I was born in 1993, making me perfectly ensconced in the middle of the Millennial generation. That’s why I’m beginning this post talking about myself. The first favorite song I remember having (these things change with the seasons as you know) was “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer. As it always seems to go, culture informed my gender—who I wanted to be and what I wanted my first kiss to be like. And it’s cool that I wasn’t wearing a perfect dress beneath a milky twilight when I had that first kiss, because by then (at 14), I had moved on to angsty lady rockers like Hayley Williams of Paramore. For the most part, the things I listened to were healthy and wholesome to a blossoming feminist. And while each millennial feminist playlist is different, mine developed pretty organically from pop-culture and the badass ladies serenading each step of my life.
1994—”Wannabe” by The Spice Girls
Before anything else, there was the Spice Girls. Though their caricatures of women (Sporty, Baby, Posh, etc.) were probably confusing for a fledgling feminista, their conditional love predicated on girl power was a source of empowerment. Chicks before dicks and friends before f-ing (“if you wanna be my lover…”). The beginning, “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want,” spells sexual autonomy for a new generation of girls.
1996—”You Were Meant For Me” by Jewel
This song sets a precedent for the “saddest, baddest diva in rock” to come. The fateful, depressing—nihilistic even—anecdote about heartbreak insinuates a wish to die (“I feel mostly dead”) but a woman still clinging to love. This is one of the mainstays of romanticizing death, destiny and love.
1997—”Bitch” by Meredith Brooks
The jam! If you were a little lady in the ’90s, or human, you heard and/or rocked out to this song. What better anthem than “I do not feel ashamed,” and “you’ll have to be a stronger man?” Also, talk about reclaiming language.
1999 and beyond—Britney Spears
The inaugural princess of pop and of my childhood, Britney Spears has put out a lot of music. “I’m A Slave 4 U” might be her strongest claim to feminism despite its indentured premise, beginning, “I know I may be young [or a woman not meant to be sexual], but I’ve got feelings, too. And I need to do what I feel like doing.” Mostly though, Spears and her long lasting reign of pop were the first indication for me that music performed by females could just be fun and entertaining sans references to men and heartbreak.
2003 and beyond—“Irreplaceable,” “Single Ladies,” “Diva,” “Run the World,” and “If I Were A Boy,” all by Beyoncé
Whichever way you “lean in” the debate over Bey’s feminism, the woman is empowering, talented and powerful.
2010 and beyond—Nicki Minaj
Nicki embodies the boss, not bossy dichotomy of her new gal-pal Beyoncé. Though her musical success rivals her male labelmates, her gender game is strong on the sidelines. She signs boobs, talked inequality on her documentary, discusses her hyper-sexualized body and has given numerous interviews touting Girl Power.
2011 and beyond—Lana Del Rey
Finally we have arrived at the current hot ticket item among the feminist intelligentsia. Unlike “Jagged Little Pill” or “Circus,” you probably listened to “Ultraviolence” this week, millennial women between the ages of 14 and 30. This demographic, myself included, loves their Lana whether it’s the bad bitch vibes of “Money, Power, Glory” or the contestable “Sad Girl” or “Pretty When I Cry.” Just as Spice Girls is perfect to sing into a hairbrush at five, “You Oughta Know” sets the mood for your first breakup and Beyoncé is the go-to soul soother, Del Rey is probably another facet of our womanhood we’re growing and exploring. We’re just not sure what that means just yet.