Bikini Kill no. 1, Kathleen Hanna, Tobi Vail, and Kathi Wilcox, 1990. The Kathleen Hanna Papers.
Bikini Kill, 1992
That history, of course, contains the times where Hanna literally markered the word “SLUT” across her bare midriff, which was part of a “character I was playing. I was a feminist performance artist first. So it was a seven year performance piece,” she says, smiling, referring to her shocking and inspired stint fronting Bikini Kill. Conclusion: “It’s really weird to see a younger version of yourself.”
And for those who came to this film to see the birth of Riot Grrrl, it’s all there too. The Punk Singer features amazing footage of the making of the early Bikini Kill fanzines as well as the first Riot Grrrl meeting at Positive Force house (an activist space) in Arlington, Virginia, and gains amazing access to Hanna’s own story as she describes why she started demanding that girls come to the front at her shows in the ’90s.
Above all, this documentary is compelling because it is the story of an incredibly charismatic, passionate and interesting person. The film keeps up with the captivating energy of its subject (seriously, she’s a force), and when detailing the time period or the story of her bands and relationships, it strikes just the right balance so that none of it — not even interviews with other powerful females such as Sonic Youth‘s Kim Gordon, Sleater-Kinney‘s Corin Tucker and Joan Jett — overpowers the story of Hanna herself.
Kathleen Hanna and Kathi Wilcox
Here’s Le Tigre’s first “press release” (from 1999 probably). It’s been resurrected to accompany a piece I wrote for issue #2 of the RBMA Daily Note about our version of protest music. You can pick one up on the streets of NYC maybe (it’s the one dated 4/29 with Public Enemy on the cover) or you can read it here. (My essay is on pages 14 and 15.)
Adam Horovitz and Kathleen Hanna attend world premiere of Teenage at Tribeca Film Festival
credit to Beastieboysgallery
“She was a forerunner, musically,” says Kathleen Hanna, of the riot grrrl band Bikini Kill and later the dance-rock group Le Tigre. “Just knowing a woman was in a band trading lead vocals, playing bass, and being a visual artist at the same time made me feel less alone.” Hanna met Gordon when she came to a Bikini Kill show in the early ’90s. “She invited my band to stay at her and Thurston’s apartment,” Hanna says. “As a radical feminist singer, I wasn’t particularly well liked. I was in a punk underground scene dominated by hardcore dudes who yelled mean shit at me every night, and journalists routinely called my voice shrill, unlistenable. Kim made me feel accepted in a way I hadn’t before. Fucking Kim Gordon thought I was on the right track, haters be damned. It made the bullshit easier to take, knowing she was in my corner.”