Kathleen Hanna regrets how women of color were received in riot grrrl movement


From Spin:

“The thing that’s really complicated when I look back on riot grrrl and race, was, one, we had a convention in D.C. and I worked with a woman of color to come up with a syllabus for a workshop about racism. There were women of color there, and there were white women there, and it ended up being a lot of white women talking about how they felt discriminated against. It was really awful. I was really disappointed at the level of education about oppression that people had. I worked at a domestic-violence shelter and they talked a lot about race and class and intersectionality, and so I really got this education working there, and I know it’s stupid to assume that other people were educating themselves, at least reading bell hooks. And these girls hadn’t. I watched a lot of women of color walk out. I remember that woman [I collaborated with on the workshop] being like, ‘Oh, fuck.’ And I was like, ‘At least we tried this, and it was a failure, and there needs to be other things to try.’

“But I left. I was on tour all the time, and at a certain point, I had to decide, am I gonna be somebody who’s involved with riot grrrl as a youth movement, or am I gonna do this band? And I was like, I’m gonna do the band. I choose my art; I’m not a political organizer. I’m really proud that we were a catalyst for it, but I can’t be the leader. I need to pull back so that other people can step into this leadership role. When I did go to meetings in the PNW [Pacific Northwest] or different places, it sorta would be white women arguing about who was more racist in an all-white environment. And I was like, this is not productive, this is bullshit. I didn’t wanna be a part of that. But at the same time, when people say riot grrrl was all white, that’s not true. In places like New York and California, that definitely was not the case. I don’t want to erase the women of color who were very much a part of shaping the identity of riot grrrl, and who questioned riot grrrl as a very white movement, and in that way shaped it, because clearly they cared enough to critique it. Was the face of riot grrrl white? Yes. Were a lot of the drawings in the zines white? Yes. Did I do them? Yes. Do I regret some lyrics like, “Eat meat / Hate blacks / It’s all the same thing”? Yes. Because that’s not a smart way of talking about intersectionality, and I regret it. I’m willing to publicly say that because I think it’s important to be like, you can change, you can get smarter, you can get better. If anything, I live with somebody who did that very much in the public eye, and I think that’s a wonderful thing, instead of being some static identity, to be someone who changes publicly. I wanna admit that I’m not perfect, that I’ve made mistakes. We put ourselves out to be criticized, and I hope that people criticized things that I said, because it’s all about the exchange. Again, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about opening the conversation.”