All photos courtesy of Shasta Bree for the Neptune Theater
Last night’s sold out lecture by musician, artist, actress and writer Kathleen Hanna featured a performance of Le Tigre fave ‘Hot Topic,’ some really good advice, and reminiscences which exhibited a reflexive level of self-awareness rarely heard in an artist of any gender. Hanna asserted Riot Grrrl as a movement was important but flawed – she also stated that when young women write her saying they wished they’d lived in the ‘90s, she tells them “No, You really don’t.” On her famous SLUT body graffiti, she now wonders if it was akin pointing a laser pointer at her tits during her lecture, which she demonstrated…more than once.
Her years of experience as both a formal domestic violence counselor and informal post-show therapist for many female fans showed as she expressed a present enthusiasm while patiently waiting for young women (a majority of the audience appeared to be chicks under 30) with nervously shaking hands and even shakier voices to speak with her in the Q & A portion of the the event. She advised them on topics like making money in the current music market (touring and Sync licensing) and advocated throughout the evening for women in the Arts – noting more than once that women’s words are valuable and they should always be paid for their writing.
Hanna also honed in on a point made by pop queen Taylor Swift – that though every artist uses music to work out personal issues, writing about what they know and their relationships, women are criticized for using music as “therapy” while their male counterparts are heralded as deep or reflective when they pull from personal experience.
It was just one of the many examples of sexism in the Arts Hanna has experienced, calling out a few local male musicians by name who had behaved in a let’s say “less than supportive fashion” of her bands early on. She then spoke extensively about the death threats and harassment that left her fearing for her life and ended Bikini Kill’s run.
In an era where we are barraged by ugly internet commentary daily, we’ve begun to accept it as part of life and it’s easy to forget how terrifying Hanna’s experience with these people would be – they were bonkers enough to sit with their thoughts about KILLING HER FOR BEING IN A BAND, compose them, actively seek out her address (it wasn’t a few clicks away in ‘93) walk them to the damn post office and buy a stamp – constituting a criminal act. It’s a level of crazed commitment well beyond some anonymous jerk firing off rape threats in his mom’s basement. The fact Hanna not only survived it, but her rough childhood and her debilitating disease, to thrive and use those experiences as emotional motivation to forge ahead as an artist (and kick ass human), shows why a sold out Neptune theater full of folks would gladly pay $25 to celebrate her feminist iconic status.