Posted by: jessicaornstein | April 3, 2014

“Just” a Girl

I had my iPod on shuffle the other morning while I was getting ready for class and the song “Just a Girl” by No Doubt came on- talk about a throwback! I don’t know about you, but when I think about Gwen Stefani the first thought that comes to mind is “girl power.”

Anyone who hasn’t listened to this song before should definitely check it out or at least pull up the lyrics (which can he found here: Gwen’s lyrics in this song depreciate female gender stereotypes and can be seen when she sings, “I’m just a girl… Just your typical prototype,” and she claims that she will no longer comply with this role that society has forced women into by saying “I’ve had it up to here” and she repeats “am I making myself clear?” She wants to let everyone know that she is tired of the way that females are made to be so separate and humble from men, and she wants to see this idea of women change.

I, personally, think that it’s an effective method that she uses to make a statement and get her point across, in which she uses humor and sarcasm to express how women are treated and made to feel how their should act by society and the media. For example, I think that she has a strong introduction to her song by saying, “take this pink ribbon off my eyes, I’m exposed and it’s no big surprise. “ To me, this statement means that she can clearly see what is going on in the world today regarding women’s treatment, and that this treatment was bound to happen as she was not surprised. Overall, this song seems to paint an accurate picture of how society wants women to be, but Gwen makes her opinion known by saying that what they want from us is wrong and that she’s finished with putting up with it, so she’s going to now speak her mind and not have it anymore. I think that it is definitely an encouragement for women to speak up, too. Gwen seems to have been wise beyond her years because these kinds of powerful lyrics were rarely seen in the media at the time that the song was produced. Does anyone else have any other lines of the song that they think are with analyzing and interpreting? I’m interested to hear your input, too!

So, what do guys think- would any of you consider Gwen to be a very effective female leader? Why or why not? Do you think that we should see more leaders like her in the music industry? Are there any other artists that remind you of Gwen that you think were effective leaders in getting their message across to fans like she did? What were their strategies?


  1. I find your post and analysis of this song really interesting. I have never thought about this song in the way that you described it, but can see how you took what you did from her lyrics. I think Gwen Stefani is definitely a “leader” in her industry, but I am not always so sure this is best. Though she seems to be “singing” to the avoidance of gender stereotypes, when have you not seen her dressed provocatively with loads of make-up? Gwen Stefani has always been a very sexualized artist, and though I am not saying this is always bad, I feel that when women speak against stereotypes, but then embody some of them it becomes harder for them to be influential for the “right reasons”. I do believe that we should have more female artists that sing about causes that matter instead of break ups, booze, and parties, because lately they seem to be in short supply.

  2. Jessica, I really liked this post. I think Gwen Stefani is an artist most people are familiar with, making her more influential due to the number of people who listen to her music. Her lyrics will get across more people who will hear what she has to say. I do think we need more artists who will speak out, through song, about issues like these. It is a great source of media because of the amount of people who enjoy and find comfort in music.

    Another artist who comes to mind is Kelly Clarkson. I think she is a leader in the music world for sure! To most people, she is seen as more relatable when compared to others due to American Idol. America watched a typical girl become an idol, and most importantly, a role model. Her song “Stronger” is one that many people can relate to and she gets a very powerful message across. Yes, her song is about a boy and a breakup, but it can also be applied to so many different aspects of life. Some of the lyrics are…

    “You heard that I was starting over with someone new
    They told you I was moving on; over you

    You didn’t think that I’d come back
    I’d come back swinging
    You tried to break me
    But you see

    What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
    Stand a little taller
    Doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone
    What doesn’t kill you makes a fighter
    Footsteps even lighter
    Doesn’t mean I’m over cause you’re gone”

    Read more: Kelly Clarkson – Stronger Lyrics | MetroLyrics

    I think these lyrics are very powerful and can teach girls valuable lessons, applicable to life in general. One lesson is that there is life after a bad break up and it is possible to move on. Another is that life is going to throw you a curve ball every now and then. Not only will you make it through, but you will become a stronger person because of it. This song portrays girls as strong individuals who are in charge of their life, even when things get hard.

  3. I love Gwen and I think she is an excellent role model for young girls by getting her point across through music. However, I do also strongly agree with Bethany in the Gwen is an excellent role model through lyrics, but in reality she dresses provocatively and loads on makeup and hair products, displaying stereotypically normal beauty. I also agree with Jenn in that Kelly Clarkson is an amazing role model through music – especially one of mine. One of my favorite songs of hers is an older one entitled “Breakaway” and some of its lyrics are:

    I’ll spread my wings and I’ll learn how to fly
    I’ll do what it takes til’ I touch the sky
    And I’ll make a wish
    Take a chance
    Make a change
    And breakaway
    Out of the darkness and into the sun
    But I won’t forget all the ones that I love
    I’ll take a risk
    Take a chance
    Make a change
    And breakaway

    These lyrics tell girls that it’s okay to go out of your comfort zone to grow and make a difference – something that many girls struggle with and need to be reminded of!

  4. Like everyone has said, Gwen is an amazing role model. I think artist like Pink, Beyonce, and Gwen are powerful, positive leaders for young women. These women do not change who they are because of what society says. Each one of them have songs that talk about being strong, independent, and not needing a man to be happy. And all of these women look amazing, not because they are super thin, but because they are fit and love their curves and who they are. They also don’t play dumb and show society they are smart, capable women. I also believe most of them have different products they promote. So yes, I do believe Gwen is an amazing leader and role model.

  5. Yes on all counts! I agree that all the artists mentioned are powerful, positive leaders. They do tend to dress in a stereotypically feminine and provocative manner on stage, though. I also think they represent a few different kinds of women that are all being true to themselves. I love Pink’s music and have always thought of her as a role model of sorts. She is not that typical pop singer. She hits hard and does not apologize for it. Pink is also one of the models in the CoverGirl campaign. It speaks to being beautiful the way you are. I think that is one of the ways that Pink reaches out to young girls. I think more music artists should do the same!

  6. I think that Gwen Stefani is the perfect role model for the modern age female empowerment movement that our society has been progressing through. She outwardly portrays an atypical feminine stereotype through how she dresses as well as her music — she is very focused on the strength of the female will and spirit. As a role model, she allows women to speak and think what they may not know how to do, and showing them that although society may view them in a certain way, that they have control over this and themselves. I find her music very empowering and refreshing, since she talks about struggles women face in everyday life. Her unyielding promotion of female power and strength proves her to be a beneficial role model to women everywhere, and utilizing music to do this is a very effective strategy.

  7. I loved this post and this concept of spreading messages to women and young girls via music. I am not very familiar with Gwen Stefani’s music but this song is pretty powerful and made me think of other songs women have done that try to get their message across. While this message is specifically about getting women to speak up for themselves I believe that other songs that women sing to empower women often talk about empowering a woman who has had a broken heart, or has low self esteem. Some of these songs include “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera or “This Ones For The Girls” by Martina McBride. While I love these songs these songs are examples of how sometimes women do not take advantage of the power they have with music to give off a message to empower them to be something more than just someone looking for a relationship. Men talk about being successful, getting money and being powerful in many songs. Women sometimes tend to sing more about relationships, men and not letting a heartbreak get you down. Now I am not saying this is true for all artists because there are definitely some men who sing about break ups and being alone but men take advantage of the fact to sing about other things that I listed before. I think music is a powerful thing. It’s what keeps people of all ages pretty sane and makes some people feel complete. I think it would be awesome to see more women singing about ambition, power and success (however that is defined for you) and letting women and young girls know that having these characteristics are okay. An example of a recent song out called “Flawless” by the infamous Beyoncé hits the nail on the head

    We teach girls to shrink themselves
    To make themselves smaller
    We say to girls
    “You can have ambition
    But not too much
    You should aim to be successful
    But not too successful
    Otherwise you will threaten the man”
    Because I am female
    I am expected to aspire to marriage
    I am expected to make my life choices
    Always keeping in mind that
    Marriage is the most important
    Now marriage can be a source of
    Joy and love and mutual support
    But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage
    And we don’t teach boys the same?
    We raise girls to each other as competitors
    Not for jobs or for accomplishments
    Which I think can be a good thing
    But for the attention of men
    We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings
    In the way that boys are
    Feminist: the person who believes in the social
    Political, and economic equality of the sexes

    These are the kind of issues or obstacles that can be overcome that women singers could focus more on. But this idea of women empowerment in music is interesting. I will definitely be paying more attention to lyrics of songs for both men and women.

  8. I love the idea of this and I particularly agree with Christina. This is an incredibly interesting concept, beginning to see contemporary artists as “leaders” for women. I completely agree. When it comes to influencing an entire generation of young girls and young women. We need songs that focus less on the men getting women and cars. We need songs that empower women to be more than pretty and vapid. An earlier post talked about the stereotype being spread through reality TV, how women are vapid and are essentially there to spend money, talk trash, and be sex symbols. Women like Gwen Stephanie, Kelly Clarkson, and Pink, have songs that tell women that they don’t have to have a man to have a happy life. They focus more about what they do as women rather than what they’re wearing or which guy they’re interested in. The older I get, the more I start to truly analyze the music I’ve listened to and the message behind it. So many songs with catchy beats have messages that are demeaning to women’s status in respect to men. We need female role models that the next generation of female leaders can look up to as well as relate to.

  9. I agree with pretty much everyone else that it was interesting and refreshing that you decided to talk about music and female leaders within the music scene. I think it’s a particularly promising field for women because there are so many strong female musicians, like the ones that have been mentioned in this post. The first person I thought of was Nicki Minaj. I realize this is probably controversial person to think of when thinking about a female leader in the music industry, but she is one of the most popular artists in a genre dominated by men- rap and hip hop. She may not always be the most positive role model for girls, but she has had to work for everything she has, and quite frankly, doesn’t take anything from anyone.

    In particular, I thought of her song “Fly,” ( which features Rihanna, another popular female hip-hop artist. This is one of my favorite all time songs, it’s very empowering and uplifting. One line in particular sticks out to me “I am not a word, I am not a line.” Too often, girls and women are stuck in a “box” in which they cannot get out of, like the double bind. Minaj refuses to be anything but herself, no matter what anyone says. I also think it’s important to note that this song features another female artist, not a male.

  10. Love this! We always talk about women in the movie industry and things like that, but not ever about the music industry. People look up to women so much in the music industry like Taylor Swift, and Miranda Lambert, but I think someone who has made an impact in a really positive way on girls would be Beyonce. I know this is said time and time again, but she is TRULY such a powerful and positive image for girls. I even wrote about her as someone who I believe is a true leader for my leadership class freshman year. She constantly discusses positive body image, standing up for yourself, confidence, and following your dreams. She fights against the negative gender barriers that still stop women today, and because she is so insanely popular, it really is effective to girls today. Beyonce sings about the struggles, talks about them in interviews, and promotes it just by her aura. She also is apart of the bossy campaign that we talked about last class (the “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss” thing) which seems to be very effective. Female singers of so much influence on girls, and to see them taking advantage of that influence and using it in a positive and perhaps controversial way is a brilliant move. I hope more female singers try to channel their energies in this way.

  11. The comments just keep going on this post! Jessica, I think this post is extremely interesting. I used to listen to that song all the time but had never really thought about it in terms of women power. This class has really opened our eyes to a lot of different gender issues that we have never seen before.
    I have mixed feelings about Gwen and her women power, just as many of my classmates. I think it is awesome that she chose to be a leader in this field and her lyrics of:
    ‘Cause I’m just a girl, little ‘ol me
    Don’t let me out of your sight
    I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite
    So don’t let me have any rights

    Oh…I’ve had it up to here!

    I think could be really inspiring to young girls, letting them know that they don’t have to fit the mold of what society says we must look like. But then the flip side to this is she is a very sexual artist and does that contradict the message that she is sending to young girls?
    I feel like we’ve talked about this problem that in order for women to send specific messages we have to do it in a specific way. So if Gwen was sending this message while looking like a “normal girl” would the message have been spread so easy? Or is it because she is overly sexualize, with a lot of attention that she is able to send this message? It’s a hard line.
    What is cool in recent years is that we have people like Emma Watson and Jennifer Lawrence who are redefining beautiful as well; cutting their hair short and still being awesome! So I hope that our society is heading in the right direction…

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