Kathleen Hanna Smells Like Teen Spirit

Something you know: Kathleen Hanna rules. As a member of 90s punk band Bikini Kill and electro-new wave feminist group Le Tigre, Hanna is basically one of the founding mothers of the riot grrrl music scene, although she’ll humbly deny it if you ask her.

Something you may not know: Hanna also coined the phrase “Smells Like Teen Spirit” after getting drunk and playing lookout for Kurt Cobain while he spray painted “GOD IS GAY” on a fake women’s health clinic. I could go into it, but you should probably hear the full story from her (as well as a cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and a reprisal of “Rebel Girl).

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


phoenix has written 64 articles for us.


    • oh god i’m currently trying to wrestle this off my friend, she promised to lend it to me but keeps “forgetting” to bring it to me… praps she is just re-reading :\

  1. This story is like a wet dream for my 17 year old baby dyke self — Kathleen Hanna, with Kurt Cobain, with vagina, with an awesome 90s cover song, with hilarious narrative, with feminism, with exotic dancing, the list just goes on and on and on. Oh, and RIP Mr. Kurt Cobain. We miss you dearly.

  2. Probably gonna be late to work since I HAD to watch this before I leave… ehhhh, I can handle it.

  3. That’s such a great story considering that it’s something that’s I would do/have done.
    Because of this there should be a documentary on how all of Kurt’s songs get titled/how they came about.

  4. Just adding to the love.

    Also, a side note: in “Who Took the Bomp?” Kathleen (and band) actually laments on the fact that every interviewer only wants to hear about her Kurt connection and disregard the importance of her music/activism/sheer awesomeness.

    Not that it was wrong to point that out to this particular Autostraddle audience since I assume we already are WELL aware of her sheer awesomeness – unlike those morning radio DJ asshats. Thanks Ms. Danger!

  5. This video series has an excellent clip of Lili Taylor doing a cover of ‘Nothing on you’.

    It sucks that people are only interested in hearing about Hanna’s friendship with Kurt, and also that his more radical queer-friendly/feminist political leanings tend to be swept under the rug. She’s just too fabulous for words.

  6. While Kathleen Hanna has done a lot of great stuff for women, queers and music, I just want to point out an alternate view of some things she’s unfortunately also done. She and Le Tigre appeared at MichFest right at the peak of the time when the ‘no trans women’ policy was at its maximum fractiousness. There were many other acts who didn’t play there because of that policy yet Le Tigre specifically chose to make a statement by performing there. When Ms. Hanna was younger she wrote a highly transphobic essay which she has never repudiated… it pretty much repeated a lot of second wave classic tropes against trans women. She’s made vague statements about how she participated in ‘horizontal discrimination’ but was never honest enough about who this group was she discriminated against and what her part in it was. I know most of the people in this thread will feel like what I’ve written is sour grapes, but I prefer to characterize it as even our heroes sometimes have very complicated pasts.

  7. What is funnier then this video/story is the crap that Courtney Love said after it went viral. She went on a 4523452345 tweet rant about how Kurt HATED Kathleen and how she thinks Kathleen is just trying to profit from his death. I LOLLED.

Comments are closed.