Rarely does a story make me do a double take, but I had to make sure I wasn't looking at The Onion when I read that the mayor of Boston loves Bikini Kill. But it's true. This man loves the '90s feminist punk band from Olympia, Washington. In fact, he's such an avid fan that Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has declared April 9 Riot Grrrl Day in honor of iconic riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna, who used to front Bikini Kill. As if marking the day wasn't amazing enough, Mayor Walsh's official proclamation carries the same brazenly feminist spirit that defined Bikini Kill and the riot grrrl movement.
Riot Grrrl Day will be announced in conjunction with Hanna's performance at the Wilbur Theatre on Thursday. During her appearance, Walsh's Chief of Policy Joyce Linehan will introduce Hanna and present the proclamation. Incidentally, Linehan and Hanna have been friends for about 20 years. Linehan told Boston Magazine:
[Kathleen’s agent] called me to see if I would introduce Kathleen, probably based on the fact that Kathleen, back in the day, used to stay at my house when bands came through town. We knew each other from the indie rock world.
OK, it's official: Boston has the world's coolest officials. I'm moving to Boston.
As for the proclamation, which was signed by Walsh and partly adapted from Hanna's Riot Grrrl Manifesto, the message is a powerful one for girls everywhere:
The riot grrrl philosophy has never felt more relevant, with misogyny still rampant in many cultural spaces. ... Riot grrrls redefine the language used against them and continue to fight the newest incarnations of patriarchy. In doing so, they ironically confirm one ex-congressman’s accidental wisdom: "The female body has ways to try to shut that down." It sure does: women’s voices telling their stories can shut that down. ... Our young women can’t be what they can’t see. Girls need to see other girls picking up drumsticks, basses, and microphones. They need to see other girls picking up paintbrushes and pens, and telling their stories. Loudly.
That right there is perhaps the most wonderful message to have come from a politician, ever — and it has me now doing a triple-take. It seriously seems too amazing to be true, but this isn't even the first time Mayor Walsh has proven his awesomeness and superb taste in music. In 2013, at Linehan's suggestion, Walsh filed a bill to make the Modern Lovers song "Roadrunner" the official song of the Commonwealth. It's the perfect choice, as the song's lyrics include the line "I’m in love with Massachusetts." Though that bill never passed, the first official Riot Grrrl Day will be celebrated on Thursday.
Hanna and Bikini Kill are widely believed to have been trailblazers of the riot grrrl movement, which also started in the early '90s. Riot grrrl refers to both a musical genre derived from punk and indie rock and the belief that women deserved to be heard as much as men, in the music scene and beyond. Riot grrrl bands sang about women's rights issues and off stage, members were often activists who started organizations to support women and made political statements against sexism and capitalism.
Some choice lines from Hanna's Riot Grrrl Manifesto include:
BECAUSE we don't wanna assimilate to someone else's (boy) standards of what is or isn't.
BECAUSE we are interested in creating non-heirarchical [sic] ways of being AND making music, friends, and scenes based on communication + understanding, instead of competition + good/bad categorizations.
BECAUSE we see fostering and supporting girl scenes and girl artists of all kinds as integral to this process.
BECAUSE we are angry at a society that tells us Girl = Dumb, Girl = Bad, Girl = Weak.
BECAUSE I believe with my wholeheartmindbody that girls constitute a revolutionary soul force that can, and will change the world for real.
Hanna has also played in the bands Le Tigre and The Julie Ruin, two bands that sought to continue the riot grrrl movement into the next generation.