15 minutes with Kathleen Hanna

Abernathy Miller, Columbus Alive

I talked to angel-faced hellraiser and original riot grrl Kathleen Hanna. I talked to her about punk, feminism, the film "The Punk Singer" and Bat for Lashes for 15 minutes. It was probably the most epic 15 minute conversation I've ever had. Excuse me, I have to go die now.

Abernathy Miller: What was it like watching your old concert footage?

Kathleen Hanna: It was weird. I was actually really sick the first time I saw it, so I got really sad thinking I'd never be able to do that again. I honestly never knew what the concerts looked like, I just know what it felt like performing them. Watching the footage made me truly understand the power of Bikini Kill for the first time. While watching it I thought "oh, that's why people were so freaked out".

AM: I read that you agreed to do the documentary because the symptoms from Lyme disease made you think you were dying, and you wanted to "set the record straight" as it were. How do you think it turned out?

KH: I guess the only thing missing for me were more critical voices. The documentary is sort of glowing and positive, it was actually hard to watch. I was under the impression there would be more of a critique element than there was, but that's the only thing I would change. I think it's cool how the film ends on this thing that's like "did she get better? Is she still sick?"

AM: Luckily, you did get better and are out touring with The Julie Ruin. How does it feel to be doing shows again, after you were sure you wouldn't be able to?

KH: When I'm on stage I'm so happy. I can't describe it. I've been doing it since I was 19. I actually have to keep shit together on stage because I'm so grateful.

AM: While you were in Bikini Kill, both the band and you personally received a lot of hate and violent threats, which is touched on in the film. How did you deal with that kind of hostility?

KH: I think some of the stuff that was violent and hateful frightened me, but at the same time it showed me we were doing the right thing. The more people that were hating on us, or feminism or whatever, the more people were talking about it. If we are raising questions, it just means a dialogue is actually happening. Critique is the whole point. At the end of the day, I honestly feel like I was on the right side of history.

AM: Your work in both Bikini Kill and Le Tigre has influenced countless artists and activists. Is there anyone on your list of fans that surprises or humbles you?

KH: I guess Natasha Khan from Bat for Lashes. We were both at an after party one night, and I wanted to say "hi" to her, but I wasn't sure if she'd know me since she's so much younger than I am. So because I was afraid I didn't say anything. Then later that night her and her friends came up to me and she told me what a huge fan she was. It was truly amazing.

AM: There has been a lot of speculation recently about the current state of feminism. After being outspoken for so long, have you see any progress? Did you successfully get out the message you wanted to spread?

KH: I feel really successful in terms of having women in punk interested in feminism, whether they are writing about it, singing about it, whatever. Even if they aren't feminist, there are so many more women performing in shows and a lot of different female bands to choose from. I have had young girls, like, high school aged girls come up to me and tell me they are starting a feminist club at their school. At the end of the day, that's success.

Check out Brad's blurb about "The Punk Singer" here ... And then tell him what a good guy he is for letting me have the interview.