Bill Wolff: Welcome back to Protest Anthems, the podcast about all things music, social justice, and protest. In this episode, Bella Oliva discusses Keith Urban’s 2018 song, “Female.” Urban was inspired to release Female following the news of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. This podcast discusses the song, as well as the misogyny that heavily influences country music today. Urban’s performance of the song is especially important as he is able to use his status and privilege in the country music industry to potentially inspire other male artists to do the same.


SkyNews Podcast Introduction: 

Dermot Murnaghan: Harvey Weinstein’s downfall: has it empowered women in the fight against sexual violence in Hollywood and beyond? Welcome to the SkyNews daily podcast…thanks for joining us as we examine the story beyond the headline. On todays episode: “8 women who have changed the course of history in the fight against    sexual violence.” Our group of women brought down one of the film industry’s most powerful men. “We have finally been heard, and believed. It feels like justice is served.”


Bella: After the Harvey Weinstein scandal in October 2017, Keith Urban, along with country music writers Shane McAnally, Ross Copperman, and Nicolle Galyon set out to write a song made to empower women. Soon they developed a country music hit song, known as “Female,” which was released in 2018. This new song contained powerful lyrics that many agree were definitely needed within the country music industry.


Intro of “Female” by Keith Urban:

“When you hear somebody say somebody hits like a girl

How does that hit you? Is that such a bad thing?

When you hear a song that they play sayin’ you run the world

Do you believe it? Will you live to see it?”


Bella: Though it seems interesting, listening to a female empowerment anthem sung by a guy, Keith Urban truly put his heart and soul into the song, as a father of two girls, and a husband to Nicole Kidman. Keith Urban said, despite being surrounded by boys growing up, he is now surrounded by lots of women, which motivated him to write this song with a very empowering message.


Keith Urban interview with Bumble:


“but every now and then I hear a song like that just frames a subject in a way that resonates with me and I think the opening line “when you hear somebody say somebody hits like a girl how does that hit you” I thought that’s an amazing way to open a song.”


Bella: Just prior to the release of “Female”  in October 2017, The New York Times and The New Yorker reported that dozens of women had come forward and accused Harvey Weinstein, arguably one of the most influential film producers in Hollywood, of sexual assault and sexual abuse which spanned over the course of approximately 30 years. In total, over 80 women in the film industry had accused Harvey Weinstein of his horrendous actions. This dark period in time was what sparked Keith Urban’s desire to write and perform “Female.”


Bella: Women have been objectified in country music for far too long, making Urban’s song a breath of fresh air. Most country songs certainly have a stigma or stereotype, such as a love for America, patriotism, trucks, beers, tractors…you know. But unfortunately, and most importantly, misogyny is huge in country music and is something Keith Urban had been passionate to change. In many of these country songs, they contain lyrics that promote women in revealing outfits, getting women under the influence of alcohol, sexual innuendos, stereotypes about a woman’s place in the family, and the list goes on. Luckily there are some songs made by women that show they are aware of this stereotype and hope for change.


“Girl in a Country Song” by Maddie and Tae:

I hear you over there on your tailgate whistlin’ in

Sayin’, “Hey girl”, but you know I ain’t listenin’

‘Cause I got a name, and to you it ain’t

Pretty little thing, honey or baby

It’s drivin’ me red, red, red, red, red, red, redneck crazy

Bein’ the girl in a country song

How in the world did it go so wrong?

Like all we’re good for is lookin’ good for

You and your friends on the weekend, nothin’ more

We used to get a little respect

Now we’re lucky if we even get

To climb up in your truck, keep our mouth shut and ride along

And be the girl in a country song


Bella: On the other hand, one song that exemplifies the typical stereotype is sung by famous country artist Billy Currington. The song is called “Hey Girl,” and it was released in 2013, may seem lighthearted at first, but when you dig into the lyrics, they can get rather…creepy. The song starts off in a bar when he begins to fixate on a girl that he deems attractive.


“Hey Girl” by Billy Currington:

Hey girl, whatcha think girl

You look a little thirsty lemme go getcha something to drink girl



Bella: While the song does have a catchy tune, when you really listen to the lyrics doesn’t it sound a little off-putting? I think this is really common within the country music space.

There are plenty of other country songs that sound just like this, including Luke Bryan’s “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” and Sam Hunt’s “Body Like A Backroad,” which objectify women’s bodies.


“Country Girl (Shake it for me)” by Luke Bryan

“Aw, country girl, shake it for me

Girl, shake it for me

Girl, shake it for me”


“Body Like a Back Road” by Sam Hunt:

“The way she fit in them blue jeans, she don’t need no belt

But I can turn ’em inside out, I don’t need no help

Got a hips like honey, so thick and so sweet

It ain’t no curves like hers on them downtown streets”

Bella: In nearly all country songs, the man is always the “doer.” It’s the man who does the work, makes the “first move,” gets to talk about women and the way they look, and more. But, where is the women’s voice? This is not a new phenomenon here, nor unique to country music. However, country music continues to embrace the traditional gender roles. In a publication, titled “REAL MEN KILL AND A LADY NEVER TALKS BACK,” the author discusses how “country music reflects public discourse and…[promotes] traditional views of gender.” So, with this idea, I definitely think in country music, a man’s voice is the only one that is taken seriously. While I don’t agree with this, I believe it is important to point out and make people aware of. In a way, is Keith Urban using his privilege to speak about issues affecting the female population? I think we might be on to something here, where Keith Urban is recognizing his status within the country music community and is using it to take a stand and make a change.


“Female” by Keith Urban:

When somebody laughs and implies that she asked for it

Just cause she was wearin’ a skirt

Ah, is that how that works?

When somebody talks about how it was Adam first

Does that make you second best?

Or did he save the best for the last?

Bella: If you’re asking yourself, “Why do we need a man to talk about how great females are?,” you’re not crazy. Historically, women in the country music industry tend to be “slighted” in Nashville. It is unfortunate, but there is no doubt that men seem to be more popular in the country industry, as many of the most popular songs in modern times are sung by men. As a result, many critics of “Female” have mocked the song and claimed it was Urban “mansplaining” feminism.


Bella: While Keith Urban has made great strides with his song, some may have thought the title fell a little flat. Female is definitely a touchy word to use when talking about women and I’ve continued to notice this on social media over the past few years. There are memes on TikTok and Twitter that come to mind joking about how it is considered a “red flag” when men call women “females,” which is why I was interested to do some research on the reasoning for why the song was named “Female.” The female writer of the song, Nicolle Galyon, was in full support of the name “Female.” She believes that it was important for a man to sing it (NPR), especially Keith Urban. NPR says that other critics had taken offense that the song uses the word female as a noun.


NPR soundbite:

GALYON: Not only is it important that a man sing it, but it was important that Keith sing it because Keith is believable.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But Urban faced backlash after his performance. Some critics claimed that he was mansplaining feminism to women. Others took offense that the song uses the word female as a noun. Galyon, for one, is owning that word.

GALYON: I can only speak for myself. And I’m so freaking proud to be a female and to be called a female – feels more like a badge of honor to me.”


Female chorus

Sister, shoulder, daughter, lover, healer, broken halo

Mother nature, fire, suit of armor, soul survivor, holy water

Secret keeper, fortune teller, virgin Mary

Scarlet letter, technicolor, river wild, baby girl, woman, child


Bella: These lyrics are super impactful and important to me. Hearing a male country artist sing about all the amazing qualities that women hold shows that the feminist movement is definitely making an impact on society and popular culture. Keith Urban’s voice while singing the song seems, at least to me, that he genuinely cares about what he is singing about. In many social media posts and news articles, people say that victims are sisters, daughters, mothers, teachers and more, rather than just a “victim.” By Keith Urban singing these incredible titles women hold, as well as something as powerful as “mother nature,” shows the uniqueness of these lyrics.

Bella: I feel as though my feelings are further supported by various popular sources online. Bringing the song back to its roots, “Female”, was released right at the epicenter of the #MeToo movement. In an online blog, titled “Taste of Country,” the author Billy Dukes really does a great job at summarizing what I wanted to explain. They say, quote “[Keith Urban is] harmonizing with every woman who anxiously typed #MeToo on social media recently, and the millions who couldn’t bring themselves to do it.” end quote. I really felt that. Critics aside, the song really does a good job at inspiring women all over the world. It fights back against a culture revolved around sex and truly promotes women as people—not objects. I found this article to be interesting as this is how the song was perceived by actual fans of country music. So, it’s not just me, the casual listener, who is excited to see this change, but hardcore country music fans themselves!

Bella: Moving forward, Keith Urban continues to stand behind the song and its message. When he was asked about why he chose this song, he said, “I think it’s just time for a recalibrating of the past, you know? Things have been a certain way for a long, long time, and I think you’re seeing a turning of the tide for that,” From Keith Urban’s own words, he wants those stigmas about women from the past gone and the tides to finally change. He recognizes that things aren’t progressing in the way we want them to. What he has done was set into motion, or at least helped in some way, to create a movement that respects women and appreciates them for who they are.


Bridge & end of “Female:”

She’s the heart of life

She’s the dreamer’s dream

She’s the hands of time

She’s the queen of kings

Sister, shoulder, daughter, lover, healer, broken halo

Mother nature, fire, suit of armor, soul survivor, holy water

Secret keeper, fortune teller, virgin Mary

Scarlet letter, technicolor, river wild, baby girl, woman, child