women empowerment anthems, joan jett, poppy, rina sawayama, laura jane grace, brittany howard
[Photos via: Joan Jett/Jessie Terwilliger of WikiMedia Commons, Poppy/YouTube, Rina Sawayama/Spotify, Laura Jane Grace, Brittany Howard/Spotify]

With Women’s History Month coming to a close today, it’s vital to carry these messages of intersectional feminism and empowerment throughout every day to come. These musicians aren’t only wonderful leaders in the music industry spanning over decades—they’re using their platform to spread messages of self-love and growth as well as sharing stories of hardship and navigating mistakes, which every young woman can feel empowered by.

Read more: 20 bands keeping the riot grrrl spirit alive in their own unique way

This is only a handful of many inspiring women, and we have created a playlist of these songs below. Here’s to lifting other women up, punching the patriarchy, fighting for equal pay, more representation in every industry and more. Happy Women’s History Month!

“CHAMPION” – Bishop Briggs

Bishop Briggs always has pure soul oozing out of every song she sings. However, there’s something special about “CHAMPION.” It feels as if she’s cheering us all on to conquer the day and whatever valley you may feel stuck in. We’re all winners, and Briggs made a tune where she empathizes with our feelings of distress, particularly when she says, “Was feelin’ so weak/But baby I’m strong/Little did I know/I’m a champion.” She’s a “champion” in the music world and beyond, and young women everywhere have a fabulous role model who’s in their corner. 

“Invitation” – Ashnikko (feat. Kodie Shane)

Ashnikko commands her sexuality throughout many of her tracks, from her first release to her brand-new mixtape DEMIDEVIL, and for that alone, we stan. Though, “Invitation” featuring Kodie Shane contains a special lesson: Wear what you want, and every outfit you choose isn’t an “Invitation.” This fabulously dark electro-synth track is all about bodily autonomy and shares points about consent that everyone should know. Short skirts, tight shirts, etc. aren’t for you but for the person who’s wearing them.

“Hit Like A Girl” – Meet Me @ The Altar

This trio are dominating the pop-punk scene and are sure to take over the whole music world in time. For March, Meet Me @ The Altar teamed up with Facebook and their Women X Women campaign to share their special anthem “Hit Like A Girl” for the celebration of Women’s History Month. This song is necessary to stream all day, every day, year-round. “There’s this stereotype that women tear each other down, but it’s the opposite,” guitarist Téa Campbell shared in the Facebook video. “We build each other up. We needed an anthem for female empowerment.” The lyrics are perfect for tattoos, notebook covers and more, stating: “You got it, girl/This is your world/I’ll be right there supporting.”

“Woman” – Kesha

Across Kesha’s discography, she shares stories of letting loose and being true to yourself. One of the most empowering songs she shares is simply titled “Woman.” In it, she promotes independence and not asking anyone for permission to live her life on her own terms. She works hard, plays hard and doesn’t need a man. And this song also serves as a good reminder to others that you should not hit on women who are just having fun with their friends out on the town. 

“you should see me in a crown” – Billie Eilish

Even though the inspo behind Billie Eilish’s “you should see me in a crown” was inspired by BBC’s Sherlock, the lo-fi and buzzy synth song is the perfect music to walk with your shoulders back, head high and stare down all of your fears directly in the face, such as, you know, spiders. If you need a song to purely make you feel like a badass and the pure royalty you are, this is the one. 

“I Like Myself (Most Of The Time)” – K.Flay

K.Flay shares this optimistic song that embraces the negative things that come in life and perfectly describes the nuance that follows, well, existing. Self-love and self-acceptance are some of the keys to being empowered, after all. In the song, she details how we have days where we may not feel our best and experience more than a few missteps. These feelings are totally valid, too. Not every day can be perfect, but liking yourself and being kind to your soul is integral for your health and happiness. “So rather than counting my curses, I try to stay positive,” K.Flay brilliantly sings. 

“Play Fair” – Nova Twins

Do you want another song that will make you feel like a badass with every breath you take? Nova Twins’ entire discography will do that, but for the specific purpose of women empowering women, “Play Fair” from Who Are The Girls? is a must. Frankly, the world hasn’t “played fair” with women and other marginalized groups, so it’s OK to play by your own rules, which is exactly what the metal/hip-hop/hard-rock duo detail in this song. Though the narrative focuses on a breakup, the notion of following your own rules and taking back what’s yours is exactly what many ladies need to hear, whether it refers to a toxic relationship, friendship, job environment, etc. 

“Nightmare” – Halsey

Halsey is an icon through and through. Whether you love her music, poetry, fine art or all of their work, you’ll see messages of the power of being a woman, as well as the trials that come with merely existing as one in the world. You may recount her speech at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., sharing her poem “A Story Like Mine” about sexual abuse, coercion, her own experiences with assault and other tragic problems women face across the globe. While they have many tracks that are empowering, the one that strikes a chord the most is unabashedly “Nightmare.” From daily forms of harassment such as whistling and being told to smile to large systemic issues such as the sexism rampant in multiple industries, including music and entertainment, Halsey pronounces, “I don’t owe you a goddamn thing.” The singer is “tired and angry” and knows other women experience the same throes of sexism, including abuse, harassment and more. Halsey is truly one we could only hope to thank in person for making so many feel heard and seen on an international stage. 

“Not Your Way” – MisterWives

MisterWives’ lead singer Mandy Lee is an absolute powerhouse vocalist and high-energy performer who will honestly help you see the world through a more colorful lens. This band’s glowing, jazzy pop sound will immediately lift your spirits as you absorb valuable lyrical mantras that you should carry with you throughout your day. In “Not Your Way,” Lee shares how no one else can make the rules for how you present yourself and how women aren’t put on Earth to exist for men. Some incredibly poignant lyrics include “This is my own life/Not growing up to be a trophy wife/So don’t parade us ’round, ’round we go.” (However, if you want to be a trophy wife on your own accord and not by force, go for it!)

“Bad Girls” – M.I.A.

If you’re unfamiliar with M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls,” it’s more than likely you’ve heard this perfectly catchy tune with badass vibes in shows such as 90210 and Supernatural as well as movies such as The Heat, Identity Thief and more. Beyond being ideal for movie soundtracks of all genres, it’s a perfect reminder that following the rules, social scripts and traditions is dumb because “bad girls do it well.” 

“Warrior” – Avril Lavigne

The queen of pop punk, Avril Lavigne sings many unapologetic tracks perfect for lifting up women, both young and young at heart. On her most recent album, Head Above Water, she shared the introspective and soulful track “Warrior.” She wrote the song about her long-term health battle with Lyme disease, but listeners can interpret lyrics such as “I will conquer, time after time/I’ll never falter, I will survive/I’m a warrior” can be applied to everyone in some way, shape or form. When sharing the song on Instagram, she wrote, “I hope my songs can help you find strength if you need it.” Surely women around the world fighting their own battles, be it mentally, emotionally, physically, etc., can find it here. 

“Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys)” – Rina Sawayama

If you’re ready to strut your stuff down the street and show the world what you’re made of, let “Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys)” by Rina Sawayama set the mood for you. This bright, nostalgia-inducing song has an undeniably catchy chorus, with the repeating phrase “I’m so confident.” If men can be confident and command a room, why shouldn’t women do the same? Be confident and shine in your own self-love. Sawayama has you covered for a chorus that’s easy and important to remember. 

“Pretty Girl” – Maggie Lindemann

Women are constantly surrounded by stereotypes. They’re often associated with being dainty damsels in distress who only like pink, among other insanely unrealistic and weird associations with gender. In “Pretty Girl,” Maggie Lindemann says, “Fuck your ribbons and your pearls.” Every single person you come across is more than what you see, and yes, preconceived notions for half the planet are incredibly dumb. 

“King” – Lilith Czar

Lilith Czar, the new alter ego of Juliet Simms, is stomping the patriarchy and taking back the crown from the men who have ruled industries for too long. “Who’s to say a woman can’t think with her dick?” she cheekily asks in her song. With this sentiment in play, women will rise in the areas of life they choose. Don’t wait to ask for what you want—just take it.

“Arizona” – UPSAHL

UPSAHL is the woman behind some of your favorite TikTok songs such as “Drugs” and “People I Don’t Like.” One track that’s equally as viral-worthy is “Arizona,” where she shares how she’s still learning how not to give a fuck. Though it’s hard, it’s worth it because she describes knowing she doesn’t want to fit the mold. Just like this artist, women need to keep ignoring societal restraints and push back against sexist forces that want you to uphold certain traditional gender roles. Try your best not to give one ounce of a fuck and tune into this song each time you need a reminder. And remember what UPSAHL says if you ever need a good comeback: “I don’t have a dick, but you can suck my masterplan.”

“Watch Me While I Bloom” – Hayley Williams

Hayley Williams cranks out jam after jam into the rock and alternative world, and she’s surely inspired many women in those genres to make music that’s truly authentic to them. Beyond all of Williams’ contributions, you can be inspired by “Watch Me While I Bloom,” a song about how she fell in love with her body all over again. This song is a great reminder that your life is never stagnant. You always have the power to learn, grow and blossom into a new version of yourself. If you’re ever looking for a good quote to live by every day, let it be this one: “If you feel like you’re never gonna reach the sky till you pull up your roots, leave your dirt behind.”

“Power” – Siiickbrain, Pussy Riot

Siiickbrain and Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova teamed up to create the kickass single “Power” with an accompanying Fight Club-themed music video. In an exclusive AltPress interview, Siiickbrain shared: “Specifically while reflecting on certain experiences that I’ve had and so many others have had with men, I found myself becoming really angry. I wanted to make a song about regaining power from anyone who made us feel inferior.” When women everywhere stream this song, they’ll feel the anger and strength rise up right alongside this pounding experimental alternative track. 

“Boss Bitch” – Doja Cat

Doja Cat is the kickass queen who sang “Say So,” as many of us know from its stint on TikTok and her incredible rock cover. However, her Birds Of Prey soundtrack contribution “Boss Bitch” is exactly the track that’ll make you walk with pride and purpose, as you should every day. For every bad day you have, keep Doja Cat’s lyrics in mind for a little musical mantra, if you will: “I’m a bitch and a boss, I’ma shine like gloss.” Simple words but always a good reminder. Additionally, Doja Cat featured on a recent track with Saweetie entitled “Best Friend,” which is a beautiful celebration of gassing up your best gal pal, perfect for your BFF road trip playlists. 

“Savage” – Megan Thee Stallion

Megan Thee Stallion has dominated the airwaves with her fabulous tracks and took home a few Grammys this year, including Best New Artist. In her track “Savage,” Megan preaches how she’s many things all at once. Women aren’t often viewed with nuance, and Megan shares how women can be “classy, bougie, ratchet” and more. Women are capable of anything and everything and truly are “Savage.” This is an ideal song to wake up to for a good morning meditation. Plus, it’s hard to forget this artist’s memorable SNL performance, where she made a statement about protecting Black men and women as racial injustices persist in America. This song is empowering for a myriad of reasons, and Megan is a fabulous role model for young women. Additionally, Megan and Cardi B released their record-breaking hit “WAP,” and yes, it’s empowering. Owning your sexuality is one of the coolest things you can do, no matter what nosy talk-show hosts may think. 

“Use My Voice” – Evanescence

In their brand-new era, Evanescence’s vocalist Amy Lee rose up with “Use My Voice” to take a political stance, as they used the clip to encourage voter registration ahead of the 2020 election. Additionally, Lee expresses how the only person who can speak for you is, well, you. People will try to silence you, speak over you or tell you about your needs, wants, goals, etc. Don’t listen and use your voice as best as you can. 

“The Man” – Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift cannot be discussed nearly enough as to her effect on women, both by her music and by her advocacy. Her honest, heartfelt writing about living authentically, platonic and romantic relationships and more allow many to connect directly to her messages. It’s hard to pick only one Swift track, but “The Man” from Lover perfectly illustrates the difference between being a man vs. a woman in 2021. You’d think we would be closer to equal pay, equal opportunities and more, but no. We don’t even have enough time to describe how this ranges across different intersections of women as class, sexual orientation, race and more factors create even more inequity. This song is one that women can relate to on a myriad of levels, as they can listen to Swift describe the double standards and feel comfort in knowing they’re not alone. The more we discuss the inequities between men and other genders, hopefully the closer we get to a more equitable society. 

“Good As Hell” – Lizzo

Lizzo truly is an icon, preaching body positivity, self-love, confidence, independence and more throughout her jazzy, soul-filled pop music. One feel-good hit that’ll never fail to boost your confidence and remember how important you are is “Good As Hell.” Lizzo wants you to remember that you are worthy, perfect just the way you are and deserve only the best. When life throws you down, “Go on dust your shoulders off, keep it moving,” she sings. 

“Constance” – Spiritbox

Spiritbox’s Courtney LaPlante traded in her powerhouse metal vocals and equally high-energy instrumentals for a more somber, raw track on the band’s single “Constance” that shows off her melodic singing voice. Dedicated to her late grandmother, as well as video director Dylan Hryciuk’s ill grandmother from whom the song’s namesake derives– the song and music video are a tribute to familial love and loss. The theme is vital to understand, and empowerment doesn’t always mean we’re high-fiving and throwing confetti. In this case, Spiritbox remind us to cherish and honor the women in our lives while they’re here and keep their legacy alive. It’s that simple. LaPlante is incredibly strong for sharing this hard life event with all of us. 

“Rebel Girl” – Bikini Kill

The quintessential riot grrrl anthem “Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill is an absolute must for every female empowerment playlist. The whole movement the band represents empowers women to stand up against rampant sexism, reject patriarchal social scripts, celebrate sexuality and much more. This song, in particular, is inspired by unconditional love and respect between best friends. Additionally, “Rebel Girl” has coincided with feminist movements beyond the decade it was created and recently appeared throughout Amy Poehler’s new Netflix film Moxie, which follows a teenager who fights back against her high school’s institutional sexism with a little inspiration from both the band and the song. 

“Oh Bondage! Up Yours!” – X-Ray Spex

XRay Spex are a true ’70s British punk gem, and lead singer Poly Styrene is as badass as they come. The song starts out with lyrics detailing a timeless patriarchal tale and a great comeback for the sentiment: “Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard/But I think, ‘Oh bondage, up yours!’” Overall, the vocalist uses the track to share how she’s breaking free from metaphorical strangleholds such as religion. She shared in a 2008 Mojo interview how she wanted to use the song to discuss leaving behind the material world. Truly, we all need to break free from something holding us back. Let this classic punk hit inspire you to do just that when you feel weighed down. 

“Just A Girl” – No Doubt

Ska-punk royalty Gwen Stefani led No Doubt flawlessly throughout the ’90s and 2000s. Particularly, the band empowered listeners with their Tragic Kingdom radio hit “Just A Girl.” Stefani shared concerns back in 1995 when the song released about how she’s always stared at, is told she can’t drive late at night, is perceived as weak and other insanely sexist occurrences that still occur in 2021. All women can empathize with this cheeky and poignant No Doubt track, especially when Stefani belts, “Oh, I’ve had it up to here!”

“Tomorrow” – Brittany Howard

Grammy winner and soulful, awe-inspiring vocalist Brittany Howard released Jaime in 2019, which contains many emotive tracks about culture, politics, relationships, loss and more. In fact, the album is titled for her late sister, who passed as a teenager, and serves as a tribute to her. One track many of us can learn from is “Tomorrow.” Howard detailed in a Genius interview how the song discusses multiple important ideas. We always have tomorrow to be better, but don’t put off love, joy and progress if you don’t have to. It’s a nuanced thinker of a track that will help you reach your goals and make you imagine what you want your “tomorrows” to look like.  

“Typical Girls” – The Slits

“Typical Girls” by post-punk act the Slits is a celebration of women who don’t identify with the mainstream notion of gender roles. This band say that “typical girls” are those who “Don’t create/Don’t rebel/Have intuition/Can’t decide,” among other things. Let your creativity flow and exist as an atypical girl in a world trying to put everyone into a box. 

“No One’s Little Girl” – The Raincoats

New-wave outfit the Raincoats said it plainly: They don’t belong to anyone and never will belong to anyone. “Even if you ask me to/I’m gonna turn you down,” they sing. This is truly empowering because women are always taught to be kind and polite, with the implication being that we should also be agreeable and say “yes” often. The Raincoats will remind you to say “no” and be your own damn person if you ever need a boost. 

“Don’t Call Me Babe” – Shampoo

British duo Shampoo brought the girl power to pop-rock in the ’90s and aren’t here to take any of your pet names. If they don’t accept it from people they don’t want to hear it from, no woman does. The band’s driving guitars and urgent vocals will give you the confidence to speak up when the world reduces you to “babe” or any other irritating nickname. 

“Sorry Not Sorry” – Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato bares her soul on every record she releases, and “Sorry Not Sorry” is an affecting piece of music directed at every single person with hate and doubt in their heart for her. Always keep in mind that you should never apologize for being successful and proving yourself. Lovato didn’t and belted, “Feelin’ inspired ’cause the tables have turned/Yeah, I’m on fire and I know that it burns.” Keep doing you and save that “sorry” for an appropriate time. 

“Cherry Bomb” – The Runaways

Essential ’70s rock band the Runaways owned their sexuality in the always iconic “Cherry Bomb.” The band opened themselves up to all the possibilities of being ready to explode into a world as young and free women. “Hello world, I’m your wild girl/I’m your ch-ch-ch-cherry bomb,” singer Cherie Currie rallied. This sentiment planted the seed for women, sharing that, yes, girls love being rebellious and sexual, and screw it if that’s not “ladylike.”

“Hot Topic” – Le Tigre

Kathleen Hanna and her bandmates in Le Tigre wanted to find a way to continue to promote feminism and the open-minded individuals of the decade. They used their lyrics to reference tens of musical artists, political activists and more. From the Slits to Billie Jean King and beyond, this is a great song to help you remember a few awesome individuals who changed the world by a band that did that very same thing. 

“A Living Human Girl” – The Regrettes

The Regrettes couldn’t have made a better track with catchy hooks and insightful lyrics that discuss the truth about being a girl. Women aren’t perfectly airbrushed in real life. In fact, pimples and stretch marks are totally and 100% normal. Beyond that, they share how women have good days, bad moods, happy times, sad nights and everything in between. There’s no right way to be a woman, and they also relay a great reminder: “I’m not being bossy, I’m saying how I feel/And I’m not a bitch for stating what is real.” Others may insist that a clear line of communication about likes and dislikes is “bitchy,” but it’s not. You’re not designed to please everyone.

“Black Me Out” – Against Me!

Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! uses “Black Me Out” as a middle finger to everyone who thought they were owed something by her. We’ve all been there before, right? Truly, Grace just makes other women feel completely understood when sharing, “I don’t want to see the world that way anymore/I don’t want to feel that weak and insecure.” Additionally, the chorus feels like an amazing release when Grace shares that she wants to “piss on the walls” belonging to the people who make her feel small. She sang it—, many of us listeners are just agreeing. 

“#1 Must Have” – Sleater-Kinney

Sleater-Kinney expressed how the mainstream fame of riot grrrl was actually counterproductive to the movement as a whole in their lyrics. However, they used this setback as a rallying cry to keep creating. “Culture is what we make it, yes it is/Now is the time to invent,” they sang. Whenever you’re trying to make a change, it starts with you.

“I Disagree” – Poppy

Poppy is a force to be reckoned with in the music industry because she isn’t going to let its misogynistic, in-the-box thinking control her. She will “let it all burn down” if she doesn’t see autonomy for herself and other marginalized entertainers. Her hardcore instrumentals and delicate, serious voice in “I Disagree” came with a music video where she didn’t let off sleepy music executives easily. Poppy is certainly holding the torch for a better music industry experience for women in the genre and beyond, which is inspirational for young people who are new to navigating that world. 

“Fetch The Bolt Cutters” – Fiona Apple

In Fiona Apple’s Grammy-winning alternative album, her title track has the perfect chorus related to liberation and cutting unnecessary ties. In an NPR interview, Apple shared that the phrase means, “Fetch your tool of liberation. Set yourself free.” This is subject to interpretation, of course, and it serves as an empowering prompt to open yourself up in whatever way you need. 

“Bad Reputation” – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

You didn’t think we would make a feminist anthem list without this one, did you? An OG feminist rock anthem, Joan Jett gives perceptions the middle finger. In fact, the song is so dynamic for setting women up for rising up and fighting back, it corresponds to the title of her recent documentary, which details her role in the music industry and paving the way for other women to rock out and become leaders in entertainment. Truly, Jett was the blueprint for women rising in various alternative genres. All hail the queen of rock ’n’ roll! 

We encourage you to share your favorite women empowerment anthems in the comments below and on our social media because there are so many more powerful songs to explore!