Currently reading : Kathleen Hannah: Riot grrrl
Thought of the day: What the fuck am I doing with my life?
This week saw The Punk Singer: A Film About Kathleen Hanna come to London’s ICA, a film following the groundbreaking punk provocateur and co-founder of the underground feminist movement Riot grrrl through her journey with genre-defining almost-girl band Bikini Kill, solo project The Julie Ruin, electroclash act Le Tigre and documents the tragic truth behind her abrupt silence in 2005.
Opening their 1997 album Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah, a two-side split album with English band Huggy Bear, with audio of a male voice rationalizing violence towards women “because most of the girls ask for it”, Hanna’s mission was always driven by anger and sought change, through her music, performance and perhaps most successfully through the production of now-iconic feminist-fueled zines. Borrowing from the DIY cut-and-paste format established by the early punk scene in the 1970s, these photocopied publications were made to communicate statements about socio-political issues immediately relevant to the band and the women that surrounded them, from show-etiquette, coining a ‘girls to the front’ behaviour of protection, to their anger at the ever-growing normalization rape-culture. Perhaps more than any other medium the zines allowed for exchange of ideas and information that drew together the feminist movement that would eventually be defined in the Riot grrrl Manifesto. It says a lot that the band’s influence is still prevalent in contemporary conversation, that the spirit of rebellion channeled by the likes of Hanna-esque ski mask-donning Russian activists Pussy Riot fighting against the injustices facing gay people under a morally corrupt conservative government or Malala Yousafzai risking her life for women’s right to education and it begs the question – what the fuck am I doing with my life? What are we all doing? There’s still clearly a fight to be fought and the Riot grrrl movement knew better than most that information is power and that art, music and media can be useful weapons in a fight against ignorance.
To celebrate the release, below is an archived interview with Bikini Kill & The Julie Ruin bass player Kathi Wilcox from Bye bye zine 3 (date and author unknown) courtesy of fuckyeahbikinikill.tumblr.com, followed by Kathleen Hanna’s spoken word presentation inspired by a friend’s personal story of assault, a catalytic moment in the development of ideas that would later define the Riot grrrl movement:
The Punk Singer is on at London’s ICA until Thursday 29th May.