Grrrrrl Power: The Reason We Love and Hate Feminist Power Anthems

Hidden in the depths of our iTunes are songs we never like to admit to listening, but we believe it’s time to turn up the volume and confess: We love Girl Power anthems.

We sometimes play them secretly through our headphones or scoff along with the rest of our friends when those overplayed tunes are amplified through the Student Center speakers. But recent breakups and late-night talks have found us rethinking our cynical approach. While we can always lean back on folksy ballads or sensitive singer-songwriters with pianos, the Girl Power anthem is, as we’ve learned, more of an acquired taste.

Girl Power, or “grrrl power”, is a phrase of female empowerment that arose in the early to mid 90s. The Girl Power movement, which stems from the feminist movement of the early 90s, infiltrated pop culture with strong female figures spanning from raucous punk rockers to the British Spice Girls to family-friendly Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

During this time period, an underground punk movement known as “Riot Grrrl” sprung up in Washington D.C. and the Pacific Northwest. These lady rockers were politically active, chapter-starting, meeting-attending feminists who stood up for issues such as abortion and political equality while fighting for the promotion of positive identities for women and members of the LGBT community.

Currently, the Girl Power message is most visible through the lovely ladies of the music industry, with their catchy songs and entrancing music videos. Though as much as we love our Girl Power anthems, the skeptic in us loathes the real message behind these tunes. We think something happened to change the original “Girl Power” warrior cry from its early political roots to its current state because nowadays, Girl Power is directly linked to dealing with romantic troubles. Suffering from a break up? Beyonce has just the thing: blast “Single Ladies,” and do the dance too if you’re feeling it. Jonesing for that cute boy who sits a few rows in front of you in lecture? Taylor Swift feels you on that. And boys, don’t even pretend that you don’t sometimes wish you were the one Tay Tay is singing about in “You Belong With Me.”

But while Girl Power Anthems are aimed at empowerment, the sad truth is that the reasons those songs are empowering us are because we feel dependent on somebody else to make us happy. It’s not that we want to date Jay-Z or a Jonas Brother (and trust us, we really don’t); we just want a fairytale ending, because seriously – can Beyonce and Tay Swift really relate to our broken-hearted woes? Boys may break their hearts, but we’re sure there are plenty of eager young lads lining up for a chance to make those girls happy. Our hearts are broken, and then what? We blast “Single Ladies” in hopes to forget about the emotional distress, but after three minutes and twelve seconds of head-bopping and lip syncing, we’re back to feeling sad. By this logic, we should continue to loathe these songs, right?

But we don’t. What we’ve realized, though, is that sometimes, we need the Girl Power anthems. Sometimes, we need the three minutes and twelve seconds of sunshine and rainbows. Sure, we can turn up the volume on our laptops with sad, acoustic cries that amplify our superficial distress, but there’s something dissatisfying about that. Girl Power anthems exist for the purpose of handing us a plate of momentary happiness. They help us forget for a short time about the people who bring us down. Think of them like a comforting hug in the form of a hypnotic bass and repetitive lyrics – and who doesn’t need a hug every once in awhile?