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Kathleen Hanna’s Rebel Girl, My life as a Feminist Punk

Updated: Jun 03, 2024 09:34
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Kathleen Hanna, the frontwoman of Bikini Kill, Le Tigre and The Julie Ruin was in San Francisco last week to chat with Brontez Purnell about her new book, “Rebel Girl: My Life as a Feminist Punk,” at City Arts & Lectures.

I was looking forward to the event and listened to the book beforehand. By the way, it’s one of those great books to get on audiobook. Read by the author, “Rebel Girl” is honest and will make you sigh, cry, feel angry, and laugh. The book adds many pieces to the puzzle of understanding the Riot Grrrl movement, which was so distorted and misunderstood at the time.

When something becomes iconic, we tend to embellish and turn it into something else. That’s how I feel about the 90’s music scene. The leader of the Riot Grrrl movement tells it how it was from her point of view—the regrets, the betrayals, the misunderstandings, and the frequent misogyny women face.


The Oakland-based writer, musician, and dancer Brontez Purnell was the guest chatting with Kathleen at City Arts & Lectures. He identified himself as a Riot Boy, wrote fan mail to Kathleen back in the day, and she would write back, which is how they know each other.

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They talked about how capitalism makes people take on multiple roles like “writer, artist, musician, teacher” because it doesn’t pay enough to do just one thing. Kathleen mentioned not wanting to be a leader of anything these days. She runs Tees for Togo, a nonprofit organization selling super cool t-shirts to support girls’ education in Togo. The organization Peace Sisters already existed, and Kathleen is happy to support them.

Bikini Kill used to say before their concerts, “Girls to the front,” so they could watch the shows and be safe. However, in 2024, Hanna says this is outdated because it excludes non-binary, trans, and gender nonconforming people. She also mentioned being uncomfortable when pages of the old Riot Grrrl zines get posted online without context, as much of it is no longer applicable.

They both spoke about trauma and how it repeats until you get support and treatment. Kathleen had to take a year off while writing the book to work through some of these traumas, attend different kinds of therapy, and take care of herself. She acknowledges, “Riot Grrrl damaged me”

What’s next for Hanna? She’s making a documentary about her second cousin, the Guinness World Record-certified “World’s Oldest Drag Queen” Darcelle XV, who passed away in 2023. She’s found a bunch of tapes of Darcelle’s Cable Access Show and was fascinated by the material. That’s something to look forward to!

Kathleen made a cool playlist for the book, you can listen to it here.

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Patricia Colli

Patricia Colli

Patricia Colli is an artist, printmaker and music enthusiast based in San Francisco. Meet me at the mosh pit!