what is the soul?” —Walt Whitman
Michael Gira of Swans, Mohawk, 2/18/11
times I’ve been to Mohawk: 4
fights I’ve witnessed at Mohawk: at least 3
Amos’s music and lyrics were pretty, emotionally expressive, vulnerable: in other words, stereotypically feminine. But they weren’t coy or girlish; they were laced with anger and sadness, and they addressed taboo topics. A song in which a little girl talked to an icicle could turn very quickly into a song about masturbation; a song about a miscarriage could contain lyrics about mermaids. Amos wasn’t connected with a feminist music scene like riot grrrl; she didn’t tour with Lilith Fair or perform at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. But her mouthy, brash style wasn’t easily assimilated outside of feminism, either.
In rock music, there tends to be two types of women granted the stage: tough girls and nice girls. Tough girls—Polly Jean Harvey, Patti Smith—get respect, albeit grudgingly, because they display traits we honor in men: They’re confrontational, direct, balls-out. Nice girls—Dusty Springfield, Sarah McLachlan—are admired for displaying the compliance and sweetness we associate with femininity. Of course, it’s a false dichotomy: No one is purely nice or purely strong. But Amos, who was both achingly, publicly vulnerable and openly defiant, fit most easily into a shadowy third category, feared by performers and lambasted by critics: the hysterical, shrieking female. It had claimed Sinead O’Connor before her, and would claim Fiona Apple after. But her fans loved the combination of public hurt and defiance. The story of the wounded ugly duckling turned rock-star swan spoke to women. It spoke to social outcasts. It spoke to survivors of sexual violence or abuse. And it spoke to LGBT people, especially young gay men, who had particular reason to connect with Amos’s recurring themes of religious repression and sexual shame, and who still constitute a large part of her fan base.
Derisive references to Tori Amos fans started to crop up in her press almost as soon as those fans came into existence. A 1994 article in the U.K.’s New Musical Express described them as a “a quivering gaggle of whey-faced young oddities,” and Amos as “mother of a thousand fuck-ups.” The word “obsessive” started to appear a lot, as did “cult.” By the late ’90s, everything written about Amos was seemingly obliged to mention her “fanatical” listeners, and the fan phenomenon soon eclipsed discussion of her music. This culminated in a 1999 Spin cover story, which (unflatteringly) profiled some of the fans and asserted that there’s “no such thing as a casual Tori fan. People either dismiss her music as pretentious and twee, or they cover their entire body in Tori tattoos.” Of course, Amos appealed to plenty of boys and men who wanted to cast her as their personal Manic Pixie Dream Girl. But as time went on, the deeply gendered narrative of the obsessive, hyper-emotional weirdo took over. The Spin article actually had to point out that “Amos has resonance for guys, too, although they’re often teased mercilessly for it.”” —
Sady Doyle. wrote about Tori. for Bitch. happy Valentime’s to ME!
so many effeminate feelings. <3