In Appreciation of: The Punk Singer / by Rollie Agado


When I heard that a documentary about Kathleen Hannah was screening around the country, I assumed it was going to be 90 minute feature documenting her cultural contributions.

Riot Grrrl is approaching (has approached) its 20th Anniversary - so I presumed that the majority of the documentary would be about Bikini Kill circa 1990-1997.  This sorta checked out... as the documentary filled in a number of gaps about the band because they had a policy of not doing interviews in the early 90's.

The documentary then transitions over to life after Bikini Kill and a question is presented in the middle of the feature.   

"Do you know why Kathleen Hanna hasn't performed since 2005?"

Admittedly, I didn't know the answer...  I always figured that she happily married Adam Horovitz (Beastie Boy) and maybe she wanted to enjoy that privately/publicly in whatever capacity they saw fit.  The documentary politely covered how the two connected and they provide a glimpse in what their life is like together today...

The beginning of the third act - covers why Kathleen Hanna has not performed since 2005.  For roughly 5 years, she painfully went about her life with a undiagnosed case of Lyme disease.  She contracted it through a tick bite, while on tour with Le Tigre...  and stubbornly kept it to herself.  The documentary quickly turns into Kathleen struggling to overcome her illness and re-discover her favorite medium to express herself - music.  

I'm not exactly sure how Adam Horovitz handled the death of Adam Yauch (cancer) and the difficulties of Kathleen Hanna combating Lymes disease.   I can only imagine how fucking difficult this had to have been.

At the tail end of the documentary, Kathleen Hanna drives home a rather profound point.  She said something to the effect that when a Man decides to stand up and tell the truth and tell his story - we take him at his word.   When she (a woman) decides to do the same thing, she has to then weigh in on how those truths are perceived. 

She punctuates this by telling the viewer that she decided to put her arms around her entire story and make it public.   She doesn't care if men believe it.  She only cares that women get to hear the complete story and ultimately, it that audience who can holistically accept it all without question.