Ten Holiday Songs by and for Feminists: 2022 Edition

It’s officially time to put on the holiday music. Unfortunately, much of the season’s music is conservative, outdated, or downright sexist.

If you’ve been looking for holiday tunes sung by artists whose feminist values match your own, below is our semi-annual list of holiday songs written by feminist musicians or holiday songs that espouse feminist values. 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.

1. Alicia Keys’s “So This is Christmas (War is Over)” 

 “So This is Christmas (War is Over)” was originally written and performed in 1971 by Yoko Ono and John Lennon as a protest against the Vietnam War. Lennon perhaps is not in the best position to espouse anti-violence (VICE describes him as a “phildanering abuser”). Nonetheless, Lennon denounced his misogyny, and together he and Ono became well-known for their feminist and anti-war music. Alicia Keys’ rendition is beautifully sung in her silky smooth voice, and as an added holiday feel-good bonus, Keys is a devout feminist. 

2. Ok, actually, most of Alicia Keys’ album “Santa Baby” 

(Back cover of “Santa Baby”)

There are some very heartwarming songs on this album: “You Don’t Have to Be Alone” feels like Keys is reaching out to each listener, telling them they will get through this time of year. “Not Even the King” is an anti-capitalist anthem prioritizing love while decrying materialism, and “Favorite Things”’s focus on being slow and lazy reminds me of the paper “For Slow Scholarship: A Feminist Politics of Resistance through Collective Action in the Neoliberal University,” also worth a read during the holidays.

3. Phoebe Bridgers’ “7 O’Clock News/Silent Night” 

Phoebe Bridgers’ update of Simon and Garfunkel’s “7 O’Clock News/Silent Night” follows the same pattern as the original by interspersing “Silent Night” with clips from a news broadcast. The clips report the first all-female spacewalk, the murder conviction of the off-duty police officer who shot 26-year-old Botham Jean in his apartment, Trump’s campaign corruption, and a story on the, at the time, possible reversing of Roe.

(And if that’s not feminist enough for you, the proceeds from Bridgers’ yearly holiday song covers benefit organizations doing essential community work — this year, she’s chosen to support the Los Angeles LGBT Center.)

4. Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas” 

Parton takes a girls-just-wanna-have-fun approach to Christmas and engages in raunchy, unladylike behavior! And who doesn’t love Dolly? She’s an icon and an activist. 

5. Haim’s “The Chanukah Song

Haim’s update of Adam Sandler’s “Chanukah Song” lists more women and people of color in 51 seconds than Sandler did in the original in more than triple that time. (Not to diss Sandler too hard, as it is perhaps the most famous Chanukah song, and achieved his goal of giving Jewish kids a song for this time of year. Although we spell it with a capital “H” in my family.) Haim has frequently used their platform to promote the presence of women in the music industry; their latest album is, in fact, titled “Women in Music, PT III.” Hopefully, their update makes the song relevant to a new generation of young Jews. 

6. Gayla Peevey’s “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”

“I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” is an entire song from the perspective of a young girl telling us precisely what she wants. The song gives her a platform for self-advocacy, which is decidedly feminist — not only because she is a girl, but also because she is a child — and feminists have always been at the forefront of children’s rights activism. 

7. Ani DiFranco’s “Welcome To:” 

In typical DiFranco fashion, “Welcome To:” is not a happy song. It takes the sugar right off the Christmas cookies in its laid-bare portrayal of Christmas for folks with strained family relationships. 

8. Aurelio Voltaire’s “Comin’ Out For Christmas”

“Comin’ Out For Christmas” is a silly, fun, tongue-in-cheek Christmas song. Voltaire sings his queerness from the rooftops, bends gender norms and chronicles the importance of self-acceptance in a homophobic world. 

9. Kacey Musgraves’ “Glittery” feat. Troye Sivan

“Glittery” is a happy Christmas love song by a queer legend and an ally who are outspoken in their music and personal lives about LGBT rights. 

10. Kelly Clarkson’s “Christmas Isn’t Canceled (Just You)”

The best and most explicitly feminist lines in this song are surely: “Winter Wonderlands weren’t made for one, So we’ve all been told since we were young.” Clarkson continues this ode to singlehood and self-love till the end of the song, telling her ex-lover she will be happy without them, by herself and with her friends. 

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Phoebe Kolbert is an undergraduate student at Smith College studying sociology and reproductive health and justice. She is an editorial intern with Ms. and a contributor to the Mainer News Cooperative. Find her columns for Mainerhere.