My Q&A with Kathleen Hanna

Hello! I had the awesome opportunity to interview Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill, Julie Ruin, Le Tigre) via internet. I asked her 10 questions and she was gracious to answer all of them! Below are my questions and her answers. Enjoy!

LG: First off, could you tell me what you are currently working on? Both music and otherwise?

KH: I’ve been getting my papers together to give to the newly created Riot Grrrl Archive that will be housed in the Bobst library at NYU. The archive is open to NYU students and to anyone doing research on riotgrrl/feminist/queer theory/music.

LG: What musicians/bands do you like at the moment?

KH: I like this band called The Discotays that my friend Dasha turned me onto and I am pretty into Mika Miko and these bands from Willie Mae Rock Camp that I saw last night were totally amazing. The Awkward Turtles and Saffire. They are all around 12-14 years old.

LG: What is your opinion of the resurgence of Bikini Kill’s music? What does Bikini Kill mean to you now, and has that changed? What is Bikini Kill’s legacy?

KH: I am really happy to know that our music still feels relevant to younger women and girls and it’s a total honor to have people outside my own age group embrace what we did. I used to feel really frustrated about the way we were treated as a band, when we were still together. People had really high expectations of us and it often felt like we just didn’t fit in anywhere. We were always either too feminist, not the right kind of feminist, too popular, not popular enough etc….But now I am really proud of what we did and try to look at the positive side of things. To answer your last question, what is BK’s legacy, check out our new blog at: http://bikinikillarchive.wordpress.com/ I think it answers the question better than I could.

LG: When and how did you realize you were a feminist?

KH: When I was 9 years old and my Mom took me to hear Bella Abzug speak at a rally in DC. Being in the crowd of women yelling just felt so right. I didn’t have another feminist epiphany till I was 19 and read Simone de Beavoir’s groundbreaking text, The Second Sex. That book really set everything off for me.

LG: Has your own feminist identity changed since your time in Bikini Kill, or is it the same?

KH: Yeah, of course it’s changed. In general I am more able to kick back and watch life like it’s a funny movie now and not get as bent out of shape about things as I once did. Sure stuff still makes me super mad sometimes, but working through my own internalized sexism and being surrounded by smart interesting people has made it so when I experience sexism now, I am almost amused by it because it seems so archaic and ridiculous. I also think that back in the day I went way overboard on the whole identity politics thing and now I see the world in a much more complicated way then I did in my 20′s.

LG: I read that you got married a while back. Was it difficult negotiating your strong feminist beliefs with the patriarchal structure of marriage? (This is a bit personal, and I understand if you don’t want to answer it).

KH: Sure. I think marriage is pretty retrogressive in a lot of ways but when my health insurance ran out and getting hitched was the only way to have it again, I bit the bullet. I think the biggest compromise for me was less that it’s a patriarchal institution (isn’t everything?) and more that I wanted to hold out till it was a right for everyone. But health insurance is pretty important and it just made sense for me to have it. I also happen to be completely in love with Adam and can’t think of anyone I’d rather be with. He really is the absolute love of my life.

LG: Do you consider yourself a role model for young women and if so, how do you feel about this?

KH: Being a role model is complicated cuz it involves thinking of oneself like a character in a novel or something and it can be really dehumanizing. One can get in the trap of trying to "do the right thing" all the time and it can make for a bland and stressful existence. If I am a role model, I want to be one who is unafraid to make mistakes and learn from them and also who is adventurous, problematic and 3 Dimensional. That said, I hope my work has positively affected people and that the work in the end is what is inspiring, not me as person.

LG: How would you introduce young women (and men?) to feminism?

KH: Um, I really have no idea. I guess the way I’ve done it in the past is through music and humor, but I think we each have our own totally unique "aha" moments and you can’t really force stuff like that. I think people find it when they’re ready for it.

LG: How do you identify with activism through music and is this important to you? Also, how have people responded to your particular activism?

KH: I think activism through music is totally important because, in my experience, it works. I always joke with my friends that Pussywhipped (Bikini Kill’s first album) is really meant to be the gateway drug to feminism. Feminist history, or herstory or whatever you wanna call it has been totally crucial to my life. It’s how I figured out who I am in relation to the rest of the world and I have a passion to share that with other people, and of course that passion is fueled by the fact that so much feminist work is subject to erasure. Some people have responded with endless praise and appreciation and others in a rageful, angry way, which is kind of a bummer, and others are ambivalent and could really care less, which I think is fine.

LG: What feminist advice would you give to young women?

KH: To not be afraid of failure and to embrace the lessons it teaches without, of course, staying in a place where you are afraid of success. That is really just a fancy way of saying ‘Fake it Till You Make it’ which I have found to be a completely great policy.

*You can check out Kathleen’s blog here *

**This is also on my blog here **

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4 Comments

  1. Dawn.
    Posted February 11, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    Kathleen Hanna is one bad-ass feminist. Bikini Kill and Le Tigre are two of my favorite bands; particularly Le Tigre. They have meant so much to me and the development of my identity as a feminist.
    I am one of the young people outside of Kathleen Hanna’s age group who discovered BK and Le Tigre after the “riot grrl movement” in the ’90s. I’m twenty-two and I believe their music is still relevant to our society today. Nice interview, ladychrist. :)

  2. Dena
    Posted February 12, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Oh my godddd. So fucking awesome. Kathleen Hanna is so kickass! Bikini Kill is one of my favorite bands and has been since I was introduced to the Riot Grrrl genre by a friend! WOO HOO!

  3. Black Cherry
    Posted February 12, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    You are sooo lucky! I’m jealous of you.

  4. Black Cherry
    Posted February 12, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    I am so jealous of you right now.

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