- Film & TV
- 10 Sep 21
We are hugely looking forward to the release later this week of the Aretha Franklin biopic, 'Respect'. To celebrate, we’ve selected for your delectation the 10 Ultimate Feminist Classics.
Due in cinemas this Friday, the acclaimed new musical blockbuster Respect tells the story of the iconic American soul singer Aretha Franklin. Set over twenty years, from 1952 to 1972, the film – directed by Liesl Tommy – charts the rise of Franklin's star, from when she was a child singing in her father's church's choir to her status as an international superstar. It touches on her traumatic childhood, her tumultuous first marriage, and her tireless civil rights activism.
Starring Jennifer Hudson as the Queen of Soul, Respect is the remarkable true story of the music icon's journey to finding her voice – and becoming a feminist icon as well as one of the world’s all-time great soul singers.
One especially memorable scene shows Franklin, with her sisters (and back-up singers), Erma and Carolyn Franklin, reworking Otis Redding’s 1965 single ‘Respect’. Franklin’s version brilliantly subverted the gender roles in Redding’s original version and became an anthem of both the feminist and civil rights movements upon it’s release in 1967. Listening again to its powerful inspirational demand for R-E-S-P-E-C-T, you are left in no doubt why…
In honour of the release in Ireland of the remarkable film that is Respect, we set ourselves the task of selecting an additional ten of the greatest feminist anthems ever released. The debates are over, the decisions have been taken – so let the wider arguments begin!
- ‘Rebel Girl’ by Bikini Kill
This Bikini Kill song is among the riot grrrl movement’s most enduring anthems. A love song to female bonds and relationships, it turns the traditions of heterosexual pop-songs on their heads and is an unapologetic tribute to loving another woman.
- ‘You Don't Own Me’ by Lesley Gore
An oldie but a goodie – Gore’s sultry and cautionary number has inspired women since its 1963 release. Serving as an anthem for the second-wave feminist movement and beyond, this marvellously defiant song continues to show the way. If you haven’t watched The First Wives Club – and not sung along with Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, and Diane Keaton in their moment of triumph over their ex-husbands! – are you even a feminist?
- ‘Just a Girl’ by No Doubt
Iconic ska-punk band No Doubt had Gwen Stefani kicking ass from the very start. ‘Just a Girl’ proves that she’s anything but a demure stereotype. Initially written to protest against her parent’s refusal to let her drive at night-time, the parodic takedown of misogynistic stereotypes of fragile and needy women has become an essential sonic centrepiece for all teen-girl bedrooms from the ‘90s to today.
- ‘WAP’ by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion
The cultural significance of “WAP” cannot be overstated. Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion are completely overt and unrepentant in their own flambuoyant sexuality, in what was probably the most important, ground-breaking song of 2020. The fact that the extremely explicit lyrics make no apologies for their salaciousness only adds to the fun. Sexual freedom and empowerment has never been so raunchy.
- ‘Truth Hurts’ by Lizzo
A sleeper hit for the iconic singer/flautist, Lizzo, ‘Truth Hurts’ is a no-holds-barred anthem of female empowerment with its eternally, thrillingly danceable beat and no-bullshit, to-the-point lyricism. One of the best break-up anthems on the list (or indeed ever written), it’s also a magnificent – and zeitgeist tapping – clarion call to self-love and self-care. No better woman to make it sing…
- ‘Pynk’ by Janelle Monae
Janelle Monae is a musical visionary and a feminist through and through. Plus, she has a marvellous sense of the importance of visuals. On occasion, it is a video that properly nails the importance of a song – and this is a case in point. Nothing says ‘this is an anthem celebrating women and love for their bodies’ like the iconic vagina pants in the music video for this single from Monae’s 2018 album Dirty Computer.
- ‘Bad Girls’ by MIA
With its infectious hook and theme revolving around sexual prowess and female empowerment, the glorious ‘Bad Girls’ was produced just as the ‘women to drive’ movement was gathering momentum in Saudi Arabia. The video – here we go again! – features the singer leading a number of niqab-clad drivers in a drag race through the Moroccan desert. It is indeed a sight to behold, adding visual verve to the powerful music.
- ‘I Will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor
This Grammy award–winning disco classic from 1978 is the OG musical distillation of being a strong woman who don't need no man. A staple of break-up playlists for the past four decades, and an LGBTQI+standard, ‘I Will Survive’ is an ode to female resilience and personal strength in the face of heartbreak. “I should have changed that stupid lock/ I should ave made you leave your key/ If I had known for just one second/ You’d be back to bother me,” Gaynor sings and you think: “Say it again, Gloria!”
- ‘Independent Women Part I’ by Destiny’s Child
You could argue that the whole of Destiny’s Child’s third album Survivor is a feminist treatise, and the title track is an anthem in itself – but ‘Independent Women’ is probably their fiercest ode to strong, self-sufficient ladies, singing the praises of fiscal and emotional independence. It is a tribute to those self-sufficient, self-motivated, and self-made women who live that "I-depend-on-me" lifestyle, and we love it.
- ‘Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves’ by Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin
We’ll let the great Ms Franklin have the last word on this one, along with Annie Lennox on their upbeat and wonderfully infectious 1985 hit. Lennox was inspired to write ‘Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves’ by the suffragette movement and wanted to bring another female voice to the anthem. It’s hard to argue with the line “The ‘inferior sex’ got a new exterior,” when it’s the Queen of Soul herself who’s telling you so.
Respect will be released in Irish cinemas on Friday September 10th.