Recent SIUE graduate Rachael Wurth–a Women’s Studies minor and Philosophy major–responded to my call for nominations of feminist songs with this ska-pop gem from 1995, No Doubt’s “Just A Girl.” No Doubt was notable as a band for having a female lead singer, Gwen Stefani. This trait has been shared by a few other ska, punk, or metal inspired bands, notably the all-woman Sleater-Kinney, the Guano Apes who are fronted by Sandra Nasić, and Against Me! who are fronted by Laura Jane Grace. The genres of ska, punk, and metal share a driving and sometimes aggressive tone. No Doubt produced a string of hits during the 90’s with melodically and instrumentally complex compositions. The album from which “Just A Girl” was taken, Tragic Kingdom, was the first on which the majority of songs were written by Gwen Stefani. Without further ado, I give you the song itself and Wurth’s brief commentary on it.
–Alison Reiheld, Director of the SIUE Women’s Studies Program
To me, this song captures Gwen’s breaking point. She is coming to reject the circumstances imposed on her by society, in which she is defined solely as a ‘girl’.
Her existence seems to extend nowhere beyond that label. Her identity is seen through the male gaze as simple, a dehumanizing ‘typical prototype’. Being a girl is presented to her as a privilege, since girls have the ‘opportunity’ to wear veils, in this case a pink ribbon, to shield them from the world. The idea is that girls don’t have to worry about things because they are taken care of by men.
However, she is not fooled by this representation. She knows she is being treated like a child, fragile and weak. She is fed up with the idea that she is a delicate creature. She knows she is not being protected from the cruel world, but inhibited from fully experiencing it in her own way.