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Breanna Coon / Her Campus

6 Incredible Musicians Who Have Changed The Game To Empower Women

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

The music industry has long been dominated by male figures that try to oppress their counterparts. Still, women and non-binary folks have been and are rising up to fight for the equality and rights they deserve to have. They seek change for marginalized groups and have been fighting to change the music world. These musicians are pioneers in the industry as well as in the greater society. Whether it be through their lyrics, the way they portray themselves or how they contribute to other facets of society, these women and non-binary people in music have changed the game: 

Pat Benatar

In the 1970s, rock icon Pat Benatar quit her bank teller job for a whole new gig that would change her life; she decided to pursue singing full time. At that time, women in rock were considered groupies or extras that were some accessory to the male-led rock groups. However, Pat Benatar took center stage with her powerful vocals and strong presence, releasing hits like “Heartbreaker” and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” in the 1980s.

In 2017, Benatar released her single “Shine” to celebrate women’s empowerment. She wanted to give women a platform and voice to encourage positive change and equality. She further co-founded the Shine Together Movement, a movement in which women can find support for each other and learn how to protect their rights.


Lizzo is a flute-playing, body-loving, hit-making incredible woman. Her well-deserved recent popularity has been truly inspiring to all, and her whole discography feels like women empowerment anthems. Her body positivity and her irrefutable dedication to being unapologetically herself is nothing short of inspirational.

Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe is a boss non-binary musician and activist who regularly discusses feminism, blackness and queerness in society. They have released incredible music, and are an undeniably powerful figure for everyone, including those trying to understand their sexuality or those in the queer community. Monáe does not want people to feel trapped in their sexuality and gender, and instead, they encourage people to embrace their identities by how they feel in their hearts. They say that femininity is not limited to the male gaze and by a biological structure. Femininity is embracing who you are as a person and what makes you feel good.

One my favorite songs, “PYNK,” explores these themes and encourages people, especially from marginalized communities, to celebrate who they are.

Cyndi Lauper

So who has not just blasted “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and sang it at the top of their lungs with their friends? Cyndi Lauper changed this once male-led song to a girl-loving anthem that still holds up today. She currently continues to empower others, especially in the LBGTQ+ community. She wants to see people rise up and be able to express themselves without male oppression.

Joan Jett

Joan Jett is another rock icon from the ‘70s and ‘80s who broke barriers amongst all the men in the music industry. All her life she was told that rock ‘n’ roll was not for girls, and she should not pursue it. According to an interview in Refinery29, Jett said she wanted to fight against these standards where women were just subjects of songs rather than the ones singing the songs. She felt like she was constantly fighting against those who wanted to oppress her for her gender, and she wants women to able to freely express their art.

In September of 2018, her documentary Bad Reputation discussed her life journey with being a woman in the music industry, creating her own music label and how she wants to continue to fight for equality.


Since the early 2000s, P¡nk has been challenging the pop industry by refusing to conform to that “Barbie doll” archetype that was dominating the charts at the time. She expressed herself how she wanted to and showed off her edgy and androgynous style. She even criticized former President Bush with “Dear Mr. President” and discussed the need for equality and rights amongst women and the LGBTQ+ community. Also, who can forget her speech at the VMAs in 2017? Beautiful! P¡nk has always been a pioneer for women since the beginning!

These women and non-binary musicians have truly made names for themselves and have allowed for women and other marginalized communities to shine the way that they should. Their relentless fight for change has created a shift in the music industry as well as in the larger society for women empowerment. It is important that we support these artists in their pursuit for equality and representation for women!

Emily is a UCLA graduate with a degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Musicology. She is a huge skincare enthusiast as well as a fashion and makeup lover who likes to experiment with her style. When she has some free time, she can be found obsessing over music and musicians, painting or going outside to enjoy the sun.
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