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Acknowledging Gender Inequality: A Feminist Analysis of No Doubt's "Just A Girl"

Updated on April 8, 2015
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I have a B.A. in English with a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies. I have been a goth since I was fourteen, and pagan since fifteen.

Gwen Stefani performing at the Jones Beach Theatre in Wantagh, New York, United States 20 May 2007
Gwen Stefani performing at the Jones Beach Theatre in Wantagh, New York, United States 20 May 2007 | Source

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'Cause I'm just a girl, little 'ol me
Don't let me out of your sight
I'm just a girl, all pretty and petite
So don't let me have any rights

"Just A Girl" Tragic Kingdom

What is a Girl, Anyway?

Girl: a female human from birth through childhood and adolescence to attainment of adulthood when she becomes a woman. [Wikipedia]

In today's culture, the term "girl" rarely offends females of any age because it is used so frequently. The problem with this is the subliminal message. If the first definition of "girl" means a "female child" then why do we refer to females of any age as a "girl" while most people do not refer to grown men as "boys" unless in an informal setting?

"Girl" reinforces the belief that women are the weaker sex in every situation; except, perhaps, domestic chores. In No Doubt's song, "Just A Girl" uses satire to express contrary opinions to this socially inforced concept.

Taking the first definition of "girl," the song demonstrates how childlike women are treated. According to society, like a child, they should not be allowed to be alone or have rights because they are incapable of having intelligence or making decisions by themselves; therefore, they will only remain to be seen as a young child.

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net | Source

Women Are Trouble

Women are believed to bring more complication into the world. For example, single or married employed women are presumed, by their employers, to want children down the road. The societal belief that every women is maternal or lives to reproduce causes male bosses to have less expectation of them. If women only focus on being mothers that will be bad for business: maternity leave, taking off or leaving early to care for these children. A man, on the other hand, even if he is a father, is not seen as likely to abandon work for his children. This is part of the reason why a man may be hired over a woman.

The moment that I step outside
So many reasons
For me to run and hide
I can't do the little things I hold so dear
'Cause it's all those little things
That I fear

Social Skills

Women are taught to be fearful of walking the streets alone at night from a young age. Walking dark streets without company could end in assault, robbery, getting lost, etc. Society brainwashes women to believe they cannot do things by themselves. When they do try to do things by themselves to fight the stereotypes, and live their lives without restraint, some are assaulted, robbed, lost, etc., regardless. Women can't seem to win.

Instead of making streets safer and/or teaching men to respect women, from a young age, most are encouraged to keep the inequality going. When women are raped, many are blamed for it. Rather than acknowledging that wrong was done by the rapist, the first question tends to be something along the lines of "What were you wearing?" or "Did you do something to provoke this behavior?"

Stefani in September 2009 Gwen Stefani, Bloomingdales
Stefani in September 2009 Gwen Stefani, Bloomingdales | Source

'Cause I'm just a girl I'd rather not be
'Cause they won't let me drive
Late at night I'm just a girl,
Guess I'm some kind of freak
'Cause they all sit and stare
With their eyes

While it's common for people to observe others on a daily basis, women become aware in their early stages that men look at them as objects. Women are constantly reminded of their lower status by this socially accepted form of sexual harassment. Men may gaze over a woman's body, but if she dares to acknowledge this wrongdoing she will receive the same types of questions asked to a woman who was just raped: "What choices did you make to cause this reaction?" The questioner's meaning is always the same: "How do you know it wasn't your fault?"

Message

The majority of the lyrics of "Just A Girl" are satirical, but the song repeats the line "I've had it up to here" as a reminder that none of these realities are ideals for women. It drives women crazy to be seen as objects, to be pulled over for driving late at night, for being questioned why they were assaulted, etc. Gwen Stefani is talking back to male-dominance.

“It’s like unity between the sexes at this point,” Dumont added. “It’s more equality,” Stefani clarified.

gil kaufman, "No Doubt Revisit Their Classic 'Just A Girl' Video, Frame By Frame" MTV News

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"Just A Girl" Music Video

The director, Mark Kohr strategically focuses the camera to switch between a men's bathroom and a women's bathroom, right next to each other. The appearance is drastically different. The rooms are symbolic of gender roles: the men's bathroom lacks any beauty whatsoever. The women's bathroom is decorated like a hotel room. In the men's room, the men rock out on their instruments. In the women's room, Gwen does some rocking out of her own, but then the women make themselves more presentable. None of the men in the men's bathroom do anything to alter their appearances. The bathrooms themselves are designed to signal how each gender should use their time in those rooms. The men should be careless while the women should be as overly decorated as the room they find themselves in.

Of course, in the end, the band and other guests join the women in their room for a party. If only gender were like this in real life.

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