The 90s were largely considered a coming-of-age for rebellious and expressive women in music. From Bikini Kill to Alanis Morissette, the surge in quote unquote angry women on their period had never been so pronounced. And yet with the so-called “feminization” of pop culture and, therefore, society, there was still (and remains to be) a fair amount of balking at the notion of truly taking a woman seriously in any capacity–particularly with regard to music.
Enter No Doubt’s seminal 1995 single, “Just A Girl,” a scathing and sarcastic snapshot of life in the skin of a woman. The standard plight? Being treated like a fragile twit incapable of handling anything on her own, as frankly elucidated by such lyrics as, “Take this big ribbon off my eyes/I’m exposed, and it’s no big surprise/Don’t you think I know exactly where I stand?/This world is forcing me to hold your hand.”
Gwen Stefani’s earnest vocals indicate a frustration and sadness that remain, even now, all too resonant. In spite of how far the population at large has come (mainly of the Western world) in accepting women as more than just half a person, the proverbial patriarchy maintains an evident distaste for allowing women to be perceived as equal and least of all as in any way superior.
As one of the first times Stefani was able to write her own lyrics for the group after founder and older brother, Eric Stefani, left it, the track signaled a noticeable shift in the sound of the band. Released from the Tragic Kingdom album, many fans accused No Doubt of selling out, even though the music was more personal than ever. Thus, the skepticism and contempt appeared to be more directed at the fact that Gwen was taking the helm than anything else–yet another prime case in point of being viewed as “just a girl.” Twenty years later, this is still the extent to which women recognized for having any sort of artistic talent are categorized.
While the video makes a more literal statement about feminism, with all of the men ending up with the women in the ladies’ bathroom by the end, the song has always been best used in an ironical fashion, as in such films as Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, a movie about two presumably vacuous women incapable of making anything of themselves. Moreover, Hillary Clinton would do well to adopt this song for her presidential campaign. It would be far more compelling than when Ronald Reagan adopted “Born in the U.S.A.” for his.