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My name's Clifford Stumme, and I explain the deeper meanings of popular songs. Let's have a conversation about what you think about the songs and go deeper together. Feel free to email me at clifford@popsongprofessor.com with questions or ideas!

What does "Woman" by Kesha mean?

What does "Woman" by Kesha mean?

"Woman" Lyrics Meaning

Again, Kesha surprises us with a new single and music video seemingly out of the blue. "Praying" surprised everyone last Thursday morning (particularly surprising because music usually drops Thursday at midnight rather than early in the morning). And now "Woman" is her next single from her upcoming album Rainbow. And this one sounds more like classic "Ke$ha"--swearing, partying, and ego-boosting. But it's different ego-boosting from her earlier work. This time, she's not deriving power from her party-girl status, but from her womanhood. 

"I don't need a man to be holding me too tight"

Kesha's song follows the vein of much of what Meghan Trainor writes: a somewhat humorous approach to reminding women they can be their own person and don't need to be subservient to men. Kesha accomplishes this mainly by reminding us that she makes her own money and doesn't need a guy to "buy me a drink." Interestingly too, she also tells us, "I write my shit," which is an interesting bid on her part to claim sincerity in her lyrics and to let her fans know that when they listen to her songs, they're hearing from her. 

Verse 1

I buy my own things; I pay my own bills
These diamond rings, my automobiles
Everything I got, I bought it
Boys can't buy my love, buy my love, yeah
I do what I want, say what you say
I work real hard every day

In the first verse of "Woman," Kesha reminds men who might hit on her that she's not interested. She buys her "own things" and pays her "own bills." She doesn't plan to be a stay-at-home wife, and doesn't need a man to get a job to support her. In fact, she's been very successful and alludes to her "diamond rings" and "automobiles" and tells us that "[e]verything [she's] got, [she] bought it."

In what seems to be a dig at "traditional" American white-picket-fence marriages, Kesha tells us, "Boys can't buy my love . . . ." She's annoyed that many courting customs involve a boy showing his love with money, a custom which perhaps made more sense when women had less earning power than they do now. Whatever the boy does, Kesha will do what she wants: "I do what I want, say what you say / I work real hard every day." She's annoyed that men would think she'd be flattered by them offering to buy things for her when she likely makes more money than them.

Chorus

I'm a motherfucking woman, baby, alright
I don't need a man to be holding me too tight
I'm a motherfucking woman, baby, that's right
I'm just having fun with my ladies here tonight
I'm a motherfucker

The chorus further sets the storyline in a bar at which Kesha is "having fun with my ladies here tonight." She's not waiting to be hit on and doesn't "need a man to be holding me too tight." Instead, she attaches additional significance to the word "woman" when she claims, "I'm a motherfucking woman, baby, that's right." She's making the claim that being a woman is something intense and powerful. The us of the expletive "motherfucker" is her providing an example of her ability to be tough and confident in who she is simply because she is a woman. When she finishes the verse by singing, "I'm a motherfucker," she's stepping beyond her claims to being a woman and just wants us to know that whatever her gender, she's going to do what she wants. 

Verse 2

Let's drive around town in my Cadillac
Girls in the front, boys in the back
Loosey as a goosey, and we're looking for some fun

Verse two in "Woman" is more of Kesha asserting dominance when she sings, "Girls in the front, boys in the back" while they're driving "around town in my Cadillac." She and her girlfriends are "[l]oosey as a goosey, and we're looking for some fun." They just want to have a good time and they're ready to find it.

Bridge

Don't buy me a drink, I make my money
Don't touch my weave, don't call me "honey"
('Cause I write this shit, baby, I write this shit)
I write my shit / I run my shit

The bridge is a further statement of personal power. Kesha tells a guy who might be hitting on her to not buy her a drink because she "make[s] [her] money." She tells him to not "touch [her] weave" and to not call her "honey." She doesn't want to be condescended to, and she wants him to be respectful of her personal space. (More on the last line below...)

Deeper Meaning of "Woman" by Kesha: Becoming Her Own Woman

Most interestingly though are the lines where she sings, "I write my shit," and, "I run my shit." These appear to be Kesha claiming that she writes her own music and that she has an important hand in running the business aspect of her music. Perhaps with Dr. Luke she felt too much like she was dependent on him or that he was in charge--that was what most of the court case was about after all. She saw at least some of the conflicts arise because she was female and perhaps saw him as a domineering male, and so "Woman" to some extent seems to be her taking power from her womanhood rather than let it limit her like Dr. Luke might have wanted her to. 

Of course, in Kesha's lyrics, she's often been willing to be domineering. In "Tik Tok," she threatens to kick guys "to the curb unless they look like McJagger." She's often been willing to assert herself, but now she seems to be continuing that trend outside of her relationships with men.

However, it will be interesting to see if Rainbow has any advice for women who can't rest on wealth to derive their empowerment. The single line "I'm a motherfucking woman" does suggest that womanhood can be strong and shouldn't be ashamed of, but when Kesha develops her reasons why in the verses, she skirts that issue and instead relies on her economic status to derive power. It's as if the line could have been "I'm motherfucking rich." I think this represents a hole in her positive message, but perhaps another song on Rainbow will answer this. 

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