Feminist icon and punk legend Kathleen Hanna is one of my many heroes. Defiant activist, outspoken pro-choicer, amazing songwriter, skilled musician, and prolific zine author, my friends and all kind of wish we were her. Her ground-breaking riot grrrl band Bikini Kill changed punk forever but Hanna wasn’t going to stop there. After Bikini Kill broke up in 1997, she went on to start electronic-dance-punk band Le Tigre, which is now sadly on hiatus.
Unstoppable Hanna is now bringing Julie Ruin back to life, after having released one album under the name in 1998. Now Kathleen Hanna is the star of Sini Anderson’s documentary, The Punk Singer, which premiered at SXSW this year. We couldn’t be more stoked to see it and learn even more about the queen of punk. But since some of us aren’t IN Austin right now, what better way to satisfy your hunger than to read up on her in a recent, in-depth interview? The Daily Beast talked with Hanna about Pussy Riot, abortion, Courtney Love, her history of sexual and physical abuse, and how she feels about Taylor Swift.
On her abuse
I was like, “Why am I the person that all these men are drawn to? What am I doing wrong?” I ended up working at a domestic violence/rape shelter, and when these things happen to you so young, you get set up to feel like that’s all you’re there for, and you project that out. Then, predator men smell out that you’re a victim and won’t talk. I feel like a lot of women get revictimized and revictimized, and when it happens five times, women feel like they can’t tell anyone because nobody will believe them.
On her abortion
In 1985, I was living with my sister in Virginia and, since I was still in high school, I worked at McDonald’s to save money to get an abortion. It sounds really terrible, but it was the best decision I ever made. It was the first time I took responsibility for my actions. I messed up, had sex without contraception, and got pregnant at 15. It was the first time I realized I wanted a life. Maybe I wanted to have kids down the road, but I thought, “I would not be able to have the life I want unless I do this.” When I was in Bikini Kill, I thought, “Wow, if I had had that baby, I wouldn’t have been able to do all the things I’ve done or travel around the world.”
On Taylor Swift
I’m totally into Taylor Swift. I think she has super-clever lyrics, and I love that she writes her own music. Some of the themes she writes about are stuff I wish was there for me when I was in high school, and I’m so happy she really cares about her female fans. She’s not catering to a male audience and is writing music for other girls. I don’t care if she calls herself a feminist or not. There is something that she’s doing that feels feminist to me in that she really seems to have a lot of control over what her career is doing.
On Pussy Riot
Before they got imprisoned, I watched some of their videos and thought it was the best thing ever. In Le Tigre, we wore really bright colors, so I loved their aesthetic and the performance-art aspect of going into public spaces and doing unplanned performances. It’s political, smart, and funny. And then they were imprisoned and I was like, “Wait … what the fuck?” I felt a real kinship because even though I’ve changed from spoken word to music, I’ve always considered myself a feminist performance artist more than a musician. I’d been waiting to be blown away by something, and I was very blown away by them … and so saddened.