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Joplin and Parton: Different Notes of Feminism

Feminism can be blonde. Or blue

Two of the greatest women musicians ever continue to remind us to #LiveYourLife

Today (January 19) is the birthday of two of the greatest female musicians of all time. The first died at the age of 27 nearly half a decade ago, but that hasn’t diminished her reputation as the Queen of Rock. The other, alive and kicking at 69, is one of the most successful Country singers ever. Their personas are as different as chalk and cheese, but Janis Joplin and Dolly Parton have one thing in common – after being snubbed by feminists at the peak of their musical careers, they are now widely proclaimed as feminist icons. Their musical legacy is widely celebrated, but what lessons can we learn from the way they lived their lives? My Big Red Bag takes a quick peek into the distinct brand of feminism that defines these extraordinary women.

Janis Joplin is the perfect template for today’s “rebel with a cause”, a woman who refuses to stay within the narrow confines of feminine decorum. She was just like the big bad boys of the 60’s Rock and Roll movement – eager to experiment with drugs, sex and music. Her sexual freedom and willingness to lay bare a woman’s vulnerability made her a pariah with her fellow American feminists, who viewed this as pandering to the male fantasy. Ironically, it is these very eccentricities, juxtaposed with her her girl-next-door persona, that makes her a darling of the modern feminist. For us, the most remarkable thing about Joplin remains her ability to thrive in a profession that was ruled by men, opening the door for today’s musical divas. No one has conveyed the desires of a woman as well as that jagged voice crooning “Sittin’ down by my window”.

Ball And Chain 

That’s how you announce your arrival

Love’s got a hold on me, baby,
Feels just like a ball and chain.

Mercedes Benz

Honestly, I prefer the Porsche

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town ?
I’m counting on you, Lord, please don’t let me down.
Prove that you love me and buy the next round,
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town ?

Piece of my Heart 

And that’s how you do it

Take another little piece of my heart now, baby!
Oh, oh, break it!
Break another little bit of my heart, now darling, yeah, c’mon now


Think Dolly Parton and you immediately get a vision of  blonde hair, big breasts and a heavily made up face that has gone under the knife one too many times. In short, a woman who is trying too hard to look like a hottie at the advanced age of 69. To make matters worse, she’s also been happily married to the same man for close to 50 years and owns a theme park called, hold your breath, Dollywood. But behind the blonde façade is a woman who is not just one of the canniest businesswomen in show-biz, but also one who passionately believes in equality – as evidenced by her speaking out against hypocrisy in sexual mores for women in her first breakout hit, and her support for the LGBT community. Her husky honey voice always gets us swinging, but you know what we admire most about Parton? It’s that dogged refusal to act her age.

Just Because I’m a Woman

Beat It, Buster

Yes, I’ve made my mistakes
But listen and understand
My mistakes are no worse than yours
Just because I’m a woman

Blue Smoke 

Vintage Country

 I left a note I wrote I’m leaving
And I won’t be coming back
Blue smoke rolling, rolling, rolling
Rolling, rolling down the track

9 to 5 

The anthem for working women

They just use your mind and they never give you credit
It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it
9 to 5, for service and devotion
You would think that I would deserve a fair promotion

Happy birthday Janis Joplin and Dolly Parton. Thanks for the reminder to live my life, MY way.

Image courtesy: Fabio Talamonti via Compfight cc

My Big Red Bag brings original content inspired by life’s joys and passions. Find more feminist icons here, and stay tuned to our latest by following us on Twitter and FB!

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