In 1964, Lesley Gore belted out “You Don’t Own Me” and a feminist song was born.
It’s still resonating in the 21st century as debate over women’s issues bubbles in the United States before Nov. 6.
On Monday, a video hit YouTube with Gore introducing her song saying, “I’m Lesley Gore and I approve this message.”
The video features many women, girls and a few indie stars of all ages lip-syncing the song, and, at times, holding signs about their reproductive freedom. “My body is not a battleground,” read one. Another said, “Get Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries.”
The video, labeled as “YouDon’tOwnMePSA,” is the mastermind of Sarah Sophie Flicker, a law school graduate, filmmaker, trapeze artist, mother and leader of New York’s The Citizens Band, a cabaret collective that makes political statements.
She writes in an e-mail to PAPER magazine about the video: “Personally, I’m struck by the fact that we are teetering dangerously close to a situation where my daughter won’t have the same rights I’ve enjoyed my entire life and that scares the heck out of me. Women constituted 60% of last elections voters. We can win this thing. We just have to agitate, motivate, and get out the darn vote!”
She asked several friends including Carrie Brownstein, a guitarist and vocalist in Wild Flag and star of “Portlandia,” teen fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson, creator of the website “Rookie,” who recently asked for an interview with President Obama, and Miranda July, a popular performance artist.
The video hits as women’s rights become a critical concern leading into Election Day.
“Mitt Romney and the Republican Party are determined to overturn Roe V. Wade,” the summary under the video states. “Romney has not supported equal pay for women (The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act). Romney has vowed to defund Planned Parenthood. Romney has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Romney doesn’t want health care to cover birth control. Romney says same sex marriage should be banned with a Constitutional Amendment.”
In last week’s debate, Romney became the punch line for jokes as he mentioned that he had “binders full of women” as he was hiring them for top position in his cabinet as Massachusetts’ governor. It was in response to a question about equal pay for women, which Romney never fully answered.
Republicans argue the war on women is a myth, but many candidates, both Republican and Democrat, have shown that is not the case.
Missouri Republican Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin has led the charge with a variety of remarks. He said in August that women victims of what he described as “legitimate rape” rarely experience pregnancy from that rape. This weekend, he called his opponent, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, a dog. An Akin aide went further on Monday, tweeting a profanity about McCaskill.
Last week, Arizona Democratic senate candidate Richard Carmona, who has had a difficult time connecting with female voters, told a male moderator in his debate that he was “prettier” than CNN’s Candy Crowley.
It’s that kind of rhetoric “You Don’t Own Me” protests. The women starring in the video obviously endorse Obama and encourage other women to do the same: “Our vote alone can win this election…A vote for Obama sends a message: This war on women must end. We will not go backwards.”
The gender gap has narrowed in recent weeks, and that’s what scares women like Gore.
At the video’s end, the former 1960s teen idol, now 66, says, “It’s hard for me to believe but we’re still fighting for the same things we were then. Yes, ladies, we’ve got to come together and get out there and vote and protect our bodies. They’re ours. Please vote.”
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker