I heard denouncements of the song before I ever heard it:
“This is a terrible and unladylike attitude.”
“It is not who God made women to be.”
The denouncements came from Christian™ ultra-conservatives. When I heard the song itself, I was surprised: If this song replaced the word “woman” with the word “Christian, and originally appeared on a Christian album1, nobody would have complained. (The writer, Helen Reddy, told that her words were divinely inspired – and I believe it.)
But this song called women to be bold and brave. It would have been fine, for this group, to call Christians to boldness – but not to call women to the same. Boldness and bravery are good – but not for women as a group. When I heard the song, I realized the critics were prejudiced, the song is good:
I am woman, hear me roar/ In numbers too big to ignore
I am one of the two forms in which God’s image comes (Gen 1:27) – hear my (our) insights as a valuable person (people).
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
I believe in truth – no falseness or pretending for me. (John 8:32)
’cause I’ve heard it all before/ And I’ve been down there on the floor/ No one’s ever gonna keep me down again/
CHORUS: Oh yes I am wise/ But it’s wisdom born of pain/ Yes, I’ve paid the price/ But look how much I gained
I saw a lot, and it gave me wisdom. I use what I learned for what I do now, and I use it to warn others (Matthew 13:52, Rom 8:28)
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
Some Christians will say that “invincible” is not a Christian belief. However, we do believe that if God is for us, nobody can be successfully against us. (Rom 8:31)
I am woman/
You can bend but never break me
(2 Corinthians 4:7-9)
’cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
’cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
CHORUS I am woman watch me grow
Grow in the grace and knowledge of God (2 Peter 3:18) is one form of growth, but this song is more about growing in wisdom and love – both Christian attributes.
See me standing toe to toe/ As I spread my lovin’ arms across the land
Even when I need to oppose someone, I still do it out of love(Matt. 22:39.)
But I’m still an embryo/ With a long, long way to go
There is still a lot of growth needed.
Until I make my brother understand
If one part of the body suffers, all suffer. (1Cor 12:26) Men need to understand the problems women have.
Oh yes I am wise/ But it’s wisdom born of pain/ Yes, I’ve paid the price/ But look how much I gained/ If I have to I can face anything/ I am strong (strong)/ I am invincible (invincible)/ I am woman/ Oh, I am woman/ I am invincible/ I am strong
FADE I am woman/ I am invincible/ I am strong/ I am woman
True, this song does not mention if God is the source of wisdom and strength. But then, few
inspirational songs do, and I never saw a religious person writing against another song for that reason. Was this song ever used to inspire women with less lofty goals to work towards those goals? I am sure it was. But – any inspirational speech, songbook, or even silly meme could be used for inspiring people with not-so-great goals.
Suppose someone hears motivational speaker Nick Vujicic and feels that he finally have the courage to leave his job and pursue a full-time singing career. Actually, this motivated person is a mediocre singer whom almost nobody would pay to hear, and leaving his job would make his family struggle. Or imagine a woman reading an inspirational quote by Elie Wiesel about the importance of speaking up when they see injustice, while misunderstanding a situation. She then speaks up against someone who did right. We all sometimes do the wrong thing, convinced we are doing right. Would these stories, or a hundred like it, mean Nick’s attitude, or Elie’s, is wrong? It would not.
Why, then, do people speak against the words of women who inspire as if the words themselves are evil? I think I know, and the answer is not pretty:
1 Contemporary Christian Music albums did not even exist at the time this song came out. And Reddy’s vision was not to discuss religious belief. As such, this “if” only makes the point that the song is actually not offensive but encouraging.