Rock and Roll, Rap, and Women’s Rights

Collage by Judy Goldstein, using photograph of Naomi Weisstein by Virginia Blaisdell, via JWA, and photograph of Megan Thee Stallion, via Wikimedia Commons.

Given that we live in a patriarchal society, there is little wonder why there are still many issues regarding women's healthcare. From reproductive health to mental health, with healthcare providers often ignoring patients’ concerns, women have always struggled to get the care they deserve. Unfortunately, gender bias is alarmingly prominent in our healthcare system.

Historically, women combated this issue by informing and fighting. You may have heard of women’s health activists like Margeret Sanger, Elizabeth Blackwell, and Antonia Novello. Among their other accomplishments, they have had a huge impact on women’s health rights. A lesser-known women’s health activist is Naomi Weisstein, a Jewish-American psychologist. To share her frustrations over the American healthcare system, she founded a rock band.

In 1969, Naomi Weisstein co-founded the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union (CWLU). The CWLU strove to better women’s position in society by fighting to end gender inequality and sexism. Weisstein and the CLWU started the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union rock band. This band performed punk rock songs to convey their anger at the injustices they experienced. Their album Papa Don’t Lay That Shit on Me included powerful songs like “Don’t Need No Doctor” and “Dear Government.” “Don’t Need No Doctor” comments on the poor quality of healthcare that women receive; it depicts the anger these women feel about relying on a broken system. “Dear Government” responds to the government’s disapproval of feminist protest. The messages that they fought for remain vital to women obtaining equal rights. The women of CWLU describe how the government, corporations, and their schools have failed them, and urge society to change. At t this time, women making punk rock was unheard of. Simply showing up and being loud while making something beautiful was another form of protest in itself.

In a similar spirit, rapper Megan Thee Stallion often speaks about the realities of being a Black woman in the public spotlight. The trauma Megan endured from being shot in the foot by rapper Tory Lanz in 2020 may contribute to why Megan advocates to make life better for women of color in public media. When this incident went to trial, Megan Thee Stallion was also rising to fame and she received a great amount of hate online for her outspokenness. This had an exceedingly negative impact on her mental health. Recently, she has turned to another channel for her advocacy: her music. In early November, Megan Thee Stallion released her new single, “Cobra,” in which she shares her experience of dealing with depression and anxiety while being a highly criticized public figure. In her song, Megan describes how she battled suicidal thoughts and extreme anxiety while lacking a true support system. Even as our society is becoming more open when discussing mental health, it is minorities that continue to face the most stigma regarding mental health issues.

Weisstein and Megan had platforms to share their stories. But what about the other women we don't hear from, those who aren't in the news or making major headlines? According to a 2021 New York Times article, women only make up 20.2% of the performing artists of the year’s top songs. Many extremely influential women have shaped the musical world for the better, and yet women are still getting such poor representation. This goes to show how much harder Megan Thee Stallion and Naomi Weisstein have had to fight to make their voice heard when fighting for women’s healthcare rights and mental health justice. These two incredibly brilliant and outspoken women use their platform and talents to advocate, inform, and most importantly fight to get women the care they deserve; and we should recognize and celebrate them.

This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.

Topics: Music
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How to cite this page

Larsen, Roz. "Rock and Roll, Rap, and Women’s Rights." 24 January 2024. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 26, 2024) <http://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/rock-and-roll-rap-and-womens-rights>.