CW: sexual assault, rape
In the United States, one out of every six women has been subject to an attempted or completed rape and one in three women and one in six men experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime. Countless more endure other forms of assault, abuse or harassment. This week, we feature brave women who say – Stop the Violence – without shame. We hope this playlist inspires you to listen, to speak up, and/or to donate to a sexual trauma services organization in your area.
You can also listen to these songs on Unsweetened: A Playlist for a Feminist Future on Spotify.
Tanya Tagaq, “Rape Me”
In this cover of the Nirvana song, Tonya Tagaq, a Canadian Inuit, incorporates a steadily pounding drum beat and eerie vocals to draw connections between the violence against women’s bodies, native communities, and the earth.
Bikini Kill, “Liar”
As the force behind the early ’90s Riot Grrrl movement, Kathleen Hanna, Bikini Kill’s vocalist, brought the realities of rape culture into blunt focus. She demanded that the men around her acknowledge that they were part of the mass deceit that allows male perpetrators to “deny, deny, deny, deny.”
Rhiannon Giddens, “At the Purchaser’s Option”
This song about the sexual assault of enslaved women, by MacArthur Foundation Genius Rhiannon Giddens, was inspired by a 19th-century advertisement she found for a 22-year-old female slave whose baby was also available for sale. “You can take my body, you can take my bones, you can take my blood, but not my soul.”
Milck, a survivor of domestic violence, performed this song at the rally for women’s rights in Washington DC in 2017. She told NPR, “It’s about helping people who have felt silenced reclaim their power.”
Au Pairs, “Armagh”
This feminist post-punk band from Northern England remind us that sexual assault can be a tool of the state. From the early ’80s, this song tells the story of the female Irish Republican prisoners who were repeatedly strip-searched and reportedly violated as part of the daily routine in the Northern Irish prison of the song’s title.
Angel Haze, “Cleaning Out My Closet”
Angel Haze explicitly recounts the personal and graphic details of her sexual abuse. She samples Eminem to re-purpose that violent energy to show the feelings of confusion, trauma, hate, guilt, anger, and eventual self-acceptance that she experienced.
Jesse Reyez, “Gatekeeper”
“If you’re not using your pussy, you ain’t serious about your fuckin’ dreams,” a music producer told Jessie Reyez, the Colombian-Canadian singer-songwriter. In this powerful song, she says, “me too.”
Kira Isabella, “Quarterback”
Canadian country musician, Kira Isabella reminds us to listen to the “no name girl from the freshman class.”
Tracy Chapman, “Behind the Wall”
In one of the first songs I remember about domestic violence, Tracy Chapman recounts the scenes “behind the wall” and the structural issues that perpetuate abuse. “The police always come late, if they come at all.”
Gillian Welch, “Caleb Meyer”
The murder ballad is a core part of Appalachian traditional music. Through its many tales of lone males strangling women or pushing them into rivers, it normalizes misogyny. In this twist on the usual story, Gillian Welch alters the usual narrative.
Tori Amos, “Me and a Gun”
This emotional semi-autobiographical song is based on details of the singer-songwriter’s assault after a show when she was 21. It is one of the most intimate and forthright accounts of how women experience sexual violence.
The Raincoats, “Off Duty Trip”
Rape culture is supported by a criminal justice system that seems inclined to preserve male power. The Raincoats, a post-punk band from England, sing about a much-publicized rape trial in which a British Army officer received lenient treatment from a judge concerned about his military standing. Released in 1979, the song contextualizes their outrage within a larger view of women’s objectification.
War on Women, “Say It”
For this video, the Baltimore band, War on Women, highlighted the work of The Monument Quilt Project, and offered local survivors of sexual assault and rape an opportunity to sing along with them, without shame or stigma. They told Punknews, “For people who are ready to speak out, or need to, we hope this song can be a safe way to say ‘I was raped’ out loud. You’re not alone.”
Queen Latifah, “U.N.I.T.Y”
Queen Latifah said “me too” in 1993 when she rapped about street harassment, domestic violence, and the self-hate and oppression that women learn and impose on each other. She says, “real bad girls are the silent type,” as the real danger arises if women don’t come together and stand up for our rights.
Here’s our entire playlist: