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The New York Times (US)
February 3, 1994
Women Off the Pedestal
By Stephen Holden, New York Times
When Tori Amos was writing the songs for her second album, "Under the
Pink," her biggest inspiration was Alice Walker's novel "Possessing the
Secret of Joy."
She was particularly disturbed, she said, by the author's description of
the way women in certain cultures have enforced the ritual genital
mutilation of young girls. It gave her a theme -- women betraying women --
that runs through many of the songs on the record.
"The fact that in some cultures women take their 8-year-old daughters
for clitorectomies isn't talked about much in women's circles, because it's
such a painful issue," she said in a recent telephone interview from
Boston, where she was promoting the album.
"I realized I had always put women on a pedestal and believed that only
men did these kinds of things. The book opened up a door for me. The songs
take the theme of betrayal from the most personal to the most general
The most crucial song, she said, is "Cornflake Girl," on which the
lyrics divide women into two categories: narrow-minded "cornflakes" and
open-minded "raisins." The angriest song, "The Waitress," describes a
personal fantasy of murder.
Amos said she is still an avowed feminist, but one, she added, "who
believes in men's rights and children's rights and even the rights of
Outspoken rebellion is nothing new for the 30-year-old singer and
songwriter, whose father is a Methodist minister in North Carolina.
A child piano prodigy, she was thrown out of the Peabody Conservatory of
Music in Baltimore at the age of 11 for refusing to follow the musical
rules and "was a disappointment to everyone," she recalled.
Although she writes and performs all her songs on the piano, the
musician she claims as her biggest influence is Led Zeppelin guitarist
Religious imagery runs through many of her songs, but it is scarcely
conventional and often confused with sexual passion. In "God," the first
single to be released from "Under the Pink," Amos berates the deity for
"not coming through."
"Being a minister's daughter, I had theology for breakfast, lunch and
dinner," she said. "This song goes after the institutional, patriarchal
God in whose name cultures have been wiped out."
[This interview also appeared in the Fresno Bee on February 6, 1994]
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