Women have always had a prominent role in pop music. However, what has changed greatly over the past ten to twenty years is the way the average listener views these artists, and the way that their art began to reflect the real struggles of being a woman in the music industry during their respective time periods. Female artists have not always been so vocal about their fight for equality in American society. The modern view on female abilities and rights completely shifted during the turn of the 20th century due to music stars influencing the battle against inherent social misogyny in America.
Over the past twenty years, women in the music industry have vocalized their struggle, making the challenges they face, and sequentially overcome visible to all audiences. From dealing with misogynistic label executives to identity crisis’ regarding the male gaze and their own sexuality, Gwen Stefani and Ke$ha have seen and conquered some of the worst that recent systemic sexism has to offer in the music industry. These experiences are directly reflected in their music. In Gwen Stefani’s 1995 hit “Just A Girl,” she utilizes multiple visual and vocal styles to provide a social critique on gender equality in the United States; Specifically, the “rules” that women are directly and indirectly forced to follow, and the physical and sonic spaces they are restricted to. Similarly, with her 2017 song “Woman,” Ke$ha builds on the ideas set in place by Stefani and uses some of the exact same styles and techniques to visually and lyrically illustrate the progress women have made in regards to living independently of male influence and overcoming misogynistic adversity.
Through thought-provoking videos, biting lyrics, and inventive use of timbre, Gwen Stefani and Ke$ha utilized their personal experiences to expose the rampant misogyny in American society and the music industry– more specifically the physical and sonic spaces that women are, and are not allowed to occupy. Through the bravery and acknowledgment of Stefani and Ke$ha’s own adversity, their music has reflected the struggle of millions of young women nationwide, helping these girls become stronger and more independent as a result.
(No Doubt – “Just A Girl”)
No Doubt. “No Doubt – Just A Girl.” Youtube, uploaded by NoDoubtTV, Oct 7, 2009, youtube.com/watch?v=PHzOOQfhPFg&feature=emb_title
(Kesha – “Woman”)
Kesha. “Kesha – Woman (Official Video) ft. The Dap-Kings Horns.” Youtube, uploaded by kesha, Jul 13, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXyA4MXKIKo&feature=emb_title