why kathleen hanna isn't mad at pop star feminism

In a new interview, the iconic riot grrrl explains why she doesn't think The Spice Girls and Beyoncé have co-opted feminism: 'Let’s not put down people who have enough power to spread stuff beyond our little punk-rock world or our feminist academic...

by Emily Manning
12 July 2016, 5:40pm

When Miley Cyrus posted two pictures of Kathleen Hanna on Instagram in 2014, a debate about feminism and authenticity ignited among the legendary punk rocker's dedicated fans ("I hate that you align yourself with actual feminists," one wrote in Cyrus' comments section). But Hanna herself was pretty stoked on it; she even reached out to the young pop provocateur inviting her to collaborate. "Have an idea for an album that only you are daring enough to make," the former Bikini Kill frontwoman tweeted, as ringing an endorsement as any.

Though we're still waiting on the cross-generational riot grrrl record of the century, Hanna has again spoken acceptingly of major pop star feminism. When a conversation with The New York Times about Hit Reset, her newly released record with current project The Julie Ruin, turned to the commodification and marketing of feminism, Hanna broke things down expertly — with help from The Spice Girls and Beyoncé.

"The second fanzine my band wrote was called "Girl Power," and then, what do you know, three years later, the Spice Girls were like, "Girl power!" I've seen the commodification thing," Hanna said, explaining that ideas being stolen and commercialized is pretty much a reality of art. "This isn't the first time or the last time that things are being appropriated. I don't consider myself a victim in any way. I'm very lucky as a feminist artist to get the attention that I've gotten."

Feminism's lack of popularity at the time of Bikini Kill's genesis in the 90s was Hanna's reason for getting into music in the first place. "I mean, Ally McBeal was cool; feminism was not cool. So I said, I'm going to be the Pied Piper, the gateway drug, and try to get people into this because I was lucky enough to go to college and be given a feminist book," she said.

And according to Hanna, this commercialization of feminism isn't exactly netting these megastars millions, either. "I'm not going to say [Beyoncé's] fetishizing stuff. It's not a good career move. It's not like you go through the record books and see all the feminist musicians who just really cleaned up," Hanna added with a helping of humorous realism.

As punk celebrates its 40th anniversary in the UK this year with events (ironically) sanctioned by the British monarchy, debates about the co-opting of anti-authoritarian movements and music will continue to arise. It's clear Hanna understands the impact she made in challenging the status quo at a time when it wasn't cute or cool, but chooses to celebrate that her beliefs have become others' as well (even if it's because of Beyoncé). "Let's not put down people who have enough power to spread stuff beyond our little punk-rock world or our feminist academic world. Everyone is invited to this party." 


Text Emily Manning 
Photography Ebet Roberts via Getty Images

Kathleen Hanna
Miley Cyrus
The Julie Ruin