Published March 18, 2019 by Rebecca Goldfine

Women's Cabaret Reclaims Sexist Songs

For three years running, the Women's Cabaret at Bowdoin has created a show designed to draw the audience's attention to something easy to tune out—that the lyrics of many American songs contain rather questionable notions about women and gender roles.

Isabel Udell ’19, the creator and director of the Women's Cabaret, said she selected the twelve songs for this year's show based on lyrics that ranged from "the pretty egregious" to "the arguable."

The Women's Cabaret—an all-female production—put on its most recent show at Ladd House. More than 100 students attended the performance, Udell estimated.

Udell said she personally became more aware of negative messages about women in song lyrics when she got serious about her jazz studies at Bowdoin. She is a vocalist.

"Besides this cabaret, all my other ensembles are with men, who are my best friends and are great," she said. "But the combination of usually being the only women [in a group] and flipping through songbooks with all this gross stuff woke something up."

To bring attention to the many songs in pop, jazz, and musical theater, from the 1940s to today, which describe women and relationships in sexist ways—and also to have a bit of fun with them—Udell organized the first Women's Cabaret her sophomore year.

This year, she chartered a new club, Women in Music, which she hopes will continue the cabaret tradition at Bowdoin after she graduates in May.

2019 Women's Cabaret program

  • "I Enjoy Being a Girl" (1956), Flower Drum Song
    Charlotte Nash ’19, Jae Min Yoo ’19, Anne McKee ’20 (violin)
  • "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" (1959), Sound of Music
    Isabel Thomas ’20, Emma Kyzivat ’21, Jae Min Yoo ’19 (piano)
  • "Rude" (2014), MAGIC!
    Gabby Farrell ’21, Gillian Raley ’21, Emma Thompson-Haye ’22 (guitar)
  • "I Can Cook, Too" (1944), On the Town
    Martha Boben ’19, Jae Min Yoo ’19 (piano)
  • "He's My Guy" (1942), Ella Fitzgerald
    Manuela Velasquez ’21, Tashi Brundige ’21 (piano)
  • "Dear Future Husband" (2015), Meghan Trainor
    Isabel Udell ’19, Flora Hamilton ’21 (piano), Anne McKee ’20 (ciolin), Fiona Ahearne ’20 (cell)
  • "Girl Talk" (1956), Neal Hefti
    Devon Garcia ’21, Tashi Brandige ’21 (piano)
  • "Jealous" (2014), Nick Jonas
    Emma Thompson-Haye ’22 (guitar)
  • "Baby, it's Cold Outside" (1944) Frank Loesser
    Ayana Harscoet ’21, Jae Min Yoo ’19, Tashi Brandige ’21 (piano)
  • "Blurred Lines" (2013) Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams
    Charlotte Nash ’19, Katier Serwer ’20, Emma Thompson-Haye ’22, Fiona Ahearne ’20 (cello)
  • "Guess I should Have Loved Him More" (1963) Eydie Gorme
    Anne Gregory ’19, Jae Min Yoo ’19 (piano), Anne McKee ’20 (violin)
  • "Hotline Bling" (2016) Drake
    Norell Sherman ’21, Jae Min Yoo ’19 (piano), Anne McKee ’20 (violin)

Listen to the
original songs on Spotify