The concept of 'feminine rage' has been floating around for some time, but I feel like it has taken off in recent years, largely due to the wave of self-expression amongst younger women on TikTok. It may seem contradictory, at first; rage, after all, is a human emotion, one step above anger and, I would argue, one below wrath.
But feminine rage is categorized distinctly in media and fiction - why? Depending on who you ask, there are a dozen reasons, but the one that seems to stick is this; rage is the anger of one, unique to one person, and connected most often to their person in some way. Feminine rage falls into that other category inhabited by collective feelings of rage; the anger of many, shared like a gene, sometimes for one person or incident, but often fed by a larger truth that spans countries and centuries.
That rage has been defined by some writers and bloggers as 'ancestral', and though I'm unsure if that's a definition I totally agree with, it certainly holds weight.
But that's a discussion for another, heavier, post; these are my feminine rage songs for 2023, listen if you dare.
"I am no mother, I am no bride - I am king"
This is a biased choice; as a woman who has had countless arguments with romantic partners about my dedication to my career, my pride, my ambition, my inclination to think of myself as a force of nature first and a woman second, this song felt a little too targeted.
I too need to go to war to find material for my expression; being a proud, ambitious woman is almost inextricably linked to being told you are warlike, aggressive, unfeminine... unloveable.
Delivered in that ethereal voice that is synonymous with Florence Welch, yet rising to discordant, rasping highs, after quiet, resigned lows, King has been on replay in my house, and I think it will stay that way for sometime to come.
When I think of Lily Allen, I think of irreverent, comedic takes on otherwise serious issues and this song is no different. Ostensibly a searing look at the way the music industry treats women; the use of female bodies as advertisement, the struct regulation of what is considered beauty, the need for thinness, the unavoidable 'wall' that makes older women less 'valuable' than girls just exiting their teens... the list goes on.
But the beat, the tone, and the presentation is funny, bright, and bouncy. You could find yourself twerking and cleaning to this for a few minutes before you realize that this is a part of the irony.
Beyond that, seeing Lily Allen, a mother, a long-time industry staple in the UK, dancing around balloons that spell "Lily Allen has a Baggy Pussy" while singing "it's hard out here for a bitch" never fails to make me laugh. Because she's right, and I love that she decided to make light of it rather than letting it destroy her. She's a stronger woman than I am.
Perhaps the purest example of collective feminine rage, Us and Pigs is dark, unforgiving, and seething. Though quiet and measured in pace, it feels like this is the result of tight control rather than weakness. Sofia Isella's lyrics are not subtle, but then again the topic is far from gentle.
This song feels like meeting fire with fire, and the discordant strings that take up in the middle of the song grate on the nerves and ears in a way that is somehow satisfying. Some will disagree, but I'd say this is a masterstroke; it's self-aware, and I'd bet good money it was written with the understanding or even expectation, that there could be a vitriolic backlash.
A melodic song with sudden blasts of noise that feel like a natural extension of the lyrics, despite being a little jarring (which was probably the point). CHINCHILLA 's song has resonated with TikTok, which is where a lot of big songs from new artists find their first wave of viral fame, and I though I'm not active on the app, I can see why.
The constant rhythm, speed, and tone changes may seem chaotic, but they feel like they belong; it feels like the natural product of expressing oneself after years of quiet, seething frustration. But there's a little joy in it too; or perhaps catharsis is the better word.
Rage has the ability to drag us down, that much is true; anger can be as toxic as sadness, but Ain't Your Mama feels energetic and somehow joyous. Not a complaint about the status quo so much as a statement of emancipation, delivered with the rhythmic beats that I personally associate with Jennifer Lopez.
Syncopated, rolling, with an almost call-and-response feel to it in parts, it's not the most powerful song on the playlist, but it's a little bit of a tonic. A reminder that the past may be brutal, but it is the past, and calling for action, individual and collective, today.
Hailed as the queen of feminine rage on TikTok, Paris Paloma is undeniably eloquent. She puts her point across with brutal clarity, and yet there is nothing that even the most ardent hater could describe as 'hysteria' in her voice.
Delivered first in quiet whisper tones until the rolling tempo takes over and the pace becomes almost unstoppable, there is an inevitability about the rhythm of this song.
It does what so many songs with a message fail to do; avoids a feeling of preachiness with something intensely personal and yet wholly relatable. It's hard not to feel the pressure of that rage, settling on top of an oily base of sadness, frustration, and weariness, in your own chest.