Fight like a girl
By Alexis Zygan, Staff Writer
Bikini Kill continued to inspire women to pick up a guitar and start a band and write feminist anthems, for which their legacy prevails.
In 1991 Bikini Kill released “Rebel Girl,” an anthem for female solidarity on a split EP with Huggy Bear. I heard the track two decades later as an angsty youth. Bikini Kill emerged from the third-wave feminist movement of riot girls. They wrote music for women who felt dismissed by popular culture. Their lyrics tackled rape culture and destigmatized female pleasure while their live shows granted women a space in front of the stage. With their songs evoking a tooth-and-nail fight against the patriarchy to reclaim my femininity from the claws of oppressors, Bikini Kill became one of my favourite artists. With the attainment of adulthood came the hyper awareness in public space of the constant threat to my safety from the male gaze lurking on the horizon.
When civil rights activist Danielle Muscato posed the question “What would you do if all men had a 9pm curfew?” to her Twitter followers in 2018, the responses were astoundingly similar: the freedom to go on solitary walks and runs without any pepper spray. Coercion and lack of consent are what stop many women from stepping outside after sunset. Bikini Kill addressed sexism yet sadly did not have the jurisdiction to overturn the patriarchal ideologies that some argue have predominated culture since 3100 BC. After breaking up in 1997, Bikini Kill continued to inspire women to pick up a guitar and start a band and write feminist anthems, for which their legacy prevails.
The #metoo movement started in 2006 by Tarana Burke led to worldwide call outs of rapists and abusers. Others shared the hashtag without citing names. Kathleen Hanna, singer and guitarist of Bikini Kill, endured a #metoo experience of sexual assault at the hands of concertgoers when the band started in Olympia, Washington. In 2020 it seemed fitting for Bikini Kill to reunite for a tour where teenagers like myself could attend a show where the audience united against misogyny.
When walking at night, women experience catcalls or have sexist remarks shouted at them under the guise of “humour.” I think the need for intersectional feminism is paramount as sexist microaggressions continue to thrive in daily discourse. There is still a lot to dismantle in terms of misogyny, toxic masculinity, and the sexualization of women. Whenever I need an empowering reminder, I listen to Bikini Kill’s break-out single “Rebel Girl,” and turn up the volume to tune out the catcalls and sexist remarks.
The riot girl movement has received criticism for being led by white women and focussing strictly on sexism. In 2021, it would make more sense for riot girls to embrace an intersectional perspective that acknowledges the privilege white women have in modern society while opening the space to black feminists.