Last week, prolific Instagramer Miley Cyrus, interrupted her steady stream of dog photos and mouth close-ups to post — out of nowhere — two photos of Bikini Kill-era Kathleen Hanna, with the headings “Coolest ever” and “Fuck yeah.” The first was a classic black-and-white shot of Hanna, hands on hips, with the word SLUT scrawled across her stomach; the second was a photo of Hanna, screaming her lungs out on stage, pink ribbons in her hair, wearing only a crop-top and her underwear. Then, three days later, much to our surprise and delight, Kathleen Hanna took to her Twitter account and publicly messaged Miley: “Hey @MileyCyrus,” she wrote, “so sweet you posted pics of me…have an idea for an album that only you are daring enough to make.” Um, let's just pause and think about the implications of that for a moment.
Here are five reasons a Kathleen Hanna-Miley Cyrus collaboration would kick all of the ass.
[jump] 1. Lady-Positive Messages Delivered to the Pop Mainstream
As soon as Kathleen sent that tweet to Miley, “The Circle of Life” dramatically started playing in our heads and pretty much hasn't stopped since. Not only is Cyrus the only pop artist “daring enough” for a Kathleen Hanna collaboration, she is also perfectly positioned to challenge the mainstream — including her own fans — with marginal ideas. After Cyrus posted the first Hanna photo, her followers were either oblivious (“Who is this?”), very receptive (“i fucking love Bikini Kill…”) or entirely indifferent (“I want to meet you. I'm such a big fan. I'm coming tonight to the concert.”) However, when Cyrus posted the second Hanna photo, the most common response to the image had to do with Hanna's bikini line: “Ew pubes,” “Girl… and hairy,” “Shave much?” “Ew, those pubes coming out.” Almost every comment was focused on the almost-imperceptible hairs Hanna was sporting in her groinal region that night, 20-plus years ago. If the majority response to an image of a woman screaming into a microphone is to focus on how preened her bathing-suit area might be, you bet your ass pop fans need some feminist messages delivered to them. Miley's just the gal to do it, and posting photos of Kathleen Hanna was the first step.
2. Kathleen is the Greatest Mentor Miley Could Ever Have
The reason people get so upset with Miley's particular brand of sexuality is because it doesn't fit into the submissive, subordinate sexuality sold to the world by all other mainstream lady singers. The world is perfectly happy to watch Rihanna writhing around in her underwear singing about whips and chains at the Grammy's, but Miley stomping around the VMAs in a bra and shorts and flat shoes is an outrage because she's rubbing her crotch and pulling ugly faces at the same time. Miley's not afraid to express her sexuality in ways that challenge the environment she's in — just as Kathleen Hanna wasn't afraid to do that back in her Bikini Kill days. The trouble is, under the wrong mentorship, Miley's sexual expression ends up getting flung in a weird direction — like when she let alleged sexual predator, Terry Richardson, direct the video for “Wrecking Ball.” She's young and still exploring her own boundaries — imagine how much she could learn from Kathleen Hanna and the empowering direction that would fling her in.
3. Miley is Willing to Rock Out, Kathleen is Willing to Go Pop
As is evidenced by her penchant for covering songs at the alternative end of the spectrum (Arctic Monkeys and The Smiths, anyone?), Miley isn't afraid to expose her fans to a wealth of genres — including ones they probably would never consider listening to, if it wasn't for her. Similarly, Kathleen Hanna wasn't afraid, after Bikini Kill, to form Le Tigre, leave punk behind and deliver her feminist and LGBTQ-positive messages in dance party form. With both Cyrus and Hanna so willing to bend genres, the musical possibilities for these two are endless. And don't forget: Cyrus is willing to get political too.
4. Neither of These Women Ever Backs Down From Controversy
The key thing that Miley Cyrus and Kathleen Hanna have in common is: self-expression at all costs. Miley took incredible risks when she got rid of her original team, cut all her hair off, tattooed her fingers and transformed herself from a teen country star into a sexually aggressive and visually experimental artist, as well as a hip-hop collaborator. She is opinionated and fearless — the exact qualities that enabled Kathleen Hanna to make a name for herself in the first place, when she was sending boys to the back of venues and receiving nightly death threats, and the exact qualities that make Hanna's latest band, Julie Ruin, so exciting.
5. The Time is Right
In the last year or two, evidence of a feminist fourth wave has begun to show itself all over the internet. In addition to projects like Everyday Sexism and Counting Dead Women, fourth wave pages have sprung up on Tumblr, Twitter, and the “fourthwave” hashtag is increasingly evident on Instagram. Kathleen Hanna has rallied the troops before, she can do it again — especially if she's working with someone who is as completely immersed in 2014 youth culture as Miley Cyrus is. We can't wait to see what happens with these two.