It’s officially time to put on the holiday music. Unfortunately, much of the season’s music is conservative, outdated or downright sexist. (Remember “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer?” Santa doesn’t even get in trouble for it!)
If you’ve been looking for contemporary tunes sung by artists whose feminist values match your own, below is a list of holiday songs written by musicians who have publicly identified themselves as feminists. These songs span a variety of decades, genres and tempos—so no matter what your music preferences are, one of these feminist musicians has a song for you.
The “Hyrrs Not Hymns” album is full of feminist riffs on old Christmas classics. With titles like “Kick the Balls” (sung to the tune of “Deck the Halls”) and “We Want An Equal Salary” (sung to the tune of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”), this album is the perfect soundtrack for feminist festivities this holiday season.
Finally, a song for the unsung hero of Christmas! Outspoken feminists Idina Menzel and Ariana Grande teamed up in 2019 to write a song that celebrates Mrs. Claus, “the gal who runs the show.” This song combines Menzel’s Broadway background with Grande’s jazz background, and the result is an upbeat Christmas tune (that we can’t get unstuck from our heads).
While Dolly Parton has had a complicated relationship with the term “feminist,” she recently admitted to InStyle, “I suppose I am a feminist if I believe that women should be able to do anything they want to.” (Exactly!)
Her recent Christmas album, “A Holly Dolly Christmas” includes a collaboration with Miley Cyrus on the song “Christmas Is.” Cyrus has been vocal on topics related to LGBTQ rights and founded the Happy Hippie Foundation, which “rall[ies] young people to fight injustice facing homeless youth, LGBTQ youth and other vulnerable populations.”
And, if that’s not enough, we can also thank Parton for donating $1 million to the fight against the virus: The official preliminary report on the Moderna vaccine now credits “the Dolly Parton COVID-19 Research Fund,” as well as a number of other organizations, with making their research go “ten times faster.”
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Destiny’s Child has for years produced feminist songs, such as “Survivor” and “Independent Woman Pt. 1.” In their Christmas album, “8 Days of Christmas” they cover a variety of carols, as well as an eponymous original song, “8 Days of Christmas,” which is a modern take on the class “12 Days of Christmas.”
In addition to songs for heartbreaks and nights out, Taylor Swift also has music for getting into the holiday spirit. “Christmas Tree Farm,” released in 2019, uses her signature story-telling skills to tell the story of “a little farm where every wish comes true.”
Swift has been an advocate for women’s rights since 2018 when she posted on Instagram saying, “I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love,” and encouraged fans to register to vote. She has also made headlines recently for re-recording her first five albums, in order to regain control over her music after they were sold without her consent.
The original version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” written by Frank Loesser in 1949, has been the subject of much controversy in recent years due to modern listeners interpreting the lyrics as “sexist.” Minneapolis-based musicians Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski rewrote the lyrics to focus more on consent––for example, instead of asking “Mind if I move in closer?” the male voice on the track assures his companion, “You reserve the right to say no.”
In addition to her modern classic, “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” Mariah Carey has a whole album of holiday songs, entitled “Merry Christmas.” Another standout from the album is her cover of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” originally sung by the legendary Darlene Love.
Mariah Carey has been wildly successful in her music career, and she’s done so by standing by her feminist values. She told Variety in 2019, “I made a decision early on that I never wanted to be beholden to a man. I didn’t want to be a kept woman.”
Carey has also spoken out in support of the #MeToo movement: “I’m so proud of the women who have come to tell their stories, because I didn’t do it, and I should have done it. That’s an incredible accomplishment.”
Sara Bareilles, much like many of the artists on this list, has released feminist bop after feminist bop over the course of her career. Most recently, she released her feminist anthem “Armor” ahead of schedule, in response to the Kavanaugh hearings in 2018. She told Billboard, “We weren’t going to release anything until next year, and I was really moved by the experience of watching the Kavanaugh hearings. This song felt like it wanted to belong to this moment in time.”
Lizzo rose to stardom by singing about body positivity with her 2019 EP “Cuz I Love You.” Everything about Lizzo, from her songs to her performances to her makeup line with Urban Decay, celebrates “refus[ing] to accept forced standards and instead champion[ing] uniqueness.” This feminist icon blends familiar Christmas images of “sugar plums and candy canes” and her signature upbeat sound to create a song that is as catchy as it is festive.
We’re closing the list out with a true classic. “Santa Baby” has been covered by countless pop artists since its release, but no one can compare to the original, Eartha Kitt. Before her death on Christmas day in 2008, Kitt was outspoken against the Vietnam War and an advocate for disadvantaged youth. She was also ahead of her time when it came to sex positivity during the ’50s and ’60s, embracing “her persona as a golddigger who renders men into helpless little boys with her sexual power.”
Have a safe, happy feminist holiday—whatever that looks like this year.
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