The Women’s Music Movement & Why It’s Important That You Know About It

Written by Rosemery Brito & edited by KimberlyAnneInc

The Women’s Music Movement was born several decades ago as a revolutionary idea where women could raise their voices on various social issues. Nowadays it is quite common to come across the image of a fully empowered female artist. Not only can these amazing female artists express themselves freely about their desires, passions, and aspirations as women – but they can also celebrate their femininity through their music.

Female artists express themselves freely about their desires, passions, and aspirations as women – but they can also celebrate their femininity through their music.

Of course, this wasn’t always the case. In the past the music industry was a largely male-dominated sector. Female artists only had a voice to sing by patriarchal standards. It wasn’t until the 1970s that this began to change. It was during this time that the Women’s Music Movement bloomed. 

Voices are becoming louder and louder thanks to these feminist heroines of the music industry.

The Women’s Music Movement - Women holding signs in protest. "Equality = The Time is Now." Two women hold a sign, "Don't be a clown Take Women Seriously"
Photo by Women’s History

The Women’s Music Movement was born as a revolutionary idea where women could raise their voices on various social issues that mattered to all women. It is worth noting that this was long before feminism took much more strength and drove movements like #MeToo. When the Women’s Music Movement launched there was no such thing as being queer, nor was there the freedom to openly express one’s sexuality.

For lesbian female artists the birth of the Women’s Music Movement was an immense breakthrough. But, why is the Women’s Movement really important today? Let’s dig in.

What was the Women’s Music Movement all about?

The Women’s Music Movement encompasses any genre of music that is made by women for women. Too many individuals this may imply that it is simply feminist music; which of course, in a way it is, but it is much more than that!

Unlike other protest music genres, women’s music tells the reality of women, which was often invalidated by the mostly male media.

Even in modern times we as women, still face endless discrimination and intolerance; you can get an idea of how difficult it was in the 70s. During that era of time musical productions created and formed only by women were finally being promoted.

Record labels, festivals, and concerts now were formed and organized solely by the female sector in order to raise their voices and reach other women. The Women’s Music Movement wanted to connect with women across the world who felt tired of hiding and holding back themselves.

Record labels, festivals, and concerts now were formed and organized solely by the female sector in order to raise their voices and reach other women. The Women’s Music Movement wanted to connect with women across the world who felt tired of hiding and holding back themselves.

Photo by: Fringe Arts

Women’s concerts were magical nights where artists could express their feelings and ideas romantically, politically, and artistically without being held back by patriarchal oppression and attitudes. 

Women were finally rising because of this musical and artistic movement – and nobody could stop them. To this day women across the globe are still standing up and fighting for their right to express themselves freely.

What caused the birth of the Women’s Music Movement?

Photo by: Studio Brow

The Women’s Movement started mostly from political activism, as women began to question their environment over the course of many years. As a consequence, many female artists rejected the sexist music industry. 

In some of the songs where women talked about their real feelings as individuals, important issues such as racism, sexism, and homophobia were largely ignored by male audiences.

Women were expected to sing only about hetero-normative romantic love, otherwise, they were boycotted by the music industry representatives and managers.

Women were expected to sing only about hetero-normative romantic love, otherwise, they were boycotted by the music industry representatives and managers.

Naturally, it wouldn’t stop there. Some women loved women! There were women with real and valid problems, black women with strong voices, trans women that deserved to be understood and accepted and they all had the same purpose: to stop being invalidated by the patriarchal music industry.

And it was then that after all odds, the Women’s Music Movement was born. Not surprisingly, this movement hadn’t been fully valued and respected until contemporary times.

Where did the Women’s Music Movement begin? 

Although the Women’s Music Movement gained momentum during the 1970s and 1980s, it was really in the mid-1960s that it began. The Women’s Music Movement took place during the second feminist wave in the United States. During this time many women composed protest songs rejecting wars, the government, and advocating identity and sexual liberation. The feminist liberation movement, which began with American women, quickly expanded to other Western nations, and this was what we know as the second feminist or women’s movement.

Through these powerful actions women could find acceptance and freedom to express their femininity and sexuality in a safe environment without being surrounded by men who invalidated their cause.

Photo by Wendy Wei

Amid these protests, a large group of women came together to release albums and perform concerts exclusively for women. Through these powerful actions women could find acceptance and freedom to express their femininity and sexuality in a safe environment without being surrounded by men who invalidated their cause.

Who was involved in the Women’s Music Movement? 

In May 1969, the pioneer of this wave, Maxine Feldman wrote about the injustice of not being able to express her lesbianism freely. The song, “Angry Atthis (Angry At This)” was released by Feldman and was a critical turning point for the Women’s Music Movement.

She expressed her outrage and annoyance at not being able to do such simple things, like holding her lover’s hand in public without wide eyes staring in return.

Feldman let her heart in this song as she expressed her outrage and annoyance at not being able to do such simple things, like holding her lover’s hand in public without wide eyes staring in return.

This iconic song was not only a huge boost for Women’s Music Movement but also served as an inspiration for the LGBTQ+ community.

Photo by Jakayla Toney

By 1973, a group of lesbian feminists decided it was time to take their music into their own hands, and Olivia Records was born. With Olivia Records music engineers, executive producers, managers, and everything else regarding aspects of the music industry would be managed by women for women. 

Cris Williamson, one of the founders of Olivia Records, encouraged the collective to use this independent music label as an economic medium for lesbian social organizing.

Williamson, along with Meg Christian, Judy Dlugacz, and seven other women founded this noble collective, where they began to truly express themselves.

Williamson and Christian were the best-selling artists on Olivia Records. In 1974 Christian released her first album I Know You Know, and a year later Williamson’s innovative and game-changing album, The Changer and the Changed was released. Both albums were well-sold and well-received, further boosting the entire Women’s Music Movement.

Amid this great acceptance, Olivia Records took the opportunity to become the spokesperson and record label for several women of color in 1975. In 1976 the label released Where Would I Be Without You, a collaborative album between Bay Area poets Pat Parker and Judy Grahn.

Conclusion

To this day music about women and for women continues to be an ever-evolving matter that will never cease to serve as a means of societal unshackling for many. The struggle continues, but the voices are getting louder and louder thanks to these feminist heroines of the music industry.

Rosmery Brito finds great pleasure in researching and writing. She loves to explore a wide range of topics and stories. With two years of experience in content writing, she continues to constantly improve and grow to provide accurate information to readers.  

References: 

Matthews, C. (2020, June 17). Love in abundance: A guide to women’s music. NPR. Retrieved June 22, 2022, from https://www.npr.org/2020/06/17/877383217/love-in-abundance-a-guide-to-womens-music

Soundwaves of feminism: The women’s music movement. The Library of Congress. (n.d.). Retrieved June 22, 2022, from https://www.loc.gov/item/webcast-7797/

The Changer and the changed: A history of the women’s music movement. PleaseKillMe. Retrieved June 22, 2022, from https://pleasekillme.com/womens-music-movement/

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