“Fuck any kinda power, that means girl power, too!”
In 1993/94, I had the good fortune of seeing Bikini Kill play one of the most memorable shows I’ll ever see. It was at this huge, all ages venue in Hollywood that had all these bouncers, something we weren’t used to then. FYP opened, Spitboy followed, we all danced, no big deal. When Bikini Kill came on, though, things strangely and suddenly shifted. A certain faction of crust punks started screaming sexist slurs one after the other at the band, song after song. Frankly, I was shocked. I considered myself an anarchist at the time, and to see so many kids covered in anarchist-style patches toting boring, stupid epithets just made no sense. The show wore on and things got more hostile: “Fuck any kinda power, that means girl power, too!” These same people, by and large boys, eventually started pushing girls around in the audience. At this point, Kathleen stopped the show and attempted to address things, but the opposing voices got louder, more belligerent. What happened next, though, I will never forget.
Kathleen started asking for one of these kids to approach the stage and speak into the microphone, since they wanted to be heard so badly. There were raised fists and shouts of “bitch, whore,” etc, but no one wanted to actually step up. Finally, Kathleen singled one boy out, saying, “You! You! Come up here. What are you afraid of… a girl?” The boy’s friends then pushed him to the front while Kathleen held the microphone out to him. When he went to speak into it…THUD! she hit him in the head with it.
The whole place pretty much went nuts. A bunch of crust punks rushed the stage, but a host of bouncers seemingly came out of nowhere to hold them back. Just then,“1- 2- 3- 4!” the band starts back up (oh how I wish I could remember what song). Meanwhile, Kathleen starts pulling girls out of the crowd, one by one, on to the stage, to safety. Bikini finished their set that night with 20 – 30 girls dancing on stage with them. Magical.
This stands out in memory to me not just as a successful display of female power, but also as an example of when small, innocuous acts of force can be used skillfully to turn an unacceptable situation on its head.
For what it’s worth, here’s a (horrid) zine page I made about the event.