WASDuk Review: The Punk Singer

The Riot Grrrl movement teetered back and forth between punk genius and reporters writing so much baseless trash that the best voice of the bunch retreated in utter-disgust: Kathleen Hanna.

Director Sini Anderson, unlike those headline hungry hacks of the early 90’s, does all her fact checking and leaves no stone unturned. Kathleen’s journey begins with her shouting “It happened after midnight” over and over at a spoken word gig. Not enough people were listening, so she founded Bikini Kill, where her lyrics flowered from warnings of the drunken father to gender politics. Her frustrations are reflected in their Rebel Girl single, which explores how the common man always mistook a female’s right to say no or her intelligence for homosexuality: That girl thinks she’s the queen of the neighborhood / I got news for you she is / They say she’s a dyke but I know / She is my best friend yeah!

Indeed, after Bikini Kill and Kathleen Hanna started inviting girls to the front of the stage at sold-out gigs and telling the mosh-happy jocks of the newly founded Nirvana-age to fuck off, the headlines at MTV painted her a dyke, a sexual abuse victim, or even as a bi-polar stripper with suicidal tendencies that got into fights with Courtney Love. Part of the media’s problem was that the Riot Grrrl movement was more concerned with Fanzines and helping to empower confused University kids than with national headlines. As a result, and because bands like Bikini Kill refused interviews, the man’s magazines like Rolling Stone and Esquire wrote about how Bikini Kill couldn’t play their instruments or about how nothing could be listened to on the radio after one of their singles were aired. The Riot Grrrl’s took this as a compliment. Men took it as a passing fad.

Just like the Sex Pistols and the Clash, Kathleen Hanna knew revolution started at home. Once honesty and empowerment were established, whether it were about being an Antichrist of an Anarchist, living by the river, or liking fucking, the fans would turn out in droves to hear the latest politics of the raised fist. In the end, Kurt Cobain shot himself in the face and gave up after a handful of albums, the Sex Pistols released 2 albums and their lead-singer also killed himself, and the Clash simply got too jealous of each other. Bikini Kill’s still around, though they’ve split and evolved into various new incarnations like Le Tigre and the Julie Ruin. It’s too bad we’ll remember the drug-riddled jargon of short-lived men’s punk far longer and as superior to the genius of a revolution for everybody through a female’s lens.

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