new music: but really this is about kathleen hanna

Kathleen Hanna by Jason Persse

I’m not the new-music sleuth I used to be. Back in the day (the 90s), I loved to flip through CDs and records until I found something that seemed interesting and shell out what little cash I had to make it mine. It was always a bit of a gamble but often worth it. And because I didn’t have much money to spend, each new item was special.

Then I married a serious music collector and ended up in a house so full of records and CDs that I don’t even know where to begin. My collection got swallowed up, and I often don’t remember what I have. He knows what he has, however, because he has a spreadsheet (or something much fancier now, some kind of app, I think) but also because I think he might have a photographic memory when it comes to records. But only records. You might say, no, he has whatever is the equivalent for sound memory, but there are records in there he has never listened to. And he still knows. He’s like the record whisperer.

Not long ago, he confessed that there probably isn’t enough time in his life to listen to everything he owns, so I said, “Maybe you have enough?” He looked at me like I was a naive child or confused alien. Recently, we watched a documentary about crazy record collectors, but that got me thinking that there needs to be a documentary about the people who live with record collectors and their multiplying shelves and stacks and bins and obsessions.

Though I’ve sometimes bought music online, it doesn’t elicit the same thrill as a living, breathing record store. There’s so much music online and so many avenues to wander down that I often feel overwhelmed and just go back to playing out the Cat Power CDs I can see at the front of one of the many shelves in our house.

So I’d been thinking that I needed some new music in my life, but then the news about Pussy Riot’s release (hurrah!) got me in a Bikini Kill mood. The original riot grrrls started their own record label, Bikini Kill Records, and reissued their 1992 self-titled debut in late 2012. It sold out, but they’ve got more now! The 20th anniversary reissue includes cool extras like interviews, liner notes, and zine excerpts. O zines, how I have missed thee! I know, that’s not exactly new music…

Remember that Julie Ruin album Kathleen Hanna made between Bikini Kill and Le Tigre? Get off the internet! I’ll meet you in the street. Well, she formed a band called The Julie Ruin, and their first album, Run Fast, came out last fall. (Oh my god, they have played with Hot Fruit.) That’s new! That counts, right?

Did you know there’s also a documentary about Kathleen Hanna? The Punk Singer, directed by Siri Anderson, includes Joan Jett, Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth, Free Kitten), Johanna Fateman (Le Tigre), Kathi Wilcox (Bikini Kill), Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker (Sleater Kinney), Ad-Rock (Beastie Boys and her hubby, in case you didn’t know), and Tavi Gevinson (Rookie Magazine). It’s still playing in select cities. If you don’t see your town, you can get a local venue to book it.

Kathleen Hanna’s “Riot Grrrl Manifesto” was instrumental in expanding my feminism and helping me define myself. She was an important figure in my life, and I still adore her.

This all makes me happy, but I need new music from new people. Hold the phone–Cibo Matto has a new record coming out on Valentine’s Day! Their last one came out fifteen years ago. Fifteen years!

Okay, I’m stuck in the 90s.

I promise that my next music post will be about new music.

I’m also taking suggestions. Ahem.

here, have some hot fruit with that shame

It’s summer, which means we can’t go two minutes without seeing an article on how to get the perfect “bikini bod” or a photo lauding some celebrity’s “post-baby body.” It’s our culturally approved method of body shaming. The media helpfully directs us to examples we should follow–women who have the money, time, and imperative to trim all the fat (or anything else they don’t like) from their bodies, or models who actually starve themselves on a regular basis.

But it’s not just images of “perfect” bodies. They like to insult us directly too. Even when women achieve phenomenal things, there’s still someone with a platform who reduces them to their physicality. This week’s example is John Inverdale, a presenter on the UK’s Radio 5 Live, who said of Wimbledon Champion Marion Bartoli: “I just wonder if her dad, because he has obviously been the most influential person in her life, did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe, ‘listen, you are never going to be, you know, a looker. You are never going to be somebody like a Sharapova, you’re never going to be 5ft 11, you’re never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that.’”

His statement serves to make women who don’t fit whatever cultural norm feel ugly and unworthy and to insist that women who achieve, particularly in traditionally male arenas, only do so because they are pleasing to look at. Inverdale is certainly not the only person to body shame Bartoli, as all kinds of assholes proved on Twitter. The Tumblr “Public Shaming” flipped body shaming on its head by preserving images of Tweets devoted to debasing Bartoli, thereby shaming the shamers. (Reading it will make you feel terribly sad about the world, but it’s useful if you know someone who thinks sexism doesn’t exist.)

Bartoli’s smart response implies that she didn’t let the insults ruin her win: “I am not blonde, yes. That is a fact. Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No. I’m sorry. But have I dreamed about winning Wimbledon? Absolutely, yes.”

My response to body shamers–be they Inverdale, ignorant Tweeters, women’s magazines, or even “serious” news outlets–is a little Hot Fruit.

Out of Olympia, Washington, Hot Fruit describe themselves as “an all Diva 3 piece electronic band.” After they posted the above video for “Falling off the Grid,” YouTube and Reddit exploded in misogynist rage. As you can imagine, there was a lot of body shaming because that’s the first resort of sexist morons. But Hot Fruit don’t care!

Member Grace Ellis says, “Hot Fruit is a place where I began to work through my own acceptance of my power, my sexuality, my ability to be a happy person who doesn’t need to apologize for my failures. And this isn’t all about me: It’s about how I was socialized, and open acceptance of what is not ‘perfect,’ ‘immaculate,’ ‘virgin[al]’ to other people through showing my own personal work.”

Let’s not give a shit about bikini bodies anymore. Think of all the energy we could be putting toward something awesome instead, like our own Hot Fruit. You in?