The song is an example of threatened emancipation, as the singer tells a lover that he does not own her; that he is not to tell her what to do or what to say; that he is not to put her on display. The song's lyrics became an inspiration for younger women and played in a major factor in the rise of the second wave feminist movement. Gore said, "My take on the song was: I'm 17, what a wonderful thing, to stand up on a stage and shake your finger at people and sing you don't own me". In Gore's obituary, The New York Times referred to "You Don't Own Me" as "indelibly defiant".
A 2015 remake by Australian recording artist Grace (Grace Sewell) featuring G-Eazy was produced by Quincy Jones and released on 17 March 2015. It peaked at number 1 on the ARIA charts and was later certified Platinum by ARIA (for sales of more than 70,000). It has also been a huge success in New Zealand, peaking currently for two consecutive weeks at number 5 for the charts dated July 28 and August 4, 2015.
The song was released worldwide on 17 March 2015. The song grew to prominence in the UK when it was used in the 2015 House of Fraser Christmas advert. It was also performed by 2015 X Factor contestant Lauren Murray on 28 November 2015. The increased UK exposure for the song helped it rise to a current peak of number four on the UK iTunes Store and with growing popularity for the song, it is set to rise further in the official UK charts.
At the time the song was originally released, versions were recorded in several other languages, both by Lesley Gore herself, and by other artists. The German version was "Goodbye Tony", recorded by Lesley Gore. The Italian version was "Va... Tu Sei Libero", recorded by Lesley Gore, Isabella Iannetti, and Dalida. The French version was "Je Ne Sais Plus", recorded by Lesley Gore, Dalida, and Jacqueline Boyer. An alternate French version, "Je Suis Libre", was performed by the Canadian singer Michèle Richard. It was also recorded in Swedish, as "Jag Vill Ha Dig" by Marianne Kock, and in Dutch, as "Ik Wil Vrij Zijn", by Liliane Saint-Pierre, as the B-side to her first hit record, "We Gotta Stop", as well as having been recorded in Japanese by Mieko Hirota.
Andre Hazes recorded a Dutch-language version of the song in 1981 for his album Gewoon Andre; "Zeg Maar Niets Meer" was popular in Europe, and reached No. 2 in the Dutch charts in early 1982. In 1998, Eva Pilarová sung a Czech version under the name "Cesta končí" on the album Requiem.
German countertenor Klaus Nomi included the song on his self-titled debut album in English, emphasizing the song's original gender and, with a few minor lyric adjustments, gave the song a gay theme. The song, like most of Nomi's recordings, was fairly obscure in Nomi's lifetime, but it later gained exposure through posthumous airplay on The Rush Limbaugh Show as the theme to Limbaugh's "Gay Updates."
American rapper Eminem sampled this song for his song "Untitled" as a hidden bonus final track from his 2010 album, Recovery.