones.

1) “Can’t Hold Us Down” by Christina Aguilera, featuring Lil’ Kim

If you know me, this is an unsurprising revelation but this song is definitely well-deserving of the top spot, even among very good competition. A mixture of many of the songs in this countdown, Can’t Hold Us Down was rightfully praised as a feminist anthem while at the same time it challenged those who perhaps believe it was ironic Christina was dressed the way she was for a song about wanting to be heard and not just seen. Well, yes, believe it or not, women can sing about female empowerment and anti-sexual objectification while dressed however they please and not to please others! Aguilera is known for a number of girl power songs, some of which were recorded with other female artists, including What a Girl Wants, Lady Marmalade, Still Dirrty, I Hate Boys, My Girls, the aforementioned Fall in Line, and Loyal, Brave and True.

What are your thoughts on this list? Do you agree with the songs included and their ranking? Feel free to comment below!

4 comments

  1. Netta’s Toy, the Eurovision winner is such a recent iconic empowerment song. It may be known as the chicken song but it has a strong message of standing tall and not being taken for a ride by a ‘stupid boy’! Also love the inclusion of the Christina songs and the gay anthem that is Woman’s World by Cher!

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