Best Known For
Kathleen Hanna is best known for being the singer of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre.
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Musician, women's rights advocate. Kathleen Hanna was born on November 12, 1968 in Portland, Oregon; her family then moved to Calverton, Maryland when she was three years old. Her father changed professions frequently, causing the family to move often—to Laurel and then Bethesda, Maryland, before moving back to Portland, where Hanna attended high school. Her mother was a housewife who also worked with local churches to counsel victims of domestic violence. Hanna was drawn to feminism at a very young age, inspired particularly by Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique and by the feminist publication Ms. magazine. "My mom was a housewife, and wasn't somebody that people would think of as a feminist, and when Ms. magazine came out we were incredibly inspired by it," Hanna recalled. "I used to cut pictures out of it and make posters that said 'Girls can do anything,' and stuff like that, and my mom ... took me to the Solidarity Day thing, and it was the first time I had ever been in a big crowd of women yelling, and it really made me want to do it forever."
Hanna later recalled that she had three obsessions during her high school years in Portland: "1) Going to shows (punk and reggae); 2) smoking weed; and 3) drinking alcohol. Yes, it's true I was a teenage lush/burn-out, constantly on suspension or being put into special 'get off drugs' classes at school." At the age of 15, Hanna got pregnant and decided to have an abortion—a transformative life event that she said shaped her worldview. "Having an abortion was one of the best things I ever did," Hanna frankly declared in an interview with Salon magazine. "It was one of the first things I did on my own; I worked at McDonald's, raised the money and did it. I'm really, really passionate about pro-choice, because I wouldn't be here talking to you right now if I'd had a kid at 15." After graduating from high school in 1986, Hanna attended Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, where she studied photography. She had a work-study job in the darkroom and also briefly worked as a stripper to pay for her education.
In 1988, while still in college, Hanna and several friends started a women's art gallery in downtown Olympia, calling it Reko Muse. The gallery frequently hosted performances by local bands, and Hanna and her two co-founders started a feminist punk rock band named Amy Carter, presumably after President Jimmy Carter's daughter. Although she had been initially drawn to spoken word poetry as an artistic medium for expressing her views on feminism, she switched her focus to music after a conversation with feminist writer Kathy Acker. When Acker asked Hanna why she did performance poetry, Hanna responded, "Because I felt like I'd never been listened to and I had a lot to say." Acker's response: "Then why are you doing spoken word—no one goes to spoken word shows! You should get in a band."
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Women and men have continued the call for full-fledged women’s rights in a number of venues, including voting access, fair treatment in the workplace and reproductive and sexual freedom. Find out more about this eclectic and electric group of global activists who include Shirin Ebadi, Coretta Scott King, Asra Nomani and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
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