The Best Advice Kathleen Hanna Ever Got
The Bikini Kill and Le Tigre founder, feminist activist, and riot grrrl originator passes on some pertinent guidance.
Kathleen Hanna is pretty low key: She drove up to our recent shoot in Hollywood solo—no publicist, zero fanfare. Kathleen Hanna is a goof: When we asked her to run through a couple of entrances for her episode of “Best Advice,” she tucked her Kim Gordon t-shirt into her hoiked-high underwear, and hammed it up. Kathleen Hanna is wry: She frequently spiked her statements with a raised eyebrow, a physical punctuation to whatever point she was making.
As the leader of Bikini Kill and a pioneering figurehead of riot grrrl, the feminist punk movement that went overground in the early 90s, Hanna’s always used her platform—onstage, on record, and in xeroxed DIY ’zines—to speak openly about issues facing women, and the LGBTQ community. Back then domestic violence against women wasn’t typical subject matter for three-and-a-half-minute pop songs, but rather than shy away Hanna met the tough stuff head on, subverting expectations, occupying spaces (and stages) historically dominated by men, and encouraging—heck—demanding: “All girls to the front!”
After Bikini Kill’s split in 1997, Hanna reinvented herself as one third of the riotous synth-pop group Le Tigre, alongside bandmates JD Samson and Johanna Fateman, and yet no matter what guise she takes, honesty and activism are always central to her art. Earlier this year, when Bikini Kill announced their first dates in two decades, fans old and new freaked out; shows sold out, new ones were added. Thirty years after the band’s inception, in a time where the war over women’s rights and bodies rages on, Hanna’s lyrics still resonate.
As for the best advice Hanna’s ever received, this came via her Le Tigre cohort, Johanna Fateman. Fittingly, it’s straight to the point, no BS, and you can watch the full episode above.
Besides Bikini Kill’s reunion shows, Hanna continues to make music as part of The Julie Ruin, not to mention teaming up with Pasadena non-profit Peace Sisters, a charity dedicated to help fund the education of young girls in Togo, West Africa. For her part Hanna brought together a selection of incredible artists to design t-shirts for Peace Sisters, the Kim Gordon shirt in she’s wearing in this “Best Advice” episode being one of them. Other designs include the faces of Grimes, Chuck D, JD Samson, and Beastie Boys’ Ad-Rock, as well as comedian Kristen Schaal, writer/director Jill Soloway, author Brontez Purnell, and more. The cost of one of these limited edition tees (just $40!) will fund the education of one girl in Toga to school for an entire year. (Check out the whole Tees4Toga range here.)