Known for her Olympia-based punk rock band Bikini Kill as well as her role in the ’90s-era riot grrrl movement, Kathleen Hanna was and still is a feminist firelight. (Something she’s not as well known for: working as a stripper in Seattle.) Before hitting the road this year with her current ensemble, the Julie Ruin, she’ll stop at Neptune Theatre for a night of storytelling about her early punk rock days and the evolution of her feminism. —Rosin Saez
People still ask you about riot grrrl. Does it get redundant?
It’s frustrating. I get asked so much because of the ’90s nostalgia era that we’re in now. It’s like, I was in Bikini Kill in my early 20s, and I’m in my 40s now. Luckily I have a good long-term memory. Except I was trying to remember [the name of] this strip bar I worked at in Seattle when I was 17. It was the first one I worked at…
What inspires your work now versus then?
I believe in myself as an artist a lot more than I did when I was younger. I’ve moved away from feeling the pressure of being political in an overt way. I’m still the same old Kathleen, yet I’ve had a rough couple years with Lyme disease, and sometimes I just want to sing about something that makes me feel good.
Why do you think some people shy away from the term feminism?
People are still feminist in that they’re doing work that empowers women even if they don’t call themselves that. But we also have Beyoncé with this huge board that says “Feminist” behind her [on stage]. To have somebody of that magnitude and of that talent say, This is my word, I’m allowed to use this word, and I claim this word to be what I want it to be, is really powerful and something not to be overlooked. And it’s awesome! Feminists should be cool.
Why did you want to do your lecture, Riot Grrrl Then and Now?
With a lecture, it’s really just me. I’m trying to be understood by the audience, and I want to share my experiences of being a female musician in the ’90s. For kids who grew up in the age of the Internet, I want to tell them how we toured in covered wagons and used Morse code.
This article appeared in the April 2015 issue of Seattle Met magazine.