Feminist icon Kathleen Hanna is in Austin for SXSW this week. Not only is she there to promote a documentary about her entitled, The Punk Singer, but she’s there because everyone is there, including our own Jamie Peck, besides me. I am not bitter.
Hanna sat down with The Daily Beast to have a chat about feminism, punk, that time Courtney Love attacked her and, of all things, Taylor Swift. While the highlight in any Hanna interview, outside of the important stuff, will probably always be the Love episode (because, come on, it’s SO fucking Courtney Love to act like a lunatic without due cause), the most interesting part of this interview is her take on how Taylor Swift is actually a feminist. I’m serious. The feminist of feminists considers Swift a feminist, so now we have to wonder how many feminists agree or will be offended by being put in a feminist category that’s even remotely related to newly anointed feminist Swift. Did I use “feminist” in there a bit too much?
When asked about contemporary artists such as Swift who do not “self-identify” as a feminist, Hanna had this to tell The Daily Beast:
I’m totally into Taylor Swift I think she has super-clever lyrics, and I love that she writes her own music. Some of the themes she writes about are stuff I wish was there for me when I was in high school, and I’m so happy she really cares about her female fans. She’s not catering to a male audience and is writing music for other girls. I don’t care if she calls herself a feminist or not. There is something that she’s doing that feels feminist to me in that she really seems to have a lot of control over what her career is doing. She’s 23. People say she’s dating all these guys. Well, yeah, she’s a young person and is dating all these people ’cause that’s what you do when you’re young. John Mayer can fuck 84 people in one day and nobody calls him a slut. I think that’s the subtext of some of the things she’s said recently.
I’m totally in agreement on the slut-shaming of women in comparison to how men are “allowed” to act, but there’s something that feels “feminist” to Hanna about what Swift is doing? Personally, I can’t grasp this. But then again, I was listening to Bikini Kill at the age of the majority of Swift’s demographic.
I don’t see Swift writing lyrics that are meant to point out the tyranny of the patriarch, or fighting against an industry and society that has made decisions for her based on her gender. She’s singing about “never getting back together” again with what’s-his-name and inflicting pain on the innocent men in her life! I kid! But seriously, I’m not catching any feminist waves from Swift and her cloying pop songs that make my teeth ache from invisible cotton candy at just the thought.
With this insight from such a feminist icon, should we reconsider how we define feminism? Or should we accept that feminism, like all things, evolves and expands, and means different things to different people?
(Also, it doesn’t look like Le Tigre is getting back together, but Julie Ruin is the shit, so all’s forgiven.)
Photo: Kill Rock Stars