Ani DiFranco is not a pretty girl. This is what she declares in her song of the same name and arguably the most popular song of her career. The line “I am not a pretty girl” alone speaks to her assertive feminist identity and unwillingness to be defined by her appearance. She returns the male gaze defiantly and unfalteringly, refusing to be objectified or ignored and rejecting the conception that personal value and physical appearance are tied to each other. In contrast to Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush, Ani DiFranco has deliberately established herself as a feminist artist. Her message of dissatisfaction and contempt for gender inequality is direct and assertive, at times verging on aggressive and is relayed to her audience through clear and unapologetic language.
DiFranco blends anger, frustration, and aggression with softness and optimism in her music, creating a delicate balance that disassociates her with man-hating feminist stereotypes while simultaneously putting her in a position to deliver stinging blows to patriarchy. In “Not a Pretty Girl” the contempt she feels is readily apparent, “I don’t need to be rescued/ so put me down you punk” but a positivity can be detected as well, “and generally my generation wouldn’t be caught working for the man
In “Lost Woman Song”, Difranco gives a sobering account of, presumably, her own abortion. She recognizes the emotional turmoil such a decision can cause but defiantly defends a woman’s right to choose this option. The lines “I passed their handheld signs/ went through their picket lines/ they gathered when they saw me cross”, she rails against those who feel entitled to judge women for their reproductive choices and scathingly rebukes the ignorance involved in such views, “I said why don’t you go home/ just leave me alone/ I’m just another woman lost/ you are like fish in the water/ who don’t know that they are wet”.
Difranco’s lyrics are straight-forward and weave narratives grounded in reality. Her willingness to lend her own personal experiences to social movements is brave and certainly has the desired moving affect upon the audience.