Poststructuralist feminist theorist Hélène Cixous, among other people, pointed out that the gender binary also tended to perpetuate itself in other divisions, such as “Head/Heart,” “Intelligible/Palpable,” and “Logos/Pathos.” The music of Tori Amos asks its fans to stand on the wrong side, the female side, of all those dichotomies.
So, Tori Amos had girls, she had queers, she had various gender nonconformists, and they were all being advised to take their feelings seriously, survive, and stand up for themselves. No wonder this stuff wasn’t hip. But it sold, and it continues to sell: All of her first seven albums (with the exception of her covers album, Strange Little Girls) have gone gold, and the first two, Little Earthquakes and Under the Pink, have gone multiplatinum. Amos still tours at least once every two years, and still meets with fans to take requests and hear their stories before nearly every show. The work stands; the fans remain.
And it stands because Amos—who’s not indie, not mainstream, not riot grrrl, not nice girl—occupies a more or less unique place in the culture. Be yourself was always the message of the work, and she’s been nothing but for almost 20 years. No, Tori Amos isn’t cool. But for the people who love her work, she’s irreplaceable, and she inspires and informs their resistance. As far as legacies go, that seems like one to envy.