After our awesome post about women in hip hop from our fantastic guest blogger Revolution, we’ve decided that we would like to continue with the theme of women and music via a few more guest bloggers who will extol their wisdom over the coming month. But to start off the women and music theme posts, I thought I’d ask for a little share & tell time. Oftentimes we talk about the CLICK moment–that time in your life where feminism clicked in your mind and you were forever changed. This time, though, we’d like to come at it from another direction:
Who was the female/feminist singer or band (and what was the album) that made you CLICK in a female-positive way?
As for me: it was 1997 and it was this:
Fiona Apple’s debut album Tidal was my CLICK. I had just entered middle school…oh the god-awful memories come flooding back…and I was just starting to really get into music on my own terms and not my brother’s or my father’s or my friend’s. At the time Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill was rockin’ the radio and boy did I know that album backwards and forwards. (Seriously though, just try to find one woman my age who doesn’t still know every word to every song.) I loved Alanis, yet even while she was being touted as this feisty angry chick, I still found something pedestrian about her songs. I yearned for something deeper, someone stronger.
Then along came Fiona. Angry, dark, deep and moody as fuck, this bitch had shit to say and at only 19 years old she was gonna say it. Nineteen years old!! (Just think of the crap Britney Spears was putting out at 19!) In 1997 I along with the rest of America was entranced by the video for Criminal as the song started out
“I’ve been a bad, bad girl / I’ve been careless with a delicate man / And it’s a sad, sad world / When a girl would break a boy / just because she can.”
With ‘Criminal’ and ‘Sleep To Dream’ Fiona appeared a forceful and opinionated, brooding and articulate woman in whom I had found my hero. I immediately rushed to Cheapo to buy the album; I still remember unwrapping the CD and putting it in my CD player for the first time, completely entranced. I was hurt like her! I was sad like her! Oh it was love at first listen. She had a lot to say and her deep voice was strong and powerful. She wasn’t some pop-princess tart, she was a feminist, and she wasn’t gonna take your shit:
“This mind, this body, and this voice cannot be stifled by your deviant ways / So don’t forget what I told you, don’t come around, I got my own hell to raise.”
She sang about love and relationships in a way that didn’t paint her as a wilting flower or a passive pretty portrait. In the relationships she sang of she had what I felt other female artists lacked–agency:
“I’ll let you see me / I’ll covet your regard / I’ll invade your demeanor / And you’ll yield to me like a scent in the breeze / And you’ll wonder what it is about me / It’s my big secret, keeping you coming / Slow like honey, heavy with mood.”
Fiona was in control and she exerted her power. Her poetic words entranced me to view life differently, to express myself beautifully, to find my voice. At the MTV Video Music Awards she won for Best New Artist and then proceeded to give a now infamous speech saying “Everyone that’s out there watching–this world, this world is bullshit. And you shouldn’t model your life about what you think we think is cool and what we’re wearing and what we’re saying and everything. Go with yourself. Go with yourself.” Afterwards she was criticized as a freak out crazy female (heaven forbid a female rally against societal sheep), but as an awkward 13 year old, that’s exactly what I needed to hear–go with yourself. Her voice was strong and proud and she wasn’t ashamed to speak up. I wouldn’t be either.
Over ten years later I still love Tidal and listen to it frequently. The following two albums Fiona put out were equally as good–haunting and non-formulated melodies, beautiful prose, and still as bitchin’ as ever. (I really want to get the lyrics from ‘Extraordinary Machine’ tattooed on my back– “I mean to prove I mean to move in my own way / And say I’ve been getting along for long before you came into the play”) But Tidal holds that special place in my heart as my click moment for women in music–that women had a place in music, that women did have things to say and could be strong and opinionated and not carbon cut out mouthpieces with boobs.
So thank you, Fiona Apple, for setting me on my course to feminism, I am forever indebted to you.
So who did you lose it to?