Five Noteworthy Facts You May Not Know About Kathleen Hanna
Published Oct 07, 2013The '90s riot grrrl movement was by no means spearheaded by Bikini Kill/Le Tigre singer Kathleen Hanna, but much is credited to the punk band frontwoman. Leading a number of different musical lives, Hanna's influence stretches from DIY feminist punk uprisings to electro-pop political statements. After a long hiatus from the music scene to deal with a personal illness, Hanna is back with yet another defiant musical project, the Julie Ruin.
In light of Hanna's return to music, we've took a look back at the singer's extensive career in our Timeline feature, which you can currently read in full in the print version of Exclaim! magazine. Here are some notable facts about Kathleen Hanna that should definitely pique your interest.
Five Noteworthy Facts You May Not Know About Kathleen Hanna:
5. Hanna's entry point into feminism was through Ms. Magazine and a Solidarity Day rally.
After being exposed to a new, liberal feminist publication called Ms. Magazine, both Hanna and her mother become fixated. "I used to cut pictures out of it and make posters that said, 'Girls can do anything,' and stuff like that," Hanna would tell BUST Magazine in 2000. Hanna's mother takes her to a Solidarity Day rally where feminist icon Gloria Steinem is speaking, which solidifies her interest in feminism. "It was the first time I had ever been in a big crowd of women yelling and it really made me want to do it forever," she'll tell BUST.
4. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" got its name from a drunken message Hanna wrote on Kurt Cobain's apartment walls.
In August 1990, Hanna and Cobain spend a drunken evening together; in Cobain's apartment, Hanna takes a Sharpie pen and writes all over his wall. "It was a rental, so it was really kind of lame that I did that," she'll joke at a 2010 concert event in New York City. Later, Cobain calls Hanna and asks for permission to use something she wrote on his wall as a song lyric; she says yes. "I hung up and was like, 'How the fuck is he going to use 'Kurt smells like teen spirit' as a lyric?"
3. Skinhead punks used to heckle Bikini Kill at shows and even threw a chain at Hanna's head once.
[Bikini Kill bassist Kathi Wilcox] remembers the danger of playing shows in Bikini Kill, with men heckling or being violent towards them. During a specific pair of shows in Los Angeles, where they had a stand-in drummer due to illness, a number of skinhead punks begin shouting at Hanna, at one point yelling, "Girl power? Every power is bad power." Things escalate to a point where the skinheads throw a chain at Hanna's head.
2. Julie Ruin is Hanna's only truly solo project, which she started right after Bikini Kill broke up.
Hanna continues to make music after Bikini Kill's break-up in 1996, but strays from a punk aesthetic. Fascinated with electronic gear, Hanna writes and records an entire solo album in her Olympia apartment under a new moniker, Julie Ruin. Julie Ruin's self-titled album is released in August 1998.
1. Hanna wasn't sure if she would ever make music again after being diagnosed with late-stage Lyme disease.
"I thought Le Tigre was it," she tells Stereogum in August 2013. She donates a file cabinet full of riot grrrl zines, letters and journals to New York University's Fales Library archive. She also takes on new hobbies like gardening, one of the only activities she can physically handle. She eventually begins two years of intensive therapy and, in this time, she decides to revisit her old project Julie Ruin, which has now developed into her latest project, the Julie Ruin.