In preparation for Hillary Clinton’s landslide win on election day, I choreographed “I Am Woman“ by Helen Reddy for my Zumba class. In searching for this feminist anthem on iTunes, I flashed back to my first rock concert (with my divorced-and-discovering-her-power mom), and then stumbled on this generation’s version.
When you compare the lyrics to Jordin Sparks’ (yes, highly dance-able) “empowering female anthem” from 2011 to those from the song that hit #1 on the Billboard pop charts in 1972, it’s easy to see how today’s women could have voted for an unapologetic misogynist.
Her lyrics, It ain’t easy walkin’ in stilettos/But somebody gotta do it; It’s so rigorous / Doing what I do / Always on point / Always on cue; Don’t need to talk / I speak with actions / I’ve perfected the laws of attraction / I’m the whole package plus satisfaction, bespeak the traps of perfection that today’s young women find themselves in, always under someone’s gaze, someone’s judgment, with no deep self-connection. Trump’s women—wives, daughters, hangers-on—are to a one shaped like Barbie, with hair-commercial locks, dresses over smooth bellies and teetering high heels. You get the feeling they’d better look like that or they’re fired.
Reddy’s lyrics “from the olden days” spoke of connection (“standing toe-to-toe”) with other women, of wisdom, pain, and strength, and the incredible, generous heart of mothers and lovers, ready to “spread my loving arms across the land.” Also, it politely acknowledged the impossible struggle women have with politics and with men, “With a long, long way to go/Until I make my brother understand.” It is women seeing women from the inside.
Today, many women are crying. Our hardworking but unfuckable heroine was smeared by lying Russian trolls and a candidate who made bullying cool (for some), tapping into the vast community of voters who are suspicious of women (and anyone different from themselves).
There will be another cry, coming very soon. And it will not be one of sadness. It will be a roar.