Despite her aversion to the public eye, Fiona Apple speaks when she feels her voice is necessary – and with the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe V. Wade, she is encouraging other women to do the same.
In a statement reposted on YouTube, she said,
“We have to talk about how we feel about this, how unacceptable this is. We have to keep on expressing ourselves because this is all about control,” she said in a video shared with fans. “It’s not about life, it’s all about control.”
Fiona Apple speaks and gives thoughts on YouTube
Fiona Apple is intimately familiar with the ways our society tries to control women’s behaviors: she has experienced it on the national scale. She first emerged in 1996 with her slinky, deeply felt debut, “Tidal”, followed by a 1997 music video for the runaway hit “Criminal”.
In the video, 18-year-old Apple skulks around a dimly lit basement, drapes her half-naked body across dirty furniture, and looks up at the camera with haunted, mascara-haloed eyes.
This provoked a modest backlash, with some viewers alarmed by the overt sexualization of a barely legal adult, but the reaction was broadly positive.
With the smash success of “Criminal”, abruptly, Apple had a new image to uphold. She was now the “bad, bad girl,” simultaneously the beguiler and the waifish victim.
It was not a role she was comfortable in, or one that she felt was particularly authentic. She described this in a written statement following her 1997 VMA speech.
“I had successfully created the illusion that I was perfect and pretty and rich… I’d saved myself from misfit status, but I’d betrayed my own kind by becoming a paper doll in order to be accepted,” she said.
Apple lashed out against this artificial image, as well as the industry propping up such images: the invisible teams of managers, makeup artists, and promoters who elevate celebrities into mythic beings.
The aforementioned VMA speech had her imploring girls and women to not “model your life about what you think that we think is cool and what we’re wearing and what we’re saying and everything.” Instead, she asked them to “Go with yourself. Go with yourself.”
Her speech was picked apart by the public, music critics, and gossip magazines alike, who pinned her as a rebellious ingrate. They didn’t disparage the content of her speech or claim that she was incorrect.
Her honesty was the issue and her expletive-ridden delivery. Essentially, her unwillingness to submit to control in an environment that had strict standards for women’s politeness.
Despite those trying to tear her down, Apple has continued to speak on issues that matter to her, leveraging the time and attention given to celebrities.
Alongside verbal statements, she uses the rhetorical power of her music to encourage other women to get angry and stay loud.
Her most recent album, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters”, was full of sharply feminist sentiment – “For Her” was recorded just after the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a scalding, indignant song telling the stories of female sexual assault victims.
“Ladies” encourages women to not let men turn them against each other. “Under the Table” has Apple declaring she will not be silenced even if she is “kicked under the table”, furthering the stance she took at the VMAs, an inability to spin false niceties despite social pressures to stay quiet.
All of these ideas lead to the same conclusion. “I’m just one of a lot of women who need to keep on expressing that we do not fucking accept this,” Apple said in her statement on Roe V. Wade.
She has encouraged her fans to call lawmakers. She has no plans to donate to politicians, instead choosing to donate to abortion funds all over the country.
Whenever Fiona Apple speaks, her doctrine of uncompromising honesty suggests that politeness has failed women. There is no way to remain palatable when fighting for bodily autonomy– women must speak their minds.