The first time I heard Keri Hilson’s “Pretty Girl Rock” was while watching the Thanksgiving day parade. She was on a float with a bunch of girls dressed as princesses and I remember thinking what an annoying song. I never thought I would hear it played on the radio, but then again, when they play a song where Pitbull rhymes Kodak with Kodak, what else can you expect. But, on the subject of radio, I’ve noticed not only more songs with the word glitter in it (thank you, Ke$ha and P!nk), but a rise in girl power songs.
A decade ago, when The Princess Diaries was one of my favorite movies, I remember bopping to the girly pop songs, like “Ain’t Nuthin But a She Thing,” by Lil J that preached messages of how being a girl is awesome and that “I can be anything that I wanna be.” Before that, popular female power songs consist of “Woman” by Helen Reddy, “I’m a Woman” by Peggy Lee and, of course, the ever-popular “Respect” by Aretha Franklin.
But these songs and their messages are a far cry from the recent girl power songs playing on the radio. Artists used to sing messages of taking pride in one’s womanhood, never allowing oneself to feel intimidated, and not conforming to the gender minority role laid out for women. Songs today are essentially preaching the same message, but songs of past generations got this message through by pointing out how capable women are of competing and succeeding in this world. “I am Woman” starts out listing all the things a woman can complete in the same time a man can complete a task, such as “I can starch & iron 2 dozens shirts ‘fore you can count from 1 to 9.” “Ain’t Nuthin’ But a She Thing” makes a strong case for why women don’t need men in their lives to live from day to day.
On the other hand, Beyonce’s “Girls Who Run the World” starts out with the line “Some of them men think they freak this like we do” and includes the word motherf*cker when singing about how “We run the world.” Keri Hilson’s “Pretty Girl Rock” essentially gives the idea that you have to be pretty to feel empowered. Now, while these are both good messages to send, and Beyonce has certainly done her fair share of emphasizing the ability of women to take pride in themselves, it also gives the idea that one has to be fierce or beautiful or strong to truly “run the world.” Instead of stating woman have the ability to do their own thing, no matter what, many recent songs give the impression that this is only possible after a checklist has been marked—looks, ability to dominate a man, power, etc—and only after this checklist has been completed can a girl truly “run the world.”
Now, I’m not a super feminist or anything like that. In fact, I wouldn’t consider myself a feminist at all, just a woman that wants to be successful in life, whether that be in my relationships or my career. Women and men are, for the most part, given the same opportunities these days, so it astonishes me that not only are there men out there who still demean women in every way possible, but also that it takes pop songs to remind young girls that they can “bring home the bacon and fry it in the pan.”
But, that being said, I have had friends in relationships where their talent, intelligence, or looks (anything that made me them stand out more than the guy) was demeaned in any way possible, so I know it sometimes comes down to an issue of power among gender roles. However, I’d like for young girls and women to not need the “pretty girl rock” or a hard-core pop song by Beyonce to remind us that we can, really, run the world.