Punk rock used to be a boys only zone. Concerts were dominated by aggressive dudes and violence was the norm. All that changed when Bikini Kill came onto the scene.
Composed of guitarist Billy Karren, Bassist Kathi Wilcox, Drummer Tobi Vail, and lead singer Kathleen Hanna, Bikini Kill was unique because they were more than a just kick-ass band, they were also a subversive political force. Bikini Kill’s lyrics, zines, and performances were unapologetically feminist.
At the beginning of each show, Hanna would shout “girls to the front!” which was, and still is, a revolutionary act. Bikini Kill’s philosophy was that men could be in the room, but they could not dominate the room. Plus, Bikini Kill was a target for misogynistic violence. Angry men in the crowd would try to physically harm the band members and the girls who supported them, so “girls to the front” was for the safety of not only the fans but for the band. The iconic command became a slogan for third-wave feminism.
Hanna changed the game for female singers because she was everything a good girl wasn’t; she was loud, confrontational, and sexual. She wasn’t afraid to tell an asshole off for taking pictures of her ass or for bothering one of her fans. On stage, Hanna embodied feminist rage fire, igniting the spirit of revolution: grrrl style.