on relating to kathleen hanna

i watched this interview yesterday.

it’s an interview with kathleen hanna, known to kids of today thanks to her band le tigre, & known to me as a teenager from her riot grrrl band bikini kill. i loved bikini kill a lot when i was younger, & when kathleen’s solo record under the name julie ruin came out, i was psyched. i had secretly been into very un-punk disco/dance/pop music for years & it was gratifying that a musician from the same punk/feminist background as me was taking that sensibility into a musical direction that i could finally admit liking (because suddenly it was hip…this was clearly before i stopped giving a fuck about what was cool). & then le tigre came along, & at first i was excited, & i bought the record & i saw the band when they played the meow meow in portland, oregon sometime in 2000 or so. they performed “bang! bang!” from their EP, which is a song about amadou diallo being shot 42 times by cops in new york city. there’s a “breakdown” where kathleen leads the crowd in counting to 42. i was at the show with a friend, who happens to be a woman of color born & raised in a new york city borough. she became increasingly uncomfortable as the song progressed & eventually had to leave. i took a walk with her & she explained that it felt sickening to her to be in a room full of white people (because portland is mostly white, & let’s face facts: bikini kill/le tigre/kathleen hanna fans in general are mostly white) counting down how many times an unarmed black immigrant was shot by white cops. the song is supposed to be about police brutality & raising awareness of that issue among white kids, but…it did feel weird. the counting got louder & louder & became almost anthemic, like the kids were celebrating. it was creepy & i always skipped that song when i listened to the EP.

& then, of course, le tigre signed on to play the michigan womyn’s music festival, an extremely long-running woman-only music festival. the fest was started in the late 70s by some young lesbians who were sick of having to drive all the way to new york to see the lesbian singer-songwriters they liked so much. the fest has expanded its focus, musically, over the years, but still maintain a “woman-born-woman” policy, which means that you can oonly attend if you have a vagina, apparently. trans men are allowed, so long as they still have vaginas & don’t identify themselves at the event as men. trans women are not allowed, because supposedly they are men playacting as women. basically, the policy is patently transphobic & fucked up. it’s fucked up even for the trans men that are allowed on the land, because it invisibilizes their male identities by reducing their genders to their body parts. it’s like saying, “well, maybe you think you’re a man, but you can hang out here because you’re really a woman.” & it tells trans women that they are straight up not women.

people have been protesting MWMF & their policy for years & years, to no avail. supporters of the policy insist that they should be allowed to have the occasional event that is a woman-only space, & that some women with histories that involve abuse & assault at the hands of men would not be comfortable at the festival if men were there–that the presence of men could be triggering. the policy extends to children as well–i think the cut-off age for male children permitted at the event is twelve years. apparently there’s a lot of strutting around nude that happens at the festival, & many women who support the policy say they want to protect themselves from the male gaze. none of this changes the fact that, you know, trans women are women & not men! so what the hell!

anyway, people who have been protesting the policy (& hence, the event itself) extended their protests to also protesting bands/artists that pley the festival. & when le tigre & labelmates the butchies signed on to play the fest in 2001, those of us who had grown up with bikini kill & team dresch & all these formative feminist/queer-posi bands felt like we’d been slapped in the face. i was pretty involved in the protesting, i wrote about my experiences for my old zine, “a renegade’s handbook to love & sabotage” #5, & i couldn’t bring myself to listen to my le tigre CDs anymore. i’ve barely even listened to bikini kill in the last ten years. the bands & the folks who ran their label, mr. lady, were so completely unapologetic about the MWMF policy. & every time i’d try to cut them some slack & think, “well, it’s not like THEY made up the policy, they’re just playing the fest, maybe it’s not the end of the world,” they’d do something fucked up like comparing trans activists to terrorists (seriously!) or something. they just made it impossible for me be at all sympathetic to their perspective, because their perspective was so deeply entrenched in completely unchecked transphobia, even while they trotted out le tigre member J.D. samson (a trans dude) as proof of their credentials.

all of this is just kind of background on why i have not really paid any attention to kathleen hanna in the last ten years, & why i am incredibly reluctant to be into much of anything she has to say. but she’s been in the punky underground news a bit recently, thanks to donating her papers (including zines, correspondence, flats, etc) to NYU. i watched this interview with her yesterday & was kind of blown away by some of the ways i related to what she was saying. i cannot relate to the hideous glasses or the valley girl intonations of her speaking voice, which really grate after fifteen minutes, but that’s beside the point. the point:

#1: the thing about getting caught up in “horizontal oppression” stuff in her twenties & wasting too much energy arguing over “personal issues that have been politicized.” i can’t remember exactly how she phrased it, something like focusing too much on “nitpicking instead of action”. this is something i would LOVE to talk to someone about more, because i can totally relate in some ways, & have huge reservations in other ways. i think it’s just a hallmark of any young activist-oriented person to get overly wrapped up in minutiae, at the expense of real work. pretty much every activist type i have known has grown through a huge identity politics period where everything they read, think, say, or do relates directly to them & their positionality in terms of race, gender, sexuality, class, etc. not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s not always relevant or helpful. it leads to people sometimes drawing lines in the sand & fractiousness which does a lot more harm than good. HOWEVER, where to draw the line? while i sometimes think that certain things are “nitpicking” or “irrelevant,” that is exactly the same criticism that people in positions of privilege & power use to discount things like feminism, anti-racist activism, anti-oppression issues in general. i mean, so much of the critique that MWMF policy protesters faced was that fighting for the inclusion of trans women was “nitpicking,” & that trans activists were “hurting” the feminist/lesbian legacy of the MWMF event by casting the marginalized (in mainstream society) as oppressors (of trans women).

i eventually realized that the whole MWMF issue was a question of basic values & principles. either you accept that trans women are women & the policy marginalizes their self-identification & dignity as human beings, or you feel that trans women are some “third gender” or something & that their rights & demands need to take a week-long backseat to the primacy of cissexual women enjoying a music fest. i happen to think that people of the latter opinion are short-sighted assholes, but i don’t kid myself that thinking that, or even saying it, is going to change their minds. & the fact remains that on a whole host of other specific issues, like abortion rights, queer liberation, anti-racism, et al, i probably have more in common with le tigre & the ladies at MWMF than i do with the guy ringing up my groceries or my mailman or whatever. so where does that leave us?

#2: kathleen talks about getting older (“being a grown-up”) & realizing that she doesn’t necessarily need to scrap in every argument or every little thing. WORD, kathleen. people who have known me for a long time know that i am fierce in a debate. but lately, it seems like a waste of energy. it doesn’t feel constructive. sometimes i feel hopeless (which isn’t constructive either), because i feel like nothing i can say will ever change anyone’s mind. the best i can hope for is managing to say something that coalesces some scrambled thoughts that someone who vaguely agrees with me is already thinking, you know? like they’d say, “wow, i’d never really thought of it this way before, but ciara really put this into words that make sense to me.” that’s nice, but kind of anti-climactic.

in the interview, kathleen also mentions coming to the realization that your voice is not necessarily helping matters. i could really relate to that too. kathleen & i are both polarizing forces in some ways (to different degrees & in different ways), & sometimes i feel that me throwing my hat into the ring is going to do more harm than good, because…

#3: the part where the interviewer mentions “being a woman whose reputation precedes her”? man, that resonated with me. i have often been described that way. it’s a blessing & a curse. there are some people who will always consider what i have to say respectfully & with interest, because they like me & are willing to hear me out, just because of who i am & what i’ve done in the past. & there are other people who will never listen to anything i have to say, no matter how well it may dovetail with their own perspectives, because of who i am & what i have done in the past. they just hate me.

#4: i liked what kathleen had to say about zines as an ephemeral medium, & how they were created to be historical, in a way. she talked about giving NYU her zine flats so people in the future can look at them & understand that not everything came from the internet; people used to cut & paste. i almost felt a little stirring of inspiration regarding the zine medium again. it made me remember being 17 & making zines after getting home from work at 4am, listening to bikini kill & sleater-kinney, cutting & pasting & tapping away at the typewriter.

#5: i also liked what kathleen had to say about leadership, & how some people just have a knack for being spokespeople, but they are sometimes cut down & silenced because people in our punky little anarchist-y scene look at spokespersonship as some kind of fucked up replication of leadership & hierarchy from mainstream society. this is something that has long bothered me, & i have trotted out the opinion that some people have gifts that can be useful & ought to be nurtured, & that we can’t all be “equals” in terms of interest & ability. as far back as 1999, i did a huge independent research project on zines & issues of hierarchy & came to the conclusion that, yeah, our scene replicates some fucked up superstar tendencies, but also, sometimes there’s a reason for it. people whine about distros all carrying the same zines, & they offer examples like “doris” & “brainscan” (& my zines have been mentioned a few times too). there are tons of zines that are just as good or maybe even a little better than those zines, but ultimately, people love “doris” because it’s full of great writing, it comes out regularly, & cindy seems like a very kind person. people like “brainscan” because it has an iconic zine look (often imitated), the writing is friendly & approachable, & alex is great at getting the word out about her projects. people liked my old zine, “a renegade’s handbook,” because it was monstrously enormous compared to most other zines out there, & the writing was slightly more polished & sophisticated than most of what you find in zines. & some people hate on all these zines for the same reasons.

there’s just no pleasing all of the people all of the time, & in a scene where bikini kill erupted from a record label called kill rock stars, people are going to build their idols up only to tear them back down again. you’re never allowed to feel too comfortable with your achievements or too proud of a job well done. it helps keep people humble & pushing themselves to do their best, but it also crushes people, because hard work is quickly minimized & scuttled, raw talent is dismissed & ignored, & the tallest stalk is first to meet with the scythe.

food for thought, i guess. i hope people comment on this, because this is the kind of shit i am talking about when i say i want to engage in “dialectical learning”. i certainly do not have all the answers about things like hierarchy & horizontal oppression. every statement i come up with seems to generate ten new internal questions. i am trying to be cool with that, because i kind of think that broad statements that say, “this is how it is & how it should be” are for confident kids that haven’t yet fully grappled with the complexities of the world. like i have said before, as i get older, the only thing i am sure about is that i am not sure of anything. (except the deliciousness of cheesecake on the lanai.)

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

13 thoughts on “on relating to kathleen hanna

  1. Totally had a similar set of reactions. Obvs have similar history w/ Kathleen Hanna. I dug the first Le Tigre album, then basically stopped following them for combo of 1. thinking the following ep and ESPECIALLY Feminist Sweepstakes weren’t very good and 2. The whole Michigan thing. I got the last album free or something, I’ve never even listened to it all the way through.

    I liked the Amidou Diallo song the first time I heard it, at a show before the ep came out here in NYC. At the time I was glad they were doing a a song about the subject, though I later came to be creeped out by it. and the counting out the shots thing was something I’d been hearing and doing all the time at demos, and thus didn’t immediately strike me as problematic or much different from that, esp as I was up front and thus just seeing the band not really taking in the full spectacle of the crowd’s engagement. Then I heard someone’s critique, basically exactly what your friend said and was like: hmm. Yeah. That’s messed up.

    I wonder what her position is on Michigan at this point.

    1. i too am extremely curious about kathleen’s take on the michigan policy at this point. so curious that i spent like two hours yesterday looking for first-hand kathleen quotes on the issue. i came up pretty much empty-handed. i found the statement that kaia wilson wrote up in 2001 or whatever, & i read a whole bunch of stuff by protesters & then a bunch of stuff by people criticizing the protesters, & a bunch of stuff reporting on kathleen’s response to the protests, but i didn’t find anything that i felt confident was an actual kathleen quote on the issue. from 2001 or from now. in that interview, she gave a specific shout-out to trans activists, but is that because she learned something in the last ten years & maybe possibly regrets her reaction to the protests, or is it because she realized acknowledging trans activism is good PR for her fan base? i would be really curious to see a frank statement from her on all that shit now.

      i think the thing that was really fucked up about the amadou diallo song was the crowd engagement aspect in light of the fact that a huge percentage of le tigre fans are white. the song just on the record didn’t bother me that much. i mean, i didn’t think it was a very good song, but whatever. & if they’d just performed it & not encouraged the crowd to count along, maybe i would have been like, “okay, police brutality awareness song–sure.” but the people counting…it was seriously chilling. the first time i saw them perform it, i was in the middle of a packed room, & people were actually pumping their fists in the air with each count. it felt really aggressive & scary. & when you consider the racial context of the shooting, & the racial make-up of the crowd…yikes.

      1. Yeah. The second time I saw them perform the Amidou Diallo song I was further back in the crowd (my fandom had waned) so I got the full fist-pumping, mostly white crowd visual/aural effect and..::shudder:: The whole thing is a weird miscalculation–I mean, I get it, Kathleen Hanna had recently moved to New York and there was tons of organizing and activism happening here around Amidou Diallo’s murder. As someone in a political band who was trying to be a good, engaged, new New Yorker it was absolutely something that made sense to address in some way. And again, having counted out the shots countless times in marches and stuff, I can see how it seemed like a protest chant that might be powerfully incorporated into a song. But the context of (at least most) Amidou Diallo-related marches/rallies/demos is very different from that of a hipster-feminist Le Tigre show, and this is kind of an interesting failure–trying to just transpose an element of one onto another, creating very different effects.

        In a way it reminds me of a less scary/offensive Le Tigre schtik that used to bother me–I remember at that second Le Tigre show for one of the songs (prob My My Metrocard) they had a slide show of subway cars photoshopped to look like they had feminist/Le Tigre graffiti all over them. Yay political graffiti and visually shouting out NYC graffiti culture and history (no one can actually tag up the outside of a subway car like that anymore) but also…huh? Le Tigre and their audience may appreciate old school graffiti artists, but they are not them, and most of the audience probably doesn’t know or care about things like the drastically intensified anti-graffiti laws that were criminalizing (other) artistic kids, making them into felons. That was the context that, to me, made the images potentially powerful and rebellious. But to have Le Tigre just tap into that well emotion regarding public space/racialized criminalization of art and artists/etc etc etc without explaining any of it or positioning themselves in relation to it (beyond as artists who enjoy riding the subway) just felt kind of appropriating and exploitative. Maybe I’m just being New York snobby or something.

        During your research, did you come across the infamous (to me, at least) “We Heart Trannies!” flier that The Butchies/Mr. Lady put out in response to the Michigan controversy? That was classic.

        I had the same questions about Kathleen’s trans activists shout out in the interview. It seems like some “pro trans” cisgendered feminists are able to both support transphobic policy in “feminist” spaces AND see themselves as trans allies because, I don’t know, they support the right of transgendered and transexual people to exist? Except for trans women in women-only spaces? Because they think the disproportionate violence against trans people is bad? Even if they aren’t willing to question some of the underlying biases in themselves that contribute towards said violence? I wasn’t thinking of this kind of discrepancy when I read that essay by Kathleen in the CD of the first two records liner notes, where she talks about being a living contradiction in some respects, contradiction just being a fact of life. I always found that really moving and clarifying.

        1. i think the “new to new york” aspect is one of the things that bothered me. she was writing “my my metrocard” & incorporating NYC-specific protest chants into her songs like a few months after moving to the city. i may be alone on this, but that sort of thing really bothers me. i feel like you have to pay your dues & take a back seat for a while when you are in a new town (or new to a political movement, or new to a cultural scene, etc etc). you can’t just swoop in like you’ve been there your whole life. i spent eight years living in boston–a huge chunk of my adult life to date. but i still wouldn’t feel comfortable spouting off like i’m some authority on it. & lawrence is way smaller & easier to get to know, & i have been here now for over six months, but i am still keeping quiet & mostly just observing without making any statements about anything.

          so i don’t think you are just being new york-snobby. i do think that they were kind of appropriating a new york city identity before it had really been earned. & i guess this brings up questions about authenticity, gentrification, the commodification of countercultures, blah blah blah…but in my gut, something just doesn’t sit right. i remember hearing “my my metrocard” for the first time & feeling vaguely embarrassed for le tigre for getting so enthusiastic about this thing that was just an everyday part of new yorker’s lives–or even a relatively new & frustrating incursion. when i first moved to boston, they were still on the token system, a coule of years ago, they introduced charlie cards–boston’s version of a metrocard. & sometimes i’d overhear some new freshman or something talking about their charlie card like it was emblematic of their being a real bostonian now, & i always thought a quiet a mostly subconscious, “fuck you, bring back the tokens! you don’t know shit about how obnoxious these charlie cards are!”

          i looked for the “we love trannies” flyer, but couldn’t find it. i do remember the disgust it engendered when it was first released. oh, mr. lady. they really didn’t get it, did they?

          i totally agree with your last paragraph here. it does seem like maybe kathleen is exactly the kind of “yay trans activism!” cis feminist you describe. like, “i support the right of trans people to exist & to not be disproportionately killed & violated, but sometimes we need to have our ladies-only spaces.” it’s like they’re really not seeing the privilege that is at work there, & how that kind of “separate but equal” treatment is complicit with violence against trans people. contradiction IS a fact of life in many ways, & i’m not entirely convinced that it’s especially useful to live our lives constantly striving for political perfection. i mean, sometimes this shit is complicated. did you follow along with the whole internet transphobia brouhaha that happened with the women’s health clinic in new orleans that sought to provide health care to marginalized women, but did not have a urologist on staff that could assist pre-op transsexual women? people were calling the clinic the fuck out for transphobia & how it doesn’t serve all women, & i was kind of disturbed because most of the calling out was not addressing the fact that a) the clinic was non-profit, funded by grants, & those grants undoubtedly had strings attached about what kinds of doctors they could hire & what kinds of services they could provide, b) most grant providers who are willing to fund women’s health clinics don’t immediately think about having prostate specialists on staff for the MTF community, c) rejecting grants from foundation that aren’t thinking about the trans women means that the clinic probably won’t be able to provide any services to anyone at all, & d) that means that poor, homeless, largely of color cis women aren’t getting treatment, nor are trans women getting treatment that they can get from general practitioners on staff that don’t require specialists in traditionally male anatomy (because the issue wasn’t that no trans women were allowed in the clinic–the issue was that there wasn’t a proctologist on staff, as far as i could gather, & that meant that trans women were not getting complete health care).

          related to this is a lot of the activism i have done relating to reproductive health, rights, & access for people with vaginas & uteruses & periods & the possibility of pregnancies, etc. i have tried to use trans-inclusive language in doing this (ie, not calling it “women’s health” in recognition that possessing a vagina doesn’t make you a woman & not possessing one doesn’t mean you aren’t a woman). it is sometimes difficult to address biological health concerns while avoiding biologically essentialist language & assumptions, but i think it’s important. also because not everyone who has a uterus is able to get pregnant, due to fertility issues or menopause, so it’s not like all of these things carry equal weight even to cissexual women. you know? i have had a few shitty experiences with trans women who have expressed the opinion that this kind of work is not the best kind of feminist work you can be doing because it doesn’t really impact trans women at all. i don’t think this is a majority opinion by any means–just a few people with short-sighted perspectives casting aspersions on how other people choose to spend their activist energy. i guess my point is that it has made me think a little more about things like “safe spaces” or “women’s only spaces”. like at the hampshire reproductive rights conference a few years ago–they have an abortion speak-out every year, & this one year, a dude got up to read a little poem about the abortion he had. people murmured a bit, but the general assumption seemed to be that perhaps he was a trans dude & was going to talk about an abortion he personally had actually had. fair enough. but the poem made it clear that he was in fact a cis dude talking about an abortion his girlfriend had had after he knocked her up. & he was escorted away from the mic, because the only speakers allowed were people who have personally had their uteruses suctioned. it wasn’t a women-only speak-out, because it acknowledged that you don’t need to ID as a woman in order to have an abortion, but it was a space for a certain group of people who’ve had a specific experience relating to their specific confluence of parts, & i still think that spaces like that are really important. (ps–anyone could be present at the speak-out, but only people who’ve had abortions could speak. which i LOVE because i really don’t give an eff about the opinions of people who haven’t had abortions, be they pro or con.)

          that was a ramble & a half. hope it made sense.

  2. Hey, I just wanted to say that I’ve enjoyed reading your blog, and that I too had similar reactions when I saw the K H interview, not that I’ve been involved in activist communities to anywhere near the extent that K H (or you, or many other people) have been…It reminded me of being in a tent on NYE with my friend and reflecting on how we’re soon to be 30, and how our politics have changed. And we agreed that we are still angry (or you, know, worried) but hopefully more intellegent, and therefore less sure about how to make change or live in the world (and less inclined to having shouting arguments with our families). Anyway. All I think I can contribute to this discussion at the moment is that it must be common phenomenon – leaving your 20s and realising that things only get more complicated, and I’ve been feeling it intensely lately. I think I should go back and read love letters to monsters 2, because I like this talk of dialectical learning (I’ve been liking talk of dialectics in general lately, blow me down). And on that zine, I came across the review you mentioned in your last post. It seemed like the reaction of someone who’d been forced to think and didn’t like the way it made them feel. You probably don’t need to hear another person say don’t worry about it, but there you go anyway. All the best. x

    1. just to forewarn you, the piece that calls for dialectical learning is the piece that inspired the venom in that weird review i mentioned. i think you hit the nail on the head: forced to think, didn’t enjoy the sensation. but it seems kind of smug for me to say so. so i’ll just say i’m quoting you.

      it’s weird how, as i get older, i am less inclined to actually say all that much, or argue with anyone, because it a) seems like such a waste of energy most of the time, & b) it seems somewhat conceited for me to share my perspectives as if they are interesting or novel in any way. i think i am going through an internal truth & reconciliation process, trying to make peace with who i am now & who i was (& some of the dumb shit i did) ten years ago. hopefully i’ll come through the other side a better writer & a more contented person.

  3. I’m really, really glad that you blogged about this interview. I had been talking about it a bit with friends — mainly because there’s been a rash of blogging about “reviving riot grrrl” & people sharing Bikini Kill thoughts and stories for that Bikini Kill archive project — but hadn’t really got much further in conversation than “I don’t really know how I feel about this” and “ugh, those glasses.”

    I’m having trouble with figuring out where I fall on the “horizontal oppression” stuff & the way you wrote about it here really summed up the conflict I’ve been having. Yeah, on one hand I understand that the potential to do “real work” can be compromised by getting caught up in seemingly endless “nitpicky” battles — but those battles do matter sometimes. I feel like I’ve noticed this especially in discussions about privilege and cultural appropriation. I’ve spent the last year teaching a discussion based course on social justice issues for college sophomores and whenever these issues come up, the first response that students have is that I’m “nitpicking” and these things “don’t really matter” — except, you know, the TOTALLY MATTER and for these students to do work that would allow them to come to a place where they are more understanding of their own privilege is something that I would consider to be a worthwhile use of time.

    I remember Lauren writing about “Bang! Bang!” in an issue of Quantify & am really grateful to her for writing that piece because it helped me to get comfortable with problematizing people whose work I admire. I was in my early teens when Le Tigre started making music & at that point I still had a very black and white view of things and assumed that people I admired (especially people who identified as feminist or queer/queer allies) could more or less do no wrong… Which made the whole Mr. Lady/MWMF thing that much harder for me to process — especially since Kaia Wilson had been super important to me. To see her supporting the MWMF in spite of their transphobic policies was awful — it really did feel like a slap in the face.

    A lot of the points you make in relation to Kathleen’s statements about being a “grown up” are things that I feel like I’m constantly processing in my teaching — at this point, I feel like the best I can hope for is to help kids see things in new ways and get them thinking about things they might not have considered before. I’ve gotten comfortable with the fact that I’m probably not going to enlighten anyone or change them forever & that sometimes I just have to curb my participation in discussion because my voice isn’t really contributing anything & I would just drive myself crazy trying to shape the meaning of the conversation.

    1. yeah, i watched this thing because of all the “riot grrrl revival” crap as well. i think i know how i feel about the concept of riot grrrl revival: not good at all. i recently referred to riot grrrl as a “well-polished turd” to someone who seems pretty into the idea of a revival, & i felt kind of guilty for being so remorselessly critical, but…i can’t change how i feel.

      i think i am really struggling with how i feel about “horizontal oppression” stuff lately, because i am kind of going through a political metamorphosis in general (ie, moving away from anarchism, which is shifting around my world view in pretty significant ways). i sometimes catch myself rolling my eyes when people are all worked up over something & thinking, “good luck getting through life if you’re going to get so upset over every tiny little thing.” i find myself more frequently reading political commentary that i am “supposed” to agree with & looking at it really critically–not necessarily because i disagree, but because i am training myself (unconsciously) to look for rational arguments that undergird a generalized political perspective with which i can agree, versus arguments that rely on language tricks & hyperbole & may undergird generalized political perspectives that strike me as unrealistic. like recently, someone i know (who may read this) wrote up a little argument against a particular porn website & used quotes & ideas from another blog that belied an obviously anti-pornography slant in general. the person i know is not anti-porn. for me, i would never ever quote a source that was diametrically opposed to my basic political principles just because it happened to make a point i more or less agreed with. in fact, such a situation would probably make me more thoroughly consider my own perspective, you know? i mean, maybe that’s just a matter of personal taste of whatever, but…i just find myself turning a critical lens on everything lately, & mostly i am realizing that everyone is pushing an agenda that is kind of ridiculous & unrealistic.

      i think mostly what i want out of life these days is to laugh more, smile more, & feel more relaxed, & i can’t do that if i am getting all het up over every little thing. but where to draw the line? & how much of where i draw the line is a product of my personal privilege positionality (serious alliteration alert)? i don’t know. i guess i’m trying to strike a balance of consistently challenging myself without losing myself in joylessness. that’s not a terrible idea, right? i think i spent most of my twenties being excessively strident & joyless. mostly i do just try to throw ideas out there with the hope that someday people will think about what i said & it might complicate the comfortable little narrative they have made to justify their own privileges. i have stopped thinking that it is my responsibility (or even remotely possible) for me to single-handed transform the world.

      lauren was actually the friend i referenced in the blog post. we both lived in portland at the time & went to the show together. at the time, i LOVED kathleen. i actually said out loud at one point, “as far as i’m concerned, kathleen hanna can do no wrong.” when i was 19, i would have followed her to the ends of the earth. so the whole MWMF thing was a really bitter pill to swallow. i tried & tried (& still try sometimes) to understand where this decision came from, to try to comprehend some justification for it, but it’s just impossible in light of the way kathleen responded to the protesters & even just to people (such as myself) who personally & without emotion asked why le tigre had decided to play the fest in light of the policy. she actually compared trans protesters at MWMF to “terrorists” that were apparently trying to use their latent male privilege to silence & destroy feminism or something. i mean, maybe that was all some crazy over-reaction that she totally regrets now, but she said what she said & she played the fest & she totally did not apologize for it EVER & i find it all fairly unforgivable. even if she’s tried to spin some kind of “respect for the historic feminist legacy of the event” argument…i wouldn’t have found it acceptable, but it would have been better than the whole “terrorist” angle. obvs!

  4. i really enjoyed reading this. it was thoughtful and very well written. i agree with a lot of what you have to say. thank you thank you thank you.

  5. When people talk about “horizontal oppression” and can’t even name what that exact oppression was, who it was against and what their part was in it, that’s just playing it cute and safe. When people talk about “trans activism” as being new, that means they’re talking more about how much they love “transmasculine queer” activism and not the activism of trans women which totally predates her career (but was ridiculed and even spat on by cis-lesbians). Kathleen Hanna pretends she’s pro-trans by virtue of supporting transmasculine people (and clamming-up about what she’s done to trans women). This is still a sick behavior of many in the queer/GQ community. If they can’t be honest about their continued marginalization of trans women, they haven’t evolved and she doesn’t deserve respect for how she’s ‘grown up’.

    Btw, she also totally ripped off Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex who preceded her by more than 20 years. Pioneer or suburban copy?

  6. Just a note- as far as I know, J.D. identifies as a lesbian woman. (Sorry if this is in the comments already, I’m pre-coffee and reading on a phone.)

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