My foray into the music of Bikini Kill can only be described of as brief. It was 1994ish, an era that found me consumed by the music of Hole, L7, Babes in Toyland and Seven Year Bitch. And while I was reluctant to listen to anything that might detract from the time I spent listening to the aforementioned bands, listening to Bikini Kill was a natural and somewhat mandatory progression. If I was going to run around school with "RIOT GRRL" emblazoned on my knuckles in messy blue ballpoint pen, I was going to have to listen to Bikini Kill.
And I really liked them, I did. I liked Hole a lot better and thought Jennifer Finch was cooler, but I liked Bikini Kill just fine. In fact, I will still admit that there are few things as satisfying to the burgeoning sexuality of a 14 year-old than the repeated singing of the graphically perverse "Sugar." I am surprised that my stereo’s "rewind" button didn’t malfunction, the way I listened to the first verse over and over and over again. I am also surprised that my mom completely ignored the fact that her child was upstairs screaming "I’m almost cumming! I’m almost cumming!" at the top of her lungs on a semi-daily basis.
When Kat (Bikini Kill) and Courtney (Hole) had their infamous Lolla-Spat (for those not in-the-know or as ridiculously obsessive as yours truly, you can read about it here: http://nogoodforme.filmstills.org/blog/archives/2008/04/02/nostalgia_court.html), I was horrified, disgusted and immediately through with BK. Kat Hanna was cool, but my allegiance was to Courtney Love. I wanted to be just like her, even going so far as to adding a cute Cobain-lookalike boyfriend to my arsenal. I would not tolerate anyone trying to hurt, deride or fuck with her. I was so disappointed with Kat Hanna, I could no longer look at her pictures on my wall. I trashed anything even remotely connected with her and her stupid, crap-ass band. She'd failed me.
To further demonstrate my newfound hatred for Bikini Kill, my friend EB and I gathered our long-neglected Barbie dolls, put signs on them that read "KAT HANNA" and hung them in our respective lockers. From nooses.
I didn’t hear Bikini Kill again until almost fifteen years later when a grad school professor opened her lecture with the playing of "Rebel Girl". It had been forever since I’d even thought about that song, but from the first "that girl thinks she's the queen of the neighborhood", I remembered every word.
I’ve had my fair share of Rebel Girls over the years, women whom I admired for their revolutionary thinking, talent, cunning, wit and beauty. Women whose clothes I wanted to try on, women who I wanted to make my best friends, women who were the queens of my world. I saw them as perfect, I put them on pedestals. I held them to standards to which they could
not be--or did not want to be-- held. I’d refuse to acknowledge, or even to see, their fallibility; I put too much pressure on them. And when you hold someone to unrealistic standards, when you expect her to be something she isn't, when you expect super-human behavior from another human being, she will disappoint you every time. Just like Kat Hanna did me.
It is still exceedingly difficult for me to view my Rebel Girls as people; people who are also grappling and fumbling their way through life, people who need to make mistakes and learn for themselves, people who don’t know what they’re doing any better than I do. Rebel Girls may hold the revolution in their kisses, but ultimately, they are only human. That notion presents a challenge to me, but I’m working on digesting it.
That said, I still can’t allow anyone to slam my beloved Courtney. Sorry, Kat. I'll put Pussy Whipped back into rotation, but I can't fully forgive you yet.