Because misogyny is everywhere in our culture, internalized misogyny is also, unfortunately, everywhere. You know how it goes—maybe you find yourself hating on your body, or judging other women’s sexuality, or doubting your own awesomeness at work. Goddess forbid, you may have even uttered the phrase “I don’t like other girls.” Even the most hardcore of feminists are influenced by the white supremacist patriarchy’s messages about girls and women. And so are the most successful of female pop stars. Why are there *so* many songs about how stupid / deceptive / sneaky / crazy / unimpressive girls are… that are sung by women? Are these songs self-implicating appraisals of our culture’s sexist standards? Or just plain-old sexist themselves? Or simply honest expressions of women’s emotions… which are therefore inherently kinda sorta feminist? In the spirit of unpacking our internalized sexism knapsacks or Louis Vuitton bags, I rounded up eleven well-known female-fronted songs that hate on women—here they are, in no particular order:
1) “Stupid Girl” – Garbage
Not to be confused with “Stupid Girl” by The Rolling Stones, or “Stupid Girl” by Neil Young (hey, fuck you guys!), this song is one of several from the Songs by Women Called “Stupid Girl” canon. It features 90s chick singer icon Shirley Manson berating a “stupid girl” (herself? Someone else entirely?) for basically being a hot mess and a fake who wasted everything she had like the beautiful fool that she is. Is this song a self-aware look at one woman’s internal monologue amidst society’s messages about how “stupid” girls are? Or merely a condemnation of girls for being stupid wherein the speaker attempts to distance herself from a dumb, misguided girl who fucked up her whole life? Also, omg you guys, who hasn’t pretended they’re high and/or bored, just to be adored?!
2) “Stupid Girls” – Pink
This song presents the classic sexist binary of “stupid” girls who carry around tiny dogs and wear tinier t-shirts and go tanning (oh so 00s) and “not-stupid” girls who wear suits and run for president. It’s kind of weirdly an anthem of second wave feminist ethos. This song contains the cutting and very apropos to our current historical moment lines: “What happened to the dream of a girl president?/ She’s dancin’ in the video next to 50 Cent,” and “I’m so glad that I’ll never fit in/ That will never be me/ Outcasts and girls with ambition/ That’s what I wanna see.” This song is confusing, ‘cause Pink herself wears tight clothes and dances and parties—but for some reason (ahem. Internalized misogyny) chooses to reinforce a tired, sexist binary that girls who do these things can’t also be smart and ambitious.
3) “You Belong with Me” – Taylor Swift
Among many other things, Taylor Swift is kind of the queen of songs that portray a wholesome, virginal female speaker who’s victimized by a sexualized female rival. We all know “You Belong with Me”’s unfortunately catchy and perfectly-illustrative-of-internalized-misogyny chorus: “She wears short-shorts/I wear t-shirts/she’s cheer captain/I’m on the bleachers.” The video reinforces this good girl/bad girl binary with Swift’s protagonist (played by herself, with natural blonde hair) as a literal girl next door, watching disapprovingly from the bleachers as her love object’s more-sophisticated girlfriend (also played by Swift, but in a brunette wig, ‘cause she’s evil and stuff) flirts with her dude’s football teammates. The Swift canon promotes the idea that sexual women are tainted and morally corrupt, and that wide-eyed, innocent types are virtuous and more deserving of cute boyfriends.
4) “Silly Ho” – TLC
With lines like “I ain’t never been no Silly Ho/ Waiting for your call/ Like the other girls want you” and “I ain’t never been no silly bitch/ Waiting to get rich/ From a n***a’s bank account/ I have always had my own things”, TLC’s speaker distinguishes herself from those pathetic women who are desperate for male attention and financially dependent on dudes. This one raises two age-old questions: 1) is it sexist to point out the reality that some women simply are less financially/romantically independent than others, and that you’re not so into that? And 2) Can housewifery be feminist?
5) “Professional Widow” – Tori Amos
Perhaps the most disappointing song on the list for me personally, not only because it’s so severe and specific in its misogyny, but because one might think we could expect better from Tori Amos, patron saint of pre-feminist 90s art club girls, and an outspoken feminist activist herself. So many of Tori’s songs investigate feminist themes like female sexuality, rape and assault, and female friendship with plenty of empathy and emotion… but not this one. As deep 90s legend has it, this song was written about Courtney Love after Tori’s former BFF Trent Reznor accused Courtney of ruining he and Tori’s friendship after he and Love dated—Reznor allegedly wrote the Nine Inch Nails song “Starfuckers, Inc.” about her. (For more info, see this piece on 5 songs that are probably about Courtney Love—fascinating.) “Professional Widow” is basically suggesting that Love is, yes, a starfucker, and references Love’s family history and Kurt Cobain’s suicide with way-harsh lines like “Don’t blow those brains yet/ We gotta be big boy” and “Starfucker / just like my daddy.” These blows are low, and I can’t help but sadly imagine Tori trying to impress her dude-friend Trent Reznor by distancing herself from “bad” female celebrities like Courtney, throwing another woman musician under the bus in the process.
6) “Black Friday” – Lil Kim
This product of Lil Kim’s longstanding rivalry with Nicki Minaj basically calls out Nicki for stealing her style, with lines like “Lil Kim clone” and “I’m the blueprint, you ain’t nothing brand new.” (the video beautifully illustrates Kim’s point with a young girl who chooses the Lil Kim barbie over the Nicki Minaj barbie.) So, I know that diss tracks are, like, a staple of hip hop, and that when male rappers make them we don’t talk about gender—so I’m hesitant to include this on the list. But I’m including it because it’s such a perfect example of how competition between women is a symptom of internalized sexism. Lil Kim and Nicki are two awesome female rappers in a majorly male-dominated industry—if it were more welcoming of women, maybe they wouldn’t feel like there’s only room for one of them.
7) “Stupid Hoe” – Nikki Minaj
Nicki’s response song about Lil Kim: see above.
8) “Girlfriend” – Avril Lavigne
This song is basically a hate cheer about how much better the speaker is than her beloved’s girlfriend, who is described as “so stupid,” and “like, so whatever.” Similarly to Taylor Swift, Avril turns the internalized misogyny anthem on its head by playing both the hater and the hated in this video. I think I may need to dedicate a whole other listicle to videos that investigate themes of internalized misogyny with a fairy tale-esque evil twin aesthetic…
9) “The Boy Is Mine” – Monica & Brandy
Keeping with the age-old theme of two girls fighting over the same dude, this seminal 90s R&B classic features Brandy and Monica singing their hearts out over a guy who appears to be not a very good boyfriend to either of them, if he is indeed stringing them both along as the song suggests. You know, sometimes fighting over a love object happens–many of us have been there. But I think this song illustrates the social pressure to place blame on other women, rather than on a man, and to prioritize lame dudes over sacred sisterhood.
10) “Rip Her to Shreds” – Blondie
“You know her,” Debbie Harry sings in this song’s chorus, stoking the flames of our presumed shared hatred for a universal stock female figure. It’s unclear why the object of this song is so hated, but her long list of offenses includes looking “like the Sunday comics,” wearing too much makeup and Robert Hall sweaters, making out with King Kong, and being “Miss Groupie Supreme.” This song is basically a takedown of “basic bitches” circa 1977. The song’s most compelling line by far is the one that suggests some fucked-up thing this woman did to the song’s speaker, making the song more about a disagreement with an actual human than pure groupie-hate: “She had the nerve to tell me she’s not on it.” I want to know more!
11) “Don’t Cha” – Pussy Cat Dolls
So okay, the premise of this song is essentially the inverse of a Taylor Swift song—it feature a dude (played by Busta Rhimes) who’s sorta friends with a woman (played by the Pussy Cat Dolls) who he thinks is really hot, even though he has a girlfriend. In this version of the story, the only thing that’s valued is a woman’s sexuality, and how enticing she is to men. The song’s speaker doesn’t have sexual desire so much as she just connotes “to-be-desiredness.” Which is cool I guess if you’re into being a sexual object, but it’s still weird to sing about how much better you are than someone’s girlfriend. This song pits the two women against each other: one a sexually available hot “freak,” and the other one defined by how very much she is unfortunately “not” these things. Poor girlfriend. Poor hot speaker. Poor all of us.
Which songs are your favorite anthems of internalized misogyny? Which ones did we miss? Let me know in the comments!