Riot Grrrl Interview: “I don’t agree with man-bashing.” Hannah Golightly

 Lindsay Petricca posted a Riot Grrrl questionnaire to the page Riot Grrrl – Riot Not Quiet Grrrl on facebook. She is doing research for her thesis. I decided to answer the questions and afterwards, I felt like I wanted to share her exclusive Riot Grrrl Interview with our readers. So here you go! 

Kathleen_Hanna_riot_grrrl

What does feminism mean to you personally? How do you feel about the words feminism/feminist?

It’s the movement that honours the feminine and the female and is about gender equality for all. I am an intersectional feminist who believes in addressing imbalances in privilege and honouring all voices and contributions to culture and society and the world. I have been a feminist all my life. It means not being governed by your gender in terms of what opportunites and behaviours are available to you.

Describe how and why you identify with the words feminism or feminist.

I am an intersectional liberal feminist. I have been brought up by a feminist mother. I believe that women and men are equal. I believe that society is patriarchal and favours giving power and positions of prominance to men and males. I believe this needs to shift into something more harmonious for the survival of the planet and the wellbeing of all human life.

Write about a time that made you feel proud or empowered.

Playing drums in an all female riot grrrl/new wave band in Manchester called Killerdolls was very empowering. Winning first prize in two business competitions made me feel proud and capable and empowered. Being the second best charity door-to-door fundraiser in the UK made me feel proud and empowered. Just expressing my intelligence makes me feel empowered and not hiding my capability to cater to the egos of men makes me feel empowered. Writing for feminist music blog www.collapseboard.com made me feel empowered as well. Everett True, a long time supporter of the Riot Grrrl movement and of women in music in general, invited me to contribute and review music. I felt empowered being given a voice in the media to share a feminist and female empowering message through my writing with other like minded people.

Can you recall a specific time when feminism played a role in your life?

It always has. And it’s not always been fun or easy either. Being brought up feminist, I have seen life from this perspective all through school and beyond. I noticed all the sexism around me always. I’ve always been outspoken about it and that has got me some negative attention and accusations of man-hating- even when I have said nothing man-bashing. I don’t agree with man-bashing. I just agree with patriarchy smashing. I find the divine masculine very attractive, but toxic masculinity needs healing or the environment as well as women are doomed.

In what ways do you disagree with the feminist movement?

I feel like the first wave of feminism was all about proving that women could do the same things as men. I feel like it failed to address that women are different from men in some ways and that it shouldn’t necessarily be the aim for women to compete with men to do the same things that men naturally excel at, rather I would love to see a resurgance of the divine feminine coming back, with the female and feminine honoured and revered. Ironically, I feel like in some ways first generation feminists disowned the feminine as a way to be taken seriously in the work place. I would love to see feminine qualities such as intuition given the same or more validity and celebration as rationality and logic. Life is quite simply not logical. Machinery and computers are. I think people mess up when they favour logic in life. There is a time and appropriate place for everything. I would like to see women given back positions of power for the feminine work. Women should not have to compete at being second-rate men. Women should be admired and celebrated for being first rate women. I also feel like all genders on the spectrum need to be equally part of the picture. I would like to live in a society that allowed the feminine in men as well- like men being allowed to cry without shame. I also believe that the combatative nature of some feminist campaigns creates more dischord and doesn’t result in harmony. I am not blaming women who have done this. I think it needed to be done. But I feel like it would be good to move beyond that to a non-hyerarchical and non-competative society based on the coming into harmony of the divine masculine and the divine feminine. I feel like the future of feminism should be more based on collaboration and harmony among the genders. Fighting just strengthens the polarity and widens the divide. I feel it’s time to bridge the gap.

Are there any musicians, songs, or albums (past and present) you would classify as feminist or riot grrrl? Why do you classify these as such?

Yes loads! The Riot Grrrl movement started by bands like Bikini Kill and made famous by bands like Hole and Babes In Toyland in the 90s are feminist. In fact, even mainstream pop, indie and rock was more feminist in the 90s… then came a backlash with disempowered female role models in pop presented to us, which was disheartening to see- the promotion of the 50s housewife style female blueprint came back with pop groups like Girls Aloud. Quite the contrast to the Spice Girls with their feminism lite message for the masses. I feel artists like Gwen Steffani are role models for femininity and empowerment at the same time. Courtney Love presented female anger (and suffered for it a lot) which was very important contribution to feminism. No one else seemed to have been such an angry woman in public before (to my eyes)… I feel like all women in punk with a voice or on drums or guitar are feminist icons to some extent. Music is a deeply male-dominated industry. All industries who influence the hearts and minds of the population are male-dominated, maintaining male power and patriarchy. Men are the gatekeepers and that is why we see and hear fewer women in music than men and often the women in pop are singing the lyrics created by male fantasies, perpetuating a male patriarchal agenda. Any woman who authentically expresses herself in the public eye is making a contribution to feminism just by being there.

Does the music industry need feminism? Is feminism currently visible within the industry?Are there issues surrounding it? Explain.

The music industry is the mouth piece of the patriarchy and as such ‘doesn’t need feminism’- quite the opposite. It needs to guard itself against feminism, which may influence enough hearts and minds to create a cultural movement that would lead to positive change and the new paradigm to follow Patriarchy, whatever that would be. I don’t know if you have noticed but they put a stop to cultural movements lead by rock stars when Kurt Cobain killed himself. That was the watershed moment to my mind. They tightly controlled what music was promoted after that and the music has been extremely conservative and watered down and meaningless politically since… well the music given promotion and popular rotation at least. Misogynistic lyrics and voices have been continued to be promoted to maintain the status quo however. We as a culture could benefit from more feminism in the music industry. Right now I am cultivating a new music industry paradigm for women to make the old one obsolete by bringing together Riot Grrrls and linking them with their allies in music who they can work with in a way that removes the competition with males, who have a winning hand already.

If you are familiar with the Riot Grrrl movement, explain your thoughts about it. Should/is it making a comeback, why, and how do you see it integrate into today’s feminist landscape?

I have been aware of the Riot Grrrl movement since the first time around back in the 90s. As a life long feminist and a drummer with a taste for rock music, it really resonated with me. I was only able to read about the music though as this was before the internet and it was hard enough to buy a Hole record- and they were on a major label! I feel like there has always been room for women in punk- most of the 70s punks who come immediately to mind after the Sex Pistols are the women punk musicians like Poly Styrene and Viv Albertine and Ari Up. Women and feminists have been going against the grain in a Patriarchal society, so punk is the perfect outlet and forum for that potentially. I don’t feel like riot grrrl is making a comeback, so much as it never fully went away. There have always been outspoken punk women and the spirit of riot grrrl remains ever after. I do feel like there has been more interest in the term riot grrrl recently however. I feel like it’s lost the confines of it’s original meaning… I feel like now it’s any kind of female alternative or punk artist or band who empower women can broadly come under this title.

What do you believe the strengths and weaknesses, benefits and disadvantages of the riot grrrl movement are?

The strengths of the riot grrrl movement is the spirit and empowerment, the choosing not to beg at the table for scraps from the mainstream male dominated music industry and carve out your own spaces. I feel it’s weakness originally was in not attempting to reach a wider global audience by actively shunning the mass media. This made them cool and untouchable… but ultimately I could read about them but was unable to actually listen to them in 90s North Wales. Bands such as Hole stole aspects of their politics and aesthetic which was cool because they brought that to the attention of the world, even though at the time they were not actually considered to be ‘riot grrrl’- which was just a handful of bands from Evergreen College. I think it’s important as with the general punk subculture, not to make it into a nostaligia culture. Riot Grrrl isn’t a thing that happened in the past… it has yet to achieve all it’s main aims. It’s valid today and it’s new wave of bands and artists are just as important. I don’t think it should be about worshipping Kathleen Hanna so much as being the other thousand new icons and mouthpieces for the movement today.

Courney_Love_riot_grrrl

Is Riot Grrrl more or less successful as its own movement rather than integrating into popular culture? Could you ever see riot grrrl as “mainstream”? Explain.

girl_power_riot_grrrl

I think we can tell from the likes of the Spice Girls, that when something becomes mainstream in terms of becoming taken over by pop music, it sort of kills it to some extent. Genuine Girl Power was gaining momentum prior to the Spice Girls and that band kinda capitalised on that. I would say that it also did some good though in bringing the concept of feminism to very young girls and women everywhere by watering it down and making it seem fun and attractive and accessible. But ultimately it neutralised it’s message. So I wouldn’t want to see that used for money making for men who pull the music industry strings at the top record corporations. That would take women’s movement and put it in the hands and line the pockets of powerful men- making them richer and even more powerful. This is not the aim. The Spice Girls thing ripped off the Riot Grrrl movement in that way. Even Baby Spice was problematic in my mind at the time. She dressed like Courtney Love but cleaner… but unlike Courtney, she wasn’t being subversive by contrasting the cutesy look with hostile angry behaviour and expression- no, Baby Spice was the picture of a genuine Lolita- a disempowering male fantasy of sorts. I didn’t like that so much. I would prefer, should riot grrrl go mainstream, for it to be more like what Nirvana achieved- for a genuine movement that goes against the mainstream, even while being visible and sort of an ironic part of the mainstream. That would be cool. But I don’t feel like the aims of Riot Grrrl could be carried out in this way unless the major corporations backing the movement in the music industry was female-owned or partially female-owned and controlled and run. Otherwise it’s using women’s liberation movement to enrich men and empower men behind the scenes. So ironically it wouldn’t change much on that level.

What sources do you seek out for feminist media/information or feminist music media/information?

My aim when starting my online riot grrrl zine GrrrlsWithGuitars.com was to be the source people sought out for feminist music and perspectives. I follow feminist riot grrrl collectives online such as Loud Women and Get In Her Ears. I network and socialise with women and grrrls and non-binary people in riot grrrl groups on facebook and all over twitter, seeing my role as building links and bridges across the world, growing our zine into the fastest growing riot grrrl zine in the world. I also like to read Bustle for feminist culture and commentary and my fiend Amy Roberts is an intensely talented writer who writes for both Bustle and Clarissa Explains Fuck All, which focuses on television, film and entertainment from a feminist perspective.

To take part in this thesis research questionnaire, click here to get involved! With thanks to Lindsay Petricca for the questions!

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