Why Shania Twain Was the Feminist Role Model I Didn’t Know I Needed Growing Up

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Today I learned that Queen of Country Pop Shania Twain is going to be on Broad City tonight (Abbi finally, actually gets to train her), and I’m so excited! So excited that, as an unemployed millennial with a blog, I’m gonna write about it!!

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Source: Giphy

A Bit of Background

I grew up in a small town that was part of a mostly rural county in South Carolina. In other words, I grew up listening to country music. Literally. I can remember the country music station playing just as clearly in my preschool as it did on the way to my elementary, middle, and high schools and as well as it did in local shops, restaurants, and gas stations.

Shania Twain dominated country music stations all throughout the 90s and into the early 2000s – my prime country listening time. Although she retired from performing in 2004 for health reasons, she’s sold over 100 million albums worldwide and cemented herself as such an icon in country music that her Caesar’s Palace-exclusive concert, Still the One, received critical acclaim and her 2015 farewell (comeback?) tour, Rock This Country Tour, picked up additional shows.

While not as outspoken about feminism as other singers, Shania Twain’s music incorporated feminist themes in a way that arguably redefined the entire genre, causing them to stick with me and millions of girls and women (and those who identify as such) across the world.

That Don’t Impress Me Much

We’ll start off with the example you’re all thinking of, the most aloof song of the modern world: “That Don’t Impress Me Much.” Dude’s a rocket scientist? Who cares. Obsessed with his car? Not worth it. I mean, here was a woman in 1997 telling other women that Brad Pitt – BRAD “KING OF THE 90s” PITT – wasn’t impressive. “That Don’t Impress Me Much” invited us all to raise our standards and not settle for someone who has anything less than what we deserve.

Don’t get her wrong, those qualities can be alright, but they’re all sort of basic, no? Having some intellect, being able to make yourself presentable, and owning a car are all qualities most people need to function and interact with others. It’s like the “nice guy” who thinks he doesn’t deserve to be friend-zoned because he’s nice. Yeah, nice is okay, but it’s expected, not impressive. And that’s why Shania’s here to say we all deserve better.

Black Eyes, I Don’t Need ‘Em

In the real world, there’s no shortage of abuse towards women by their significant others. In the realm of country music, this is no exception. And, as many have noticed, there’s also no shortage of women in country music getting revenge on their abusers either.

So maybe that’s why Shania Twain’s “Black Eyes, Blue Tears” stands out so much; it’s meant to empower abuse survivors without encouraging an extreme confrontation that could easily leave the victim in more dire straights than before. An abuse survivor herself, Twain intuitively includes in the lyrics the connection between a victim’s self-esteem and ability to leave. After all, as we’ve seen, abusers need to keep their victims’ self-esteem low in order to keep control of the situation. In BEBT, Shania encourages those listening to get out of a toxic situation not with violent revenge, but with imagery that expresses the hope of standing on one’s own, free of the pain from before.

If You Wanna Touch Her, Ask!


Oo lawdy have I been touched when I didn’t want to be? Abso-fucking-lutely. And I’m sure there are many women who share my experiences. But when did I learn that was not okay, in any capacity? In 1997, when Shania Twain released “Come on Over,” which featured a little ditty called “If You Wanna Touch Her, Ask!”

Now, in 1997, I was 6 for most of the year and then I was 7 for a few months, so I’m fairly certain I’d learned some version of this lesson already during my first years in school. But that version was mostly the rough-housing, playground variety. Before IYWTHA, it wouldn’t have occurred to me that hugs may not be wanted, that kisses could be a bad thing, that certain “good touches” I’d learn about much later aren’t always good. And knowing that there are certain boundaries to everyone’s personal space and that we should always, always, always ask before crossing those boundaries is an important feminist lesson for anyone and everyone.

Man, It’s GOOD to Feel Like a Woman


“Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” was one of the first pieces of media I remember encountering that made me actually feel the GIRL POWER movement – started by US punk band Bikini Kill with their zine, Girl Power, and popularized by UK pop band Spice Girls – that was so prevalent in the 90s.

MIFLAW was also on “Come on Over,” so I was 7 when I first heard it too. It’s entirely possible I’d been exposed to other, better “girl power” media and just don’t remember it. And, at age 7, there was probably no need for me to “feel like a woman,” but the song and the sense of pride in being a woman that comes along with it have followed me into adulthood, which I’d argue has been for the better. With MIFLAW, Shania gives us a battle cry that seems to carry the weight of the heavier themes of her other songs (with lyrics like “no inhibitions, make no conditions,” “I wanna be free-yeah,” and “the girls need a break…we don’t need romance”) while giving us that freedom to really go wild, to let our hair hang down, and to have a little fun.

 

Image Source: Billboard

One response to “Why Shania Twain Was the Feminist Role Model I Didn’t Know I Needed Growing Up”

  1. […] media platforms, there are a handful of celebrities like Emily Blunt, Jim Carrey, J.K. Rowling, and Shania Twain, who persevered despite personal obstacles and adopted a profoundly positive […]

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