I can’t remember how old I was when I first discovered Alanis Morissette or at what age my parents actually let me listen to her music. What I do know is that at age 26, I fully appreciate the empowering feminist message that was tucked away in Jagged Little Pill. Whether is was masked by the anger in “You Oughta Know” or hidden by the insecurities in “Perfect”, this album is an example (and in my opinion, the start) of the huge girl power movement in the ’90s.
There are a lot of stories behind “You Oughta Know”, the most popular one being that it was written about David Coulier (of Full House fame). I have to be honest, even since I heard that rumor it’s been pretty hard to watch Full House because I always think of the line “would she go down on you in a theater?” while watching. I’m sure there have been angry songs about break ups and relationships before but this song is most prominent in my head. In my opinion, it made it okay for women to talk about how they really feel about a break up without writing some sappy, heartbroken ballad. Who is honestly just sad about a break up? You get mad, you feel wronged and it’s just not fair. Without Alanis Morissette standing up for herself and expressing how pissed off she really was about that break up (whether it was about Joey on Full House or not), this paved the way for artists like Kelly Clarkson and Taylor Swift. Revenge was sweet for Ms. Morissette this round, her spiteful break up song became a hit and made her a household name.
“Forgiven” though not a single off the album, is another example of a feminist anthem from Morissette. The song is about the double standards put upon women, mostly about sex. The song is also based on the beliefs of Catholicism. Man or woman, you are taught as a catholic premarital sex is immoral. “I never forgot it, confusing as it was, No fun with no guilt feelings” this clear signifies that a Catholic is suppose to feel guilty about something that is completely natural and enjoyable. When it comes to sex and women, it is a common double standard that a sexual woman (whether it be with partners or masturbation) is a whore while a man is champion. “My brothers they never went blind for what they did but I may as well have”. It’s about praising men and their sexuality but punishing women. I can’t think of another song by a woman, other than “Like a Prayer” by Madonna that incorporated sexuality and religion, she was a pioneer again in this sense.
The song “Perfect” is one I connected with personally. The song includes overbearing parents that expect too much of their child(ren), but since I did not have parents like that, I connected to it as not being able to live up to the stereotypical standards that are expected of women. “Sometimes is never quite enough If you’re flawless, then you’ll win my love…” We’re expected to be “perfect”; to be the best and not show a hint of weakness or imperfections. A woman will not always be a size zero, a blonde, have large breasts or any other ridiculous stereotypical trait that has a lot of women (including myself at times) feeling insecure. The lyrics “I’ll live through you I’ll make you what I never was If you’re the best, then maybe so am I…I’m doing this for your own damn good You’ll make up for what I blew” are about a parents living through their child because they made the wrong choices in life. If they aren’t/weren’t successful in life in some aspect, maybe they can be if they push unrealistic goals on their children. It was a powerful message in such a soft spoken song.
Whether I realized it at the time the album came out or not, Jagged Little Pill was a groundbreaking album for women. Morissette busted through the boundaries of a predominately male genre ( rock) and made her voice heard. She paved the way for female artists and started the girl power movement that is still going strong to this day.
Written by Katie Sperduti