Who Runs the World? Girls. In today’s culture with Beyoncé and other empowering women promoting a global movement against patriarchal oppression and inequality, why is it that when I type “are feminists” into Google, one of the first autofill suggestions is “are feminists narcissists?” “Feminism” is too often associated with with man-hating, lesbianism or lack of femininity, causing women to treat the “F-word” like a swear word, when in reality, we should be proudly claiming it as our own.
March is Women’s History Month, and now more than ever it is important to reclaim the F-word and do more to challenge the narrowly-defined expectations of how women should look and act. Here are some music and reading suggestions to help both men and women achieve this goal.
The F-word Playlist:
“Girl on Fire” – Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys wrote “Girl on Fire” to celebrate giving birth to her son and marrying her husband. The song is a celebration of “the achievements of women everywhere.” In the music video, Keys cares for her children, pays the bills and makes dinner, proving that women can do it all. “This girl” could be any girl, allowing the song to transcend genres and generations, making it a great feminist anthem.
“Born This Way” – Lady Gaga
In 2019, Lady Gaga was the first woman in history to win an Oscar, Grammy, Golden Globe and Best Academy of Film and Television Arts award within the same year. She should be celebrated, and so should her self-love anthem “Born This Way,” which reminds women — and everyone — that they were created perfectly and that they should love themselves just as they are.
“Work, Bitch” – Britney Spears
On the surface, this song has depressing lyrics and a weird dance beat. But as Britney professes female autonomy, encouraging other women to work for their accomplishments and earn what they deserve instead of waiting for a man to give it to them, it’s clear that there’s more to it than that. Britney recognizes the hard work of women everywhere and acknowledges that they have the power to get what they want themselves.
“Survivor” – Destiny’s Child
This song recognizes the resilience of women and describes how even though women may feel like they will be weak and helpless without someone by their side, they are actually stronger than ever. Women are strong with and without a man, proving the power of independence. What more could you ask for in a feminist anthem?
“The Man” – Taylor Swift
This entire song is a critique on male privilege and patriarchal society. Criticism of Taylor’s career has ranged from her love life to her political stances, and as she sings, “I’m so sick of running as fast as I can / Wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man,” her commentary seems to transcend her own experiences as the listener can’t help but relate. The music video is also iconic, as Taylor Swift is literally “The Man,” pointing out toxic masculinity and double standards in patriarchal society.
There are so many more amazing feminist anthems that are necessary to listen to this Women’s History Month, but there’s no way I could list them all (nor do I know them all — I’ll be the first to admit that my playlists have been pretty limited to Taylor Swift recently).
Now for the books; I’ll confess, I don’t read as much nonfiction and “intelligent” books as I should (contemporary romance novels are my favorites) but books don’t have to be “intelligent” to convey a powerful message. Here are some essentials that I think everyone should read to reclaim the F-word.
The F-Word Reading List:
We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
If you haven’t read anything by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie yet, you’re missing out — Americanah is one of my favorites. We Should All Be Feminists was adapted from her viral TEDx talk by the same name, where she asserts that feminism is not about women’s supremacy over men, as is often believed, but rather the equality of the sexes in all aspects. This book offers a new definition of feminism for the 21st century that everyone should understand.
Hidden Figures – Margot Lee Shetterly
Shetterly tells the true story of four Black female mathematicians — Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden — who worked at Langley Aeronautical Laboratory in the 1950s and ’60s and contributed to some of the organization’s biggest successes. It covers their fights against both sexism and brutal racism as they play an essential role in the development of space technology. This is a must-read (or must-watch), as it celebrates these amazing women for their accomplishments that were overlooked at the time.
My Own Words – Ruth Bader Ginsburg
A Cornell icon herself, RBG’s commentary on gender equality is essential in reclaiming the F-word. She discusses her admiration of key women who inspired her growth and career as the second female Supreme Court Justice in America, reminding us all that women, in fact, do empower other women.
Becoming – Michelle Obama
This autobiography of the former FLOTUS discusses her personal life, her own impact while serving and the pressures of being part of the first Black family in the White House. The title makes it clear that we are all constantly changing, encouraging people everywhere that we can always become better. Her memoir describes what she gained from marrying Barack Obama, but also what she gave up after he was elected. Again: a must-read.
The Edible Woman – Margaret Atwood
This was honestly the weirdest book I’ve ever read but in the best way possible. It tells the story of a young woman with a job in consumer marketing who struggles with her fiancé and her relationship with food. Atwood skillfully comments on the subordination of women in a male-dominated society and how women tend to find themselves exploited in consumerist society where their bodies are treated like a disposable item. Atwood never fails to remind us that dystopian worlds may be closer than we believe, prompting us to think about what it really means to be a woman in society today.
I definitely did not cover everything with these recommendations, but I absolutely recommend checking out a few things from this list. These influential women (and so many more) promote a feminism that is not “man-hating,” but rather celebrates the strong, powerful woman who pursues her own dreams and aspirations. This is the definition of feminism we should all be proud to represent: after all, it is Women’s History Month, and it’s time to stop treating the F-word like a swear.
Freya Nangle is a Freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]