Who is Kathleen Hanna?
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The media hurricane that is Miley Cyrus recently dragged another star into the eye of her storm. This interaction on Twitter caused both derision and curiosity at the suggestion they might work together. If you don’t know who Kathleen Hanna is, prepare to meet your new idol... When Miley Cyrus Instagramed a photo of Kathleen Hanna with the tag “coolest ever” most fans had no idea who she is. When Hanna replied, “I have an idea for an album that only you are daring enough to make,” this unlikely collision of stars promised something interesting is about to happen. The fact is Cyrus is seen by many as a joke, while Hanna to her followers and fans is a rare icon that means so much more than music and image – she changed the world and will always be one of the “coolest ever”. In the early nineties I first became aware of Hanna through another idol Kurt Cobain. By scrawling the phrase ‘Kurt smells like Teen Spirit’ on her friend’s wall, she inadvertently penned the title to a generation-defining anthem that took underground punk rock into the mainstream. I like many other guys were confronted by her and her band Bikini Kill’s politics in a way that changed our approach to women and view of the world. With our teenage hormones flying here was an attractive, brilliant woman screaming feminist politics in our faces to the music we loved. The first song I heard from Bikini Kill ‘Double Dare Ya’ starts with the line ‘We’re Bikini Kill and we want Revolution Girl Style Now!’ before a hardcore punk manifesto for female empowerment, freedom of expression and fighting misogyny blasts out. Considering this tiny impact on my life, I can only imagine the way this changed the world for women. As one of the originators of the Riot Grrl scene, she gave a new breed of third-wave feminists a channel for their anger and misgivings, spawning not just the music (with other bands like Bratmobile and the UK’s Huggy Bear) but fanzines, political activism and groups where women could discuss their problems and organise in a safe space. This was carried through to gigs, traditionally a dangerous place for women caught in the heaving male mosh-pits, but Riot Grrl bands encouraged the ‘girls to the front’ ideal that women should feel safe at gigs. Hanna can be seen in footage squaring up to aggressive male audience members in several pieces of footage – these gigs were her space, her fans space and no-one had the right to make people unsafe.
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