This week’s Woman Crush Wednesday goes to one of our favorite feminist warriors, Tori Amos. The list of reasons why Tori Amos deserves all of our awe and respect is infinitely long, but we will mention a few here. A rock ‘n’ roll legend, Amos has been a musical virtuoso since the age of three, when she taught herself how to play the piano. She was later admitted to the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University at the age of five—the youngest person to ever be admitted. To make her even cooler, she was then kicked out of the Peabody Institute at 11, for “musical insubordination.” It doesn’t get more rock ‘n’ roll than that.
Her “musical insubordination” became the inspiration behind her first band’s name, Y Kant Tori Read, a reference to her refusal to read sheet music, preferring memorization and improvisation. While Y Kant Tori Read ended up a commercial failure, Amos’s musical journey was just beginning—she later went on to become one of the most influential women in rock ‘n’ roll, and a feminist icon to many. From Under the Pink to Native Invader, Amos has consistently produced music that is powerful and frightening, unswervingly refusing to play into the gender expectations pushed upon her. Rather, her music shines a light on the less palatable sides of society—sexism, prejudice, violence, and opression.
In her recent 33 1/3, Tori Amos’s Boys for Pele, Amy Gentry highlights Amos’s rejection of the feminine expectations shoved onto her appearance and music. Rather, her 1996 album dives deep and buries itself in this rejection, choosing instead to scream “Stagshit! Starfucker! It better be big, boy!” in the middle of her melodies. From Gentry herself:
The album sounded like a wasteland, too … On some tracks, the piano was so distorted that it sounded as if it really were being set on fire; and although it still appeared on every track, it had been demoted, replaced as the dominant instrument of the album by the harpsichord, a piano with a head cold and a nasty sneer. Softness was all but missing from Boys for Pele; at once alien and archaic, the harpsichord is not capable of softness … What if disgust were something every woman had to navigate in order to access the idea of taste—in music, in art, and in life? What if an aesthetics of disgust could show us that what we despise in others is actually something we fear within ourselves—and, with the dreadful, frightening persistence of the disgusting, teach us to love it?
Disgusting, beautiful, and relentlessly cool, Tori Amos is fighting for a world where women can produce their art however they wish, no matter how “feminine” it may be. And for that, we dedicate this Woman Crush Wednesday to her!