Tag Archives: Kathleen hanna

A Career in Cassettes

 

IMG_7460 I’m trying to find a tape of my circa 1990 interview with Ellen Willis. Haven’t found it yet, but here’s some of what I unearthed: interviews with the entire original cast of Rent, Paul Beatty, Patti Smith, Kathleen Hanna, Mary J. Blige, Stephen Trask, Carrie Brownstein, Bjork — the list goes on and on. One cassette is labeled “Missy/Moby.” Is this my legacy?IMG_7461

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Revolution Girl Style Now: Bikini Kill Redux

http://www.npr.org/player/embed/377196871/433514653
I’ve always thought of Kathleen Hanna as a philosopher, not just a rad punk artist. She proves it once again in this interview for NPR, where she talks about the perils of outsider elitism and her admiration for Beyonce: “Whenever you’re trying to be the opposite of something, you’re just reinforcing it. We’ve got to be something totally different.”

The occasion for the interview is the release of the Bikini Kill demo tape on Sept. 22 for the first time in multiple formats. I remember getting that tape when I was music editor at the SF Weekly. I can admit now that I didn’t appreciate it that much at the time; I thought they were retreading Mecca Normal and X-Ray Spex, admittedly two of my favorite bands. (That year I named Mecca Normal singer Jean Smith my Person of the Year.) It took seeing them live at Gilman Street Project to realize the true force of Kathleen Hanna, Tobi Vail, Kathi Wilcox, and Billy Boredom. My intern, Sia Michel, was much smarter – I think she might have nabbed that tape. She’s now the editor of the Arts & Leisure section of The New York Times — told you she’s smarter than me.

I’m so glad this music is coming back out and a new generation can appreciate it. I’ll be starting my First Year Seminar (Revolution Girl Style: Punk Feminism, Then and Now) next week as I always do: Playing Bikini Kill’s call to action: “We’re Bikini Kill, and we want Revolution Girl Style Now!” Then I’ll go see Kathleen and her new band, The Julie Ruin, at Burger a Go Go.

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Oh Bondage Up Yours: The Punk Rock Sexual Revolution

punkfeminismI promised I would post the remarks I made for the Punk Feminism and The F Word shows in Stanford and Oakland last week. The first half of my presentation, with images from the slide show and notes of music cues, follows. I’ll post the Patti Smith critical karaoke another day. The lecture began with music: X-Ray Spex’s “Oh Bondage Up Yours.”

Punk is a female energy.

Look it up, in the Oxford English Dictionary. The first use of the word punk dates back to the 17th century and meant strumpet or whore. Later, the word referred to catamites, aka homosexuals, and then petty thieves. Etymologically, punks are gender outlaws – the OG victims of slut shaming and fagbashing. PunkwomenMusically, punk is the sound of dissonance, of dissent against even the hegemony of dissent. Making noise and ugliness virtues in a culture obsessed with harmony and beauty, punk’s means are destructive, but its impulse is creative. Sometimes, in its frisson of friction, lies escape.

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Riot at OCMA

Evelyn McDonnell, Tracie Morris, and Alice Bag

Evelyn McDonnell, Tracie Morris, and Alice Bag

Tracie Morris and Alice Bag had never met before they joined me for “The F Word Vol. II” panel last night. And yet the pieces they presented — Tracie’s improvised exegesis of 1950s Hollywood femininity and Alice’s excerpts from her memoir Violence Girl — complemented each other fiercely. It was an emotional night at the Orange County Museum of Art, with an attentive audience of second-, third-, and no-wave feminists.

Following is an approximation of the remarks I made to launch the panel. Continue reading

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The F Word Tonight!

Riot Grrrl, OCMA

Wall of handbills at Alien She

Tonight is the night: Join writers Alicia Armendaiz (aka Alice Bag), Tracie Morris and moi for The F Word Vol. II panel at the Orange County Museum of Art. Book signing, food truck, and screening of a video of the original F Word panel — including GB Jones, Sha-Key, Erin Smith, Jean Smith, Tinuviel, Kathleen Hanna, Chin-a Pannacione, Tracie and me — starts at 6. Panel at 7 in the museum auditorium. And don’t forget to check out the Alien She show of Riot Grrrl inspired art, including the wall of handbills pictured here.

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The F Word, Vol. II

More than 20 years ago, during the heyday of Riot Grrrl, WAC, SWIM, Rock for Choice, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and the dawn of the Clinton era, I moderated a panel called “The F Word” at the annual CMJ Music Marathon in New York. Tracie Morris, GB Jones, Kathleen Hanna, Erin Smith, and Sha-Key were among the punks, poets, rappers, and activists who joined me for this discussion of punk and politics, rap and representation. This was back when not only would it have been unheard of for the world’s top pop star to gyrate in front of a giant feminist sign at the VMAs, but when the very idea of this panel at an alternative music conference was attacked by some hipsters — though the room was packed.

In honor of the Alien She exhibit of Riot Grrrl-inspired artwork, which is currently at the Orange County Museum of Art, I’m revisiting this discussion March 13. Original panelist Tracie Morris and special guest Alice Bag will join me for this literary event, dubbed (with a tip of the hat to Hova, “The F Word, Vol. II”.

I toured the OCMA exhibit Feb. 13, and it’s a powerful experience. Original PRDCT gig flyers paper one wall. There are stacks of fanzines, old and new. The brilliant multimedia work of Miranda July occupies one corner; Tammy Rae Carland’s photos fill a room with humor and pathos. Most of the artists are more Revolution Girl Style inspired than RGS per se. I would like to see the work of some artists who were more central to that nascent moment, such as GB Jones and Tinuviel (both of whom were on the original F Word panel, in fact). But curators Astria Suparak and Ceci Moss get mucho props for putting this touring show together, for restarting this vital conversation.

I had the funniest sensation when I left Alien She and entered the next exhibit: After being surrounded by these feminist and queer images, the art in the next room seemed to me jarring and, well, patriarchal. My gaze had been inverted; seeing women viewed from the back for the billionth time, or lying prone and splayed, was now revealed for what it was: obvious, objectifying, cliched. It’s the feeling I used to get at Riot Grrrl meetings: that suddenly I was in a room where the way I saw the world made sense to others, and nothing would ever be the same again.

Two decades ago, still reeling from the ’80s Backlash, we called feminism the F Word because we knew it was suspect and mocked. March 13, Tracie, Alice, and I will talk about what has, and hasn’t, changed.

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Allison and Alice Bury You

Aliceandallison

Allison Wolfe and Alice Bag. Photo by Tim Maxeiner.

There’s nothing like seeing two of your heroes on stage together to get you back into city living. On Saturday, August 16, original LA punk Alice Bag joined original grrrl Allison Wolfe and her band Sex Stains for a tear through the Bags song “We Will Bury You” at the Echo Park Rising festival. After watching a number of sui generis alt-rock bands plod through their Arcade Fire and Pixies routines, it was so refreshing to see two front women whose kinetic energy lifted them off the stage. Note that only one foot out of four is on the ground in this great photograph by Tim Maxeiner.

sexstains

Sex Stains. Photo by Tim Maxeiner

It’s been way too many years since I’d seen Allison perform in a band, though she has spoken to my students at LMU a few times — she’s an inspiration to a new generation of fearless musicians. Wearing a paper shark dress that I think she told me Kathleen Hanna gave her, the erstwhile Bratmobiler still pogos with that manic cheerleader energy, ponytail flying. She has a fascinating foil in androgynous co-singer Mecca Vazie Andrews. Sex Stains reminded me a lot of the Slits, and made me miss dear Ari all over again.

 
It was a great way to get back in my groove, after two months of being off the grid in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Sorry for my radio silence. Stay tuned.

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