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You Don't Own Me


Janis JoplinAnd don’t tell me what to do, and don’t tell me what to say! Even though Lesley Gore put her foot down at the young age of seventeen, this 45 rpm, nouveau, defiance-in-vinyl was a radical departure from her attitude the previous year when boyfriend Johnny disappeared from her birthday party, only to show up with Judy, wearing his ring. It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to. Could be Betty Friedan jumpstarted what is referred to as “Second Wave Feminism” in 1963 with the publication of her book, The Feminine Mystique.   


While the first wave of feminism focused on women’s suffrage, Ms. Friedan created the perfect storm which would rage from the early 1960s through the late 1980s. Her book addressed the widespread unhappiness of women in the 1950s and early 1960s, centered on the mystique they derived fulfillment by devoting their lives to being housewives and mothers. Let’s face it-- wearing an apron, waltzing a  Hoover, and roasting a chicken do not challenge the average female’s mental capacity. Ms. Friedan called for a drastic rethinking of what it meant to be feminine, and many heeded the call to promote the feminist rights of integrity and autonomy.  


Let’s hear it for the emergence of girl groups and solo female artists who vocalized Sixties ideology, da doo ron ron runaway from boo hooing, instead toodle-looing.  So, when “You Don’t Own Me” made its debut in 1964, it pioneered defiance against being objectified.  And please, when I go out with you, don’t put me on display.


Bootie call!  "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" (1966): Nancy Sinatra voices intolerance and threatens payback for her heel of a man's infidelity: You've been a messin' where you shouldn't have been a messin' and now someone else is gettin' all your best.  These boots are made for walkin', and that's just what they'll do.  One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.


"R-E-S-P-E-C-T" (1967): Sock it to me!  A song exemplifying the feminist movement, Lady of Soul, Aretha Franklin, tells it like it is by articulating her primordial needs.  What you want?  Baby, I got it.  What you need, do you know I got it? All I'm askin' is for a little respect when you come home (just a little bit).


Dionne Warwick through her sophisticated delivery, told her man in no uncertain terms he'd better readjust his attitude because a relationship isn't one-sided. Don't pick on the things I say, the things I do.  Just love me with all my faults the way that I love you ("Don't Make Me Over," 1967).


 Dusty Springfield, the White Queen of Soul, helped create a classic look for women during the early Sixties with her peroxide blonde, beehive hairdo and heavy eyeliner. However, the progressive music revolution of the British Invasion, along with cultural and fashion extremes toward the latter part of the Sixties, rendered the pop diva a little dusty.  Nevertheless, Ms. Springfield proved herself so much more than an outdated, camp icon.  Her sultry and sensual voice, rich in emotion, had a timeless quality which appealed to future generations. Before it was considered fashionable, she spoke openly about her bisexuality.


Janis Joplin, the Queen of Rock and Roll, epitomized the rebelliousness of the Sixties and its counterculture.  Her distinctive, raspy voice screamed her pain parallel to living hard, taking drugs, and seeking solace in Southern Comfort.  No one told Joplin what to say or what to do.  Long before her music career, she never conformed to society’s expectations of how a woman should look or act.  In response to ostracization in high school for having acne and a weight problem, she cultivated the persona of a rebel by wearing wild clothes and affecting vulgarity. Nevertheless, Ms. Joplin’s lyrical toughness is tempered with vulnerability. Her songs portray women as being misused by their man, while urging them to get tough.   Didn't I make you feel like you were the only man-yeah! Didn't I give you nearly everything that a woman possibly can? Honey, you know I did!  And each time I tell myself that I, well I think I've had enough, but I'm gonna show you, baby, that a woman can be tough. (“Piece of My Heart,”1968).


Betty Friedan concluded in The Feminine Mystique, “The real enemy is women's denigration of themselves."  Therefore, let it be written and let it be sung, The Ten Commandments of Feminist Autonomy:  


1. Don’t make me one of your toys. 

2. Don’t tell me what to do. 

3. Don’t tell me what to say.  

4. Don’t say I can’t go out with other boys. 

5. Don’t put me on display. 

6. Don’t tie me down. 

7. Let me be myself. 

8. Let me be young. 

9. Let me live life the way I want. 

10. Let me be free. 


You don’t own me! 



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