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International Women’s Day: Female empowerment songs throughout the decades

From Aretha to Ariana, we've delved into some of our favourite girl power anthems.

Skiddle Staff

Last updated: 8th Mar 2019

Image: Destiny's Child

The way in which female empowerment is represented through the medium of popular music has changed a lot over the years, but at its core, what hasn’t changed in the fundamental message of girl power. 

Of course, what we are talking about is girls supporting girls. This means celebrating other women and their achievements by building each other up and sticking together, rather than tearing other girls down in the face of online bullying and social media trolling. 

In this homage on International Women's Day, we give you our pick of the what we think are the best female empowerment tunes throughout the decades from some of the music and entertainment industry’s most inspirational women:


60s: Aretha Frankin, Respect (1967)

A little piece of contemporary women’s history, R-E-S-P-E-C-T, is second-wave feminism at its finest. This particular song was originally aimed at African-American women and their role within society.

An oldie but a goodie, it is the ultimate feminist anthem, perhaps of all time and its message is still incredibly powerful and relevant today. There’s something deeply emotive about this song, that draws us in and rouses our attention. Every time we’ve been wronged, each time we’ve been deep seated with angst, each time we’ve lied too and disrespected. It’s a feeling we can all relate too, and what it comes down to is this – ‘all I’m asking for is a little respect.’


70s: Gloria Gaynor, I Will Survive (1978)


Stay strong, your gal Gloria Gaynor has got you.

Guilty pleasure, gay anthem or a call to action for women everywhere…if this song teaches us anything, it’s don’t underestimate the strength of women in the face of injustice, especially in unity. We’re stronger than we think, you got this.


80s: Pat Benatar, Love is a Battlefield (1983)


Carrying on the theme of survival, Pat Benatar’s eighties classic is one of our favourite original girl power anthems.

Who can forget that iconic scene in noughties chick flick 13 going on 30, where Jenna Rink and her gal pals, don feather boas, bras and pajamas during a slumber party and come to the understanding that they’ll never understand boys, period. Some things never change and stay relevant no matter what.


90s: Spice Girls, Wannabe (1996)


How could we talk about girl power without mentioning the ultimate girl gang goals, Posh, Baby, Sporty, Scary and Ginger?

They taught men everywhere the basics of girl code, sisters before misters, always. In other words, all you need to know is ’If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends.’


00s: Destiny’s Child, Independent Woman (2000)


The millennium served up even more girl power in the form of Destiny’s Child and massive tune Independent Woman taken from the 2000 film adaption of Charlie’s Angels.

Feminist anthem of the early noughties, this is everything that women have been fighting for – equality, agency and independence and we think the girls sum it up quite well. 


10s: Ariana Grande, Thank U Next (2018)

It’s hard to know what to call the current decade, some suggest the ten’s or the teenies, but that just doesn’t sit right with us. Either way, it has marked a time of uncertainty, socio-economic struggles and political upheaval. If you ask us, we need some girl power and honest, unashamed pop more than ever. 

Enter Ariana Grande, the new princess of pop, just a lot less bubblegum than some of her predecessors. The pure sass that is the music video for Thank U Next has already racked up over 300 million views on YouTube and even more streams – and it’s not hard to see why. It’s genius! An amalgamation of cult scenes from classic chick flicks over the past two decades, including Clueless, Legally Blonde, Mean Girls (obviously), Bring It On and13 Going on 30 – it is everything we’d want in a music video and more. 

Summing up what it means to be a young woman with agency in 2019: Leaving you on read receipts? Thank U Next. Doesn’t text you back? Thank U Next. In the words of Destiny’s Child, you don’t deserve this jelly.