Opening today (September 28), Bad Reputation is a rockumentary about Joan Jett that promises a wild ride through the 1970s punk scene.
It also depicts a woman unafraid of battling against the establishment to get recognition. Along with Suzi Quatro and Pat Benatar, Joan broke the rules and blazed a trail through the music industry, determined to get her due.
“It was about being told that a girl couldn’t play guitar when you’re sitting in school next to girls playing violin and cello and Beethoven and Bach,” Joan told the Guardian in 2010. “The anger came from not been given a chance, from being told to shut up and sit down and act like a lady.”
Below are 10 other female artists who railed against gender norms.
1. Kim Gordon
The Sonic Youth bassist and vocalist penned one of the most detailed accounts of being a female rock star of the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s with her memoir Girl in a Band. And if her riot grrrl legend status wasn’t enough, Gordon also produced Hole’s debut album, meaning she’s partially responsible for another legendary lady rocker, the inimitable Courtney Love. She’s still going strong, releasing her first solo single at the age of 63.
2. Nina Simone
The High Priestess of Soul moved from jazz singing to music making and activism in response to the cultural and political upheaval of the 1960s, including the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the battle for civil rights.
3. Beth Ditto
Ditto’s band Gossip championed LGBT rights and explored gender politics, but their songs were catchy enough to sneak on to the radio and become rebellion anthems for the masses. “Standing in the Way of Control” is their emotional response to America’s then-restrictive same-sex marriage laws, making it not just a riot grrrl anthem but one of the best protest anthems to boot.
4. Viv Albertine
Not only did she redefine being a woman musician alongside fellow punk pioneers Siouxsie Sioux and Poly Styrene, but the former guitarist of The Slits is still subverting stereotypes years later. She’s blown a hole in what it means to be a middle-aged woman, with memoirs Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys (2014) and To Throw Away Unopened (2018), and the recent resurgence in her musical career.
5. Queen Latifah
Queen Latifah was one of the earliest female rappers in hip-hop, making a name for herself talking about issues in the lives of black women. Songs like “Ladies First” and “U.N.I.T.Y.” discussed domestic violence, street harassment and the need for women to work together, while her fellow Native Tongues cohorts Jungle Brothers, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest made more upbeat, socially-conscious music.
6. Janis Joplin
Her mainstream career may have only lasted three years before her untimely death in 1970, but Joplin remains the female face of one of the greatest counter-culture movements in history.
Already an icon of sassy R&B and bootylicious pop, by 2016 Beyoncé had had enough. Reports contradict each other as to exactly what happened, but it seems trouble in her marriage to Jay-Z led her to record Lemonade, a brutally honest and devastatingly angry album that starts out by taking a man to task about his infidelity, before tackling racial injustice and female empowerment, and ending on a cathartic note of love and forgiveness.
8. Patti Smith
She’s been nicknamed the “Godmother of Punk,” but Patti Smith has influenced a range artists — from U2 and The Smiths to Michael Stipe and Garbage’s Shirley Manson. Part arty intellectual and part rebellious punk, Smith proved she was all genius with her debut 1975 album Horses.
The Queen of Pop set the gold standard for being a controversial and successful female artist. She may have gained a reputation for courting controversy for the sake of it, but over a 34-year career she’s relentlessly exposed the sort of behavior expected of women and stuck her middle finger up at it, breaking down barriers for countless female artists in the process.
10. Aretha Franklin
“R.E.S.P.E.C.T” was originally an Otis Redding hit about a father demanding respect from his wife, but then the Queen of Soul turned it on its head. By adding a spelled-out refrain and some clever interplay with her backing singers, Franklin managed to make a statement about feminism and civil rights with a chart-topping song, and paved the way for future musicians to unite politics and pop.
Who have we missed off our list?Read More