Hymns for Her – A Playlist for International Women’s Day 2013

Google's 'doodle' for International Women's Day 2013

Google’s ‘doodle’ for International Women’s Day 2013

In case you missed it, today is March 8th.

It doesn’t sound like much when you put it like that, does it? But for most of my life, that is what this date has always been. Just plain old March 8th.

Today is so much more than a month and a number, though. Today is International Women’s Day, a UN-supported celebration of all the fantastic work females do all around the world, and a day for the recognition of all the challenges they face, be it the struggle for equal pay, the right to a career and education, the high percentage of women who will be raped in their lifetimes, or the destruction of severe penalties for those deemed ‘immodest’. It is a day to say thanks to your mum for bringing you into the world, to thank your female teachers for giving you knowledge, to thank women of every age, colour and creed for doing the best they can to get by in the world.

Here at Cheaper Than Rubies, a website that is run entirely by young women, we simply couldn’t let the day go past without some sort of celebration of our own, and every good party needs a playlist, right?

That’s why this week, we’ve got ten fantastic songs by women for women (and anyone else who wants to join in). Some of them address issues that are faced by women around the world every day, some of them are just magnificent anthems to get you through to the weekend. Either way, you’re in for a damn good time!

1. Hymn To Her – The Pretenders

A soft start this week, with this gentle ode to feminine nurturing, be it as a lover, as a daughter, as a mother or as a friend. The admiration for the female is delicate and all-encompassing, making this arguably one of the best tracks for such an occasion as today.

2. Proud – Heather Small

If you are a fan of the sitcom Miranda, you will be so incredibly familiar with the chorus of this song that I bet you were doing your best Stevie impression before you even pressed play.

If you’re not a fan of that particular brand of British comedy (who are you? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!) then you may be familiar with this song from its use in the countdown to the London 2012 Olympics.

If neither of those examples ring a bell, you might just know it as a brilliant, motivating track that’s been doing the rounds for over a decade. Released shortly after her split from dance group M People, Small has managed to create a fantastic, uplifting anthem for anyone looking to make their mark on the world.

3. Man Overboard – Do Re Mi

If you’re looking for an Australian, gutsy, feminist singer-songwriter, you’re sure to find Deborah Conway‘s name on that list. With a voice that rattles your ribcage with its sheer power and a talent for lyrics that don’t beat around the bush, she’s not only one of my favourite artists, she’s also managed to create a concert series based entirely around the music of some Australia’s greatest female singer-songwriters. Basically, she’s just amazing.

This track was the first to bring her to the attention of the Australian public, as the frontwoman for Do Re Mi. While some would argue that most of this song’s controversy lay in its lyrical content (it was the first Australian Top Ten hit to mention pubic hair and penis envy), Conway argues that its the lack of a chorus that made the song’s success so surprising. Either way, it’s a magnificent, cutting reflection on a relationship gone wrong, told from the perspective of a woman who simply isn’t going to take this shit any longer.

4. What R Youse Girls Doin? – Sista She

Unfortunately you won’t find this one on Spotify, but there was no way I was missing this out of the list, for two reasons: a) I was obsessed with this song in Year 9, when it came out, and b) who hasn’t had a dodgy bloke harassing you when you just want to be left alone?

Pop this one on, let it infiltrate your brain, and then the next time you get cat-called or annoyed by someone trying to get into your pants, you’ll have a delightful little revenge fantasy to fall back on.

5. Back It Up – Caro Emerald

So, after a long week, you’re heading out to kick up your heels for a night out on the town. That is where this song comes in, full of vintage charm and a little message to those who may want to cut in front of you while you’re lining up to get into that club everyone’s been raving about.

Hailing from the Netherlands, Caro Emerald is a bit of a star in her homeland, but still relatively unknown here in the Antipodes. However, if you like a modern pop twist in your jazz tunes, her second album is due out in the next few months.

6. Crucify – Tori Amos

Playing on the themes of religion and the part it plays in the life of the individual, this track from Amos’ debut album, Little Earthquakes, could easily be used to draw parallels with the self-loathing women often submit to. With so many ideals to aspire to, be it as a businesswoman, mother, sexual creature, virginal soul or all of the above, it’s not hard to see why so many women struggle with the concept and expectation of ‘having it all’. In this track, it could be argued that Amos is asking why we feel this need to put ourselves into these categories instead of pursuing our own personal freedom of choice.

7. Lost Woman Song – Ani DiFranco

Ani DiFranco has never been one to shy away from a contentious issue, and this song about the process of abortion is no exception. She reflects on all of the elements of the experience: the sheer cost of the procedure, the intimidation of protesters outside the clinic, the massive impact it has on relationships, and the fact that often abortion options end up being restricted by vocal opposition. But all the way through the piece, DiFranco reminds us that women have a right to freedom of choice when it comes to their bodies, one of the great prizes of the fight of feminism.

8. What You Waiting For? – Gwen Stefani

Be warned, this is a long video, but it is definitely worth it, because it gives a little more context to the track, the first single from Stefani’s Love. Angel. Music. Baby. Then again, if you’re short on time, here’s where it all kicks off.

Apparently inspired by the No Doubt frontwoman’s insecurities over the potential of her solo work, “What You Waiting For?” sums up a whole of creative anxieties while also being a magnificently inspiring tune.

“Who really cares/Cause it’s your life/You never know/It could be great” declares the “super hot female”, reminding the lady listener that she too could be kickass, but it’ll never happen if you don’t do that thing you want to do.

9. When I Get It Right – Joan Armatrading

That saxophone part! The sweeping synth! That soaring chorus! Seriously, it’s pretty hard to not love this track. It’s just so incredibly danceable! Add to the mix the almost sarcastic request for approval in the lyrics and you’ve got a song that is both confronting and empowering. While it’s easy to write this song off as being apologetic and submissive in its lyrics, the remarkably upbeat instrumentation proves that it’s actually a cunningly disguised ‘up yours!’ to those in charge, and if you’re feeling particularly feminist, to the patriarchy in particular. Magnificent!

10. Black Sheep – Gin Wigmore

It seems that this Kiwi lass has taken the Laurel Thatcher Ulrich line, “Well-behaved women seldom make history,” and made it her mantra. With her growled vocal demonstrating a disdain for the traditional pop-star aesthetic, this track is a marvellous ode to the woman who refuses to be pinned down to a man or a clean lifestyle. A perfect closer for a playlist all about strong women, don’t you think?


Okay, I lied. This is easily the very best way to end this list. Nobody beats Aretha. Nobody.


How did you spend International Women’s Day 2013? What female artists tickle your fancy the most? And who are the women you admire in your life? Let us know all about them in comments, on Twitter or on Facebook!


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