In a time when a woman allowing herself to be photographed without make-up is often seen as a revolutionary and courageous act, there have been a number of videos/songs in the past week that serve as reminders that females don’t have to paint their faces, look like models, or have it together emotionally every moment to feel good about themselves.
Welcome to a new age of Girl Power.
In Colbie Caillat’s “Try,” the singer/songwriter sings of her experience of always making sure she looked perfect—nails and hair done, right outfit— so people in the music industry would like her. The song serves as reminder to herself that she doesn’t have to try so hard; that people will respond to her authenticity. In the video, she expands the notion to women of different shapes and sizes, as they follow her lead by taking out their hair extensions (or wig) and removing their make up looking straight into the camera. Caillat sings the last part of the song with her face stripped bare—the ultimate sigh of vulnerability in today’s world.
In Mary Lambert’s “Secrets,” she reveals perceived flaw after flaw that she tries to keep hidden over an irrepressibly jaunty tune— whether it’s that she’s bi-polar, comes from a dysfunctional family, cries all day, is gay, is overweight…she has a catalog full. But her message it that we all have our secrets and keeping them locked away in a place of shame is far more damaging than letting them out.
Both these songs/videos are about women reclaiming their power by letting go of the messages that society pounds into us over and over that we are not good enough as we are and that there is always some unattainable goal —losing 5 more pounds, having longer eyelashes, going a shade blonde — that would make us acceptable to the world. Of course, every time someone meets that goal, the goal line moves.
Ideally, we teach these self-acceptance messages to ourselves and don’t need them to be validated externally, but sometimes they still seem more believable coming from the outside. For that, we got John Legend’s “You & I” video last week. The stirring clip opens with Legend waiting as his wife, model Chrissy Teigen, gets dressed. But then, as he sings that he loves her without all the bells and whistles and all the machinations she puts herself through for an evening out, the video broadens to females of all ages and ethnic groups looking into the camera as if it were a mirror as they examine their faces for flaws, putting their features under impossible-to-pass scrutiny. Pull the camera back and the video reveals women bald from cancer treatments, women who have undergone mastectomies, a lovely girl with Down Syndrome in a colorful dress. It’s a vivid reminder that beauty, despite the strictures that magazines, TV shows, films, and magazines put on it, does not come in a one-size-fits-package.
Finally— and it’s surprising it took so long—newcomers Maddie and Tae have countered all the bro-country songs that reduce women to a nameless (“girl” is not a name) stereotype, who wears tight jeans or a short skirt and cowboy boots and is very happy for the opportunity to ride shotgun in her boyfriend’s car. Main requirements are looking good, not having a first name, and keeping her mouth shut.
But Maddie and Tae want none of that as they sing, “It ain’t easy being the girl in a country song. How in the world did it go so wrong. Like all we’re good for is looking good for you and your friends on the weekend, nothing more. We used to get a little respect, now we’re lucky if we even get to climb up in your truck, keep our mouths shut, ride along and be the girl in a country song.” Yeah, it might be time to aim a little higher.
The modern day patron saint for female empowerment in song is, of course, Beyonce. None of these songs have the strident feel of “Run The World (Girls)”; the message here is more akin to her song, “Pretty Hurts” and its lines, “We try to fix something but you can’t fix what you can’t see/It’s the soul that needs the surgery.” For the most part, these are reminders to be gentle to ourselves, not manifestos.
Will any of these songs ever change anything? I don’t know. It feels like they are mere drops of water into a pool spilling over with messages that we aren’t good enough as we are and they lose their potency. But maybe it’s simply good enough that they exist in the moment and for the moment. If watching the video for “Secrets” or “Try” makes a girl feel like she’s OK for the four minutes that clip lasts, maybe that’s the most we can hope for in this world that constantly and exhaustingly tells women that they are not good enough as long as they have wrinkles, as long as they aren’t model thin, as long as they aren’t this or aren’t that. The message is delivered in surround sound and it is everywhere.
If I could, I would pipe the below playlist continuously into every baby girl’s room so that from the minute she is born these songs counteract the images and messages that make her feel bad about herself. As she got older, any time some one made her feel less than, she could put the playlist on and hear a strong, powerful woman tell her that she is complete, she is everything she needs to be, and that she is enough.
By the time she got to middle school and high school and started dating, no boy, no peer pressure, and no societal norm could force her to be something that she is not just because the these positive message would have already taken hold and they would drown out the ones that tell her she can’t compete unless she conforms to a extremely narrow, impossible, unnecessary ideal.
And now we have several more entries to add to the list.
“Beautiful,” Christina Aguilera
“I’m Beautiful,” Bette Midler
“Firework,” Katy Perry
“Roar,” Katy Perry
“This One’s for the Girls,” Martina McBride
“Unwritten,” Natasha Bedingfield
“Born This Way,” Lady Gaga”
“Stronger,” Kelly Clarkson
“Girl On Fire,” Alicia Keys
"Run The World (Girls)"
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
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