by Olivia Mastrosimone
The quintessential riot grrrl group Bikini Kill announced their reunion tour in January – and Courtney Love is upset about it.
When the news broke last month that the ‘90s punk outfit would be reforming after 22 years, the public’s reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Anyone who has ever owned a Sleater-Kinney shirt or a Bratmobile record was thrilled that the pioneers of the riot grrrl movement would be playing a full set of shows together for the first time since 1997. It was such monumental music news that the people who only know the band because they just bought Pussy Whipped on vinyl at Urban Outfitters were probably excited, too.
Hole frontwoman Courtney Love did not share the excitement, taking to Instagram to share her feelings. Bust Magazine recently posted a photo calling for the group to add more shows to their sold-out stint, which Love called “the biggest hoax in [the] history of rock n roll.”
The singer continued, saying that two of Bikini Kill’s members are “total amateurs” and that Kathleen Hanna, the band’s lead vocalist, has a “DIY nonsense dilettante” persona. And just to twist the knife a bit more, that the band just downright “sucks.” Subtle.
According to Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson, the drama between the two bands started in 1995 at Lollapalooza. There was an incident that started with Love throwing candy at Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna and ended in a shoving match and Hanna challenging Love to a true riot grrrl duel: a respectful feminist debate.
While the Bikini Kill/Love feud is clearly an example of old grudges dying hard, Love’s comments do bring up some interesting points about the band’s past, and their intentions for their future. Why now? Do the 2010s really need a riot grrrl revival?
It’s easy to hear this news and think publicity stunt. It’s even easier to roll your eyes and call it washed up. Maybe Love is right, and this limited tour is just a tired attempt at rehashing a dead genre. Riot grrrl’s popularity was a contradiction in itself – for a movement that shunned its own exposure, taking special pride in its anti-establishment tendencies, it seems odd for Bikini Kill to be making music headlines in 2019 for a highly publicized, exclusive tour.
But riot grrrl didn’t exist in a vacuum. And the message behind the movement still needs to be heard today. The truth is, 2019 is the perfect time for a riot grrrl resurgence. Things might be better for women in music than they were when the group kickstarted the riot grrrl revolution in the 90s, but there is still a space for the combative, political punk of Bikini Kill in 2019.
More than ever, we need bands who will stand against the establishment, who will shout and scream and make their presence felt, who will fight to force change for the better. For anyone skeptical of the band’s reformation, don’t expect the reunion shows to be nostalgia trips – there is still more work to be done.