Gwen Stefani lent her voice to the iHeartRadio Presents SeeHer Hear Her: Celebrating Women in Music event on International Women’s Day (March 8). During the event – which showcased three dynamic women in music in Gwen, Cardi B, and Kelsea Ballerini – the 51-year-old Gwen reminisced on her career that began with the rock group No Doubt. There was one song in particular, though, that not only changed No Doubt’s position on the music charts but people’s perception of Gwen as well.Of course, this song was “Just A Girl,” the tongue-in-cheek song about womanhood that put No Doubt on the map in 1995. Gwen helped create the song’s iconic lyrics after taking songwriting seriously following her brother Eric‘s exit from the band in 1994. “I just thought the idea of ‘Well I’m just a girl,’ I’m being sarcastic like, ‘Oh that’s all you are?’…That was a good way to say that,” Gwen explained during iHeartRadio’s livestream event, which she wore a sleek black turtleneck for.
“This song, I knew when I would do it live, something changed. People didn’t know the words necessarily, but something about the energy of this song, [it] felt like people [were] relating to it,” Gwen continued. “For a while, it felt like I was this girl in an all guy situation, in a band where the girls looked at me like, ‘[Mock scoffing] Who are you to be up there?’ But then there was a certain point where that turned into like, ‘Woah…we’re homies. We’re on the same team.'”
From that point on, Gwen admitted that other women were “looking at” her in “a different way.” Looking back at this career-defining moment, she added, “And that was crazy, because I never thought that I would have an impact on anyone, let alone another girl would look at me with that energy. So it was a pretty magical time to find my gift [of songwriting].”However, Gwen admitted that she didn’t intend it to be an anthem when she wrote it. “I was just so naive. I literally hadn’t even written very many songs. I didn’t even knew who I was — nobody knew,” The Voice judge said during a 2019 appearance on
The View. “I just kind of wrote this song because I felt like I was just getting in touch with that feeling that when you’re born, if you’re a female, you don’t think about it, you’re just human. Then, through life, you sort of start to realize, ‘Oh wait, someone just whistled. What does that mean?'”
“And then through life you sort of start to realize you get this kind of power through your sexuality, but then you’re kind of vulnerable at the same time because all of a sudden you’re a victim. You have all these awarenesses as you’re getting older and I just wanted to write a song about that,” she added. “I thought the idea of ‘Just A Girl’ was like, sarcastic. So I never thought anyone would hear the song or that like we would be sitting here talking about it all these years later, but I feel proud of it.”
Gwen has defined her brand of feminism over the years, sometimes clashing with the groupthink of the day. “The scene that I grew up in,” she told Vogue in 2008, “with female artists like Bikini Kill and Hole and all these more punk-rock girls, I always had the pressure of ‘You’ve got to be a feminist and you’ve got to hate guys. And you’ve got to cuss and be tough.’ And I was never like that. I grew up, like, a Catholic good girl. Total Brady Bunch family. That always kind of scared me, the pressure of having to be so cool or like, ‘f-ck’ you to the world. But I kind of got over that and realized that, yes, I love to dress up and I love to wear makeup and be myself. I like being a girl; I like having a door opened for me; I like all that traditional stuff and I won’t deny it.”
“If I got pregnant right now, I wouldn’t get an abortion. But isn’t it cool that nobody can tell me what I can and can’t do?” Gwen said during a 1995 benefit concert put on Rock For Choice, a reproductive rights advocacy group founded by the all-women rock band L7, according to Buzzfeed’s thorough 2018 profile on Gwen’s feminism. The response angered the concert’s promoters, but it was demonstrative of Gwen’s brand of feminism. Since then, she has continued to prove she is a female icon, one who can blend sparkles, rainbows, and “girly-girl” elements with equality, fairness, and empowerment.