Singer and songwriter Helen Reddy died yesterday and the world lost one of the great feminist icons of the last fifty years.
If nothing else (and there was plenty else) she gave us I am Woman, a timeless anthem that I listen to almost daily basis. Not because I stand up and do a feminist salute to it every morning but because it kicks off an inspirational playlist that helps me stay positive during the Covid lockdown depressive fug which I currently inhabit.
I am woman, hear me roar In numbers too big to ignore And I know too much to go back and pretend 'Cause I've heard it all before And I've been down there on the floor No one's ever gonna keep me down again
There’s no part of that song which isn’t still relevant. Does that mean we haven’t moved on since the Second Wave Feminism movement that began in the 1960s? If I’m still singing “But I’m still an embryo / With a long, long way to go” forty eight years after the song’s release, what the devil have we feminists been doing with ourselves for the last five decades?
Well, feminism has been changing and evolving. Our very definition of the word ‘woman’ has changed. And as our world changes, so does women’s place in it.
It’s funny that in the last few weeks, I’ve written two blog posts which demonstrate that women’s voices being heard can still be an exception rather than the norm. My post about Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s WAP covered the fact that a pop song about sexual liberation by two women could still cause a certain level of outrage and mansplaining from the cismenfolk. My review of the film Morgana showed that accepting a middle-aged woman can be sexual and valid in her own right still needs to be said in 2020.
There’s no one fix to sexism. And there’s no one true voice of feminism. We all need to speak up and have our voices heard. And we need to applaud the women who have spoken up before us and enabled us to be where we are today. Helen Reddy encapsulated the feelings of millions when she penned the lyrics “I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman”.
I am Woman is an affirmation, a complaint, a celebration and a call to arms. Years later, Reddy said “I had no idea what the song was destined to become. If I’d known, I would have been far too intimidated to have written it.”
Well, I for one, am glad you that you did. Thank you, Helen, for all you have given me.