Five Reasons Why Kathleen Hanna is Wrong About Female Musicians Today

Categories: WTF
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CNN Entertainment published an interview on Tuesday with iconic '90s riot grrl Kathleen Hanna. For those out of the loop, Hanna was a member of the seminal punk band Bikini Kill.

A documentary co-produced by Hanna titled Who Took the Bomp? about her days touring with electro-punk group Le Tigre was released on DVD Tuesday. The '90s was a fertile time in rock music for bands beating the drum for various causes including global warming, concert ticket prices and a large spectrum of human rights issues from the LGBT community to women's equality.

In her interview with CNN, Hanna, a victim of childhood sexual abuse, talks about how the happy sound of Le Tigre's music juxtaposes with the message of the songs, which is often "fuck men, fuck rapists." She added it was the band's mission to talk to a broader group than just clueless straight white men.

Hanna then goes on to rip current female artists from Lady Gaga to Katy Perry for not wearing pants adding that, "Just because you're wearing a goofy hat doesn't make it performance art."

She finishes her critique of modern female artists by saying women don't even tend to play instruments anymore in the American Idol era.

Really? Because I kind of thought that the last few years have seen some of the best female rock instrumentalists around.

Here's a quick list of some female face-melters most male rock stars just can't hold a candle to. We're pretty sure Hanna has heard of most if not all of them; if she's got a problem with their musical bona fides, well, we beg to differ.

5. Screaming Females

Not an all-female band. Just fronted by one. And quite the shredder at that. With an imposing voice and spewing a wonky vibrato, lead singer/guitarist Marisa Paternoster plays with an aggressive style best described as Dinosaur Jr.'s J. Mascis meets Slayer's Kerry King. Dig this video for their 2009 song "Bell." Wait for 1:13.

4. Stella Mogzawa of Warpaint

This Aussie drummer from psychedelic-hipster band Warpaint plays drums with an unnerving deftness and scary precision. Listen to the band's eponymous song from their 2010 release The Fool, at about the 1:30 mark, Mogzawa comes in with a stop watch meets Morse code drum break that is every bit as groovy as it is surgical.

3. Leslie Feist 

A total package: A songwriter with a gorgeous, soulful voice, magnetic stage presence and chops 'til Tuesday. This Canuck, who once counted herself among the ranks of indie super group Broken Social Scene has toured solo for nearly a decade. In this clip we see her playing the song "Secret Heart" off her 2005 album Let it Die. No mere strummer, Feist accompanies her raspy, whimsical voice with a complex, picked-and-slapped guitar melody.  At about 2:52, she favors us with a dirty little lead.

2. Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley

The reigning queen of heartfelt indie rock, Lewis has proven herself a musical magnate both as a solo artist and with her band Rilo Kiley. Like Feist, she's a total package with a beautiful cooing voice, and shreds at an array of instruments from keyboard and guitar to melodica. Anyone who's seen her play live has undoubtedly witnessed her helm multiple instruments--often times during a single song. Enjoy a live clip of her playing the jam "Close Call" off Under the Blacklight. Her brassy howl on the chorus while deftly strumming away reminds us of the all the good that can come out.

1. Lady Gaga 
The queen of funny hats. A pop icon. Therefore easy to dismiss? We think not. Gaga is an accomplished pianist as she demonstrated when she performe
d on SNL in 2009. The fact that she had an elaborate set of rings affixed to her head only made things more complicated. She managed to show her playfulness when the costume interfered with her microphone. But with cool confidence she handled it in stride, and proceeded with a love song about New York City.

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I hate lady Gaga and pretty all pop music. But I will put this out there; I hate Kathleen hanna also. I saw bikini kill play in the early 90's and was so excited that an all girl band was coming to play. .. Unfortunately the only person in the band who could play an instrument was, sadly, the boy. L7 and the lunachicks and many other bands were a way better example of female power in music.


This is stupid. She made a comment about 3 female musicians, who all suck. She never said ALL modern female musicians suck. Repetitively in interviews Hanna has stated that there are plenty of good girl bands out there, even better than hers (which I disagree with- I love Bikini Kill) so maybe rethink?


              WTF IS RIGHT! This is so all over the place. Such a mix of misinformation,  underground bands and pop musicians. I can't say that I'm surprised that an OC Weekly "writer" has no concept of the meaning of feminism, the feminist movement, the rights and concepts encompassed by the movement, not to mention the participants of that movement. I am surprised that such an obscure journalist/intern would try to take on such an icon. It's laughable. Im pretty sure Brandon Ferguson googled "female musician" and used the results as examples for this "article" or whatever it is, a review? commentary? blatant disrespect of an influential public figure? Can't tell really...              Anyway, to mention Screaming Females?, Feist, Jenny Lewis, Warpaint?, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.... this is just such a mess to sift through. Lady Gaga and Katy Perry are hardly relevant, since are merely robots controlled by corporations that not only reinforce the sexualization of women in the mainstream media, but bear no representation of the average female whatsoever, and therefore are not realistic role models for anyone.            I guess what I'm trying to say is that such a misinformed/uninformed writer should not be given a project of any sort. Although I do hope that in the future the writer will finally get to graduate high school, and go on to OCC to learn how research his topics, recognize major social movements, put together ideas, and most importantly...write big boy articles that have value.


She was asked about three specific women.  Plus, none of the bands you have listed get the kind of attention that guy bands do.  So it's not a very good response to what she said. 


I would like to agree with Erica Suz Saunders' comment completely. Hanna was not saying in the article that women do not play instruments at all. She was just pointing out the rarity of it, and the fact that there are TONS more male instrumentalists in popular music today than females.


If these are the best female instrumentalists around, then you proved Kathleen Hanna's point.

Erica Suz Saunders
Erica Suz Saunders

It's clear you didn't read the interview very closely. You write, "Hanna then goes on to rip current female artists from Lady Gaga to Katy Perry for not wearing pants adding that, 'Just because you're wearing a goofy hat doesn't make it performance art.' " However the question was not what Kathleen Hanna thought of FEMALE ARTISTS it was, "What do you make of singers like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Ke$ha who are seemingly touching on themes of gay empowerment in their music, but for some reason it doesn't quite resonate?" The only straight up critique of anyone specific was how offensive Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" is. In response to CNN asking, "Why is that? Why is it so tough to have women play instruments?" Hanna replies it's because of SEXISM. She isn't shit talking women as musicians. She's talking about mainstream music and sexism in the industry. I would try re-reading the interview and posting a new response. Or at least take the link to CNN down so people reading your article won't all realize what an unwarranted response this is.

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