Writing social change: Tori Amos on music as a transformative power


Tori Amos

From abuse to activism

Tori Amos is known for “lyrically opaque but emotionally intense songs that cover a wide range of subjects including sexuality, religion, patriarchy and personal tragedy.” [Wikipedia profile]

Her song “Me And A Gun” (1991) was a response to her brutal rape.

She has openly talked about her abuse, and in 1994 co-founded the rape hotline, RAINN, The Rape Abuse and Incest National Network – which lists statistics including “One in six American women are victims of sexual assault, and one in 33 men.”

The political is personal

In an interview by Paul Tingen, Tori Amos talked about her album American Doll Posse:

“The main message is: the political is personal,” she says.

“This as opposed to the feminist statement from years ago that the personal is political. I know it has been said that it goes both ways, but we have to turn it around. We have to think like that. I’m now taking on subjects that I could not have been able to take on in my twenties.

“With Little Earthquakes I took on more personal things. But if you are going to be an American woman in 2007 with a real view on what is going on, you need to be brave, and you need to know that some people won’t want to look at it.

Speaking out for American women

“For me the new album is about representing the American women that I see and meet, but that right now is not the world’s view of American women.

“And there are those in the American media and right wing that try to shame these women for speaking out. And you know, I’m a minister’s daughter, so if you try to shame me, my mojo grows!”

[As a minister’s daughter, she’s long fought against the way the Christian church pushes women into guilt and shame about their femininity and sexuality, notes Tingen.]

Reminding women of their potential

“Music itself has a transformative power that tends to be forgotten. It can ignite a flame in the listener. There’s nothing stronger than making someone feel that they have the right to question those in authority. And I don’t think this battle will be won by using music the way it was used in the sixties.

“You don’t want to get dragged into the rhetoric of either party, because if you are, you’ve been seduced into their lair. Instead it’s about reminding women, and men—but there are more young women than men standing in line at my show—of their potential.”


Top photo from facebook.com/toriamos

Lower photo from the book: Piece by Piece – by Tori Amos with Ann Powers – “an autobiography that delves deeply into Amos’s interest with mythology and religion and explores her songwriting process as well as telling the story of her progression into fame.” [From Wikipedia profile]