The punk icon, feminist activist and original riot grrrl of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre revisits her storied career.
Kathleen Hanna is an icon. Whether she’s fronting bands or speaking out against injustice, Hanna has long been a strong voice who’s unafraid to tackle issues of gender, sexuality and equality. A native Oregonian who attended Evergreen State College in Olympia, she broke out with Bikini Kill, a punk group that became one of signature acts of the ‘90 riot grrrl feminist movement. Hanna toured the globe and confronted prevailing social norms throughout Bikini Kill’s existence, but the effort took its toll, eventually leading to the band’s dissolution. She made a rough-edged album under the name Julie Ruin, which laid the groundwork for Le Tigre, a more electronic outfit she formed after relocating to New York City in the late ’90s. Although her new band’s sound flirted with pop, veering sharply away from the raw punk aesthetic of Bikini Kill, Le Tigre was similarly confrontational in its lyrics and political outlook; the group’s success only expanded Hanna’s profile and influence. In 2005 Hanna was forced to leave the group due to health concerns, and was eventually diagnosed with Lyme disease, which effectively kept her out of the music world for several years; some of this struggle was captured in The Punk Singer, a 2013 documentary. Nevertheless, her condition did improve, prompting the formation of a new band, the Julie Ruin, which has released two full-length albums and allowed Hanna to return to the stage. In her Fireside Chat, the outspoken artist discusses her early beginnings, feminism in music and much more.