Riot grrrl disses Lady Gaga & Katy Perry

For­mer Bikini Kill front­woman Kath­leen Hanna said some not nice things about Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, as well as a cou­ple other artists, in an inter­view with CNN. Hanna’s opin­ion is not to be taken lightly: Bikini Kill was a pio­neer in the “riot grrrl” move­ment, which was born in the under­ground fem­i­nist punk scene.

In the inter­view, CNN asked Hanna to explain what she thinks “…of singers like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Ke$ha who are seem­ingly touch­ing on themes of gay empow­er­ment in their music, but for some rea­son it doesn’t quite resonate?”

Hanna answered:

Is it really that dif­fer­ent when it’s a skinny white woman in a bathing suit singing these things? None of these women ever wear pants, first of all. Sec­ond of all, just because you’re wear­ing a goofy hat doesn’t make it per­for­mance art.

Hanna seems to be aim­ing at Gaga (I’ve heard she hates pants almost as much as she loves goofy hats, which is A LOT), but I’ll get to Gaga in a moment.

In her answer to the same ques­tion, Hanna crit­i­cizes Perry’s break­out sin­gle, “I Kissed a Girl”:

It’s exactly every male fan­tasy of fake les­bian porn. It’s pathetic. And she’s not a good singer.

I’m with you here, Hanna. Katy Perry sucks and so does the sick brand of female sex­u­al­ity she’s made mil­lions hawk­ing. But, with all due respect to your con­tri­bu­tion to music and fem­i­nism, Hanna, you have got to back the fuck off of Lady Gaga.

First, Gaga reg­u­larly uses her mega pop star sta­tus to raise aware­ness for gay rights. The woman has cam­paigned tire­lessly to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and to  pro­mote equal mar­riage. She also wore a dress made of meat to sym­bol­ize the strug­gle for gay rights. What more do you want?!

Fun­nily enough, Hanna actu­ally praised Lady Gaga’s activism in an inter­view with, which was pub­lished the same day as the CNN inter­view. In the inter­view, Hanna said this about Gaga:

Am I a huge Lady Gaga fan? No, but I think some of the stuff that she does that helps LGBT kids is amaz­ing. And it’s great that that’s main­stream. It’s fan­tas­tic that there’s a pop star who’s will­ing to put her­self out in that way.

Hanna has a point about it being “great” that Gaga and “some of the stuff” she does to pro­mote gay rights is main­stream. Mak­ing life bet­ter for the LGBT com­mu­nity has a lot to do with win­ning hearts and minds; end­ing legal dis­crim­i­na­tion has to hap­pen, of course, but unless the ‘main­stream’ is forced or, bet­ter yet, con­vinced to get its head out of its het­e­ro­cen­tric, homo­pho­bic arse, then life will not improve much for the LGBT community.

Hanna rec­og­nizes Gaga’s unique posi­tion of influ­ence in the ‘main­stream’ cam­paign to win hearts and minds. Yet first she must relieve us of the notion that she might actu­ally be a fan. I don’t care that Hanna isn’t a fan of Lady Gaga, but it pisses me off that she seems so con­cerned about peo­ple think­ing she might be.

Yes, we get it. You’re cool. You’re the queen of the under­ground, and so it is not nec­es­sary to tear down some­one who a. is not mak­ing music for you (main­stream, remem­ber?) and b. is very impor­tant to the peo­ple for whom she is mak­ing music.

A lot of those peo­ple are young. Many iden­tify with feel­ing dis­con­nected from or rejected by their fam­ily, peers, com­mu­nity, etc. (Was this true of the riot grrls?) Lady Gaga’s main­stream pop­u­lar­ity means her fans, her “Lit­tle Mon­sters,” can be part of a diverse, enor­mous com­mu­nity. She writes songs that cel­e­brate indi­vid­u­al­ity AND takes it to the street to fight for gay rights on the reg­u­lar. I don’t get what an estab­lished under­ground artist like Hanna hopes to accom­plish by knock­ing Lady Gaga.

The cor­rect answer to CNN’s ques­tion is that an empow­er­ing gay mes­sage in pop music can indeed res­onate. Even if the pop musi­cian hap­pens to be averse to pants and seri­ous hats.

'Born This Way' sells 1.1 million in first week of release
Lady Gaga,

One thought on “Riot grrrl disses Lady Gaga & Katy Perry

  1. Thank you for defend­ing Gaga! She also gets slammed for being an activist at the same time! She can never win one way or the other with the crit­ics (even some mem­bers of the LGBTQ com­mu­nity have been slam­ming her), so I appre­ci­ate your very lev­el­headed arti­cle, which is well writ­ten and log­i­cally demon­strates that Gaga is truly help­ing the LGBTQ community.

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