‘Broad City’ Meets Sleater-Kinney: A Feminist Collaborative Dream Come True

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If you are a 90s child, you are well familiar with the Riot Grrrl movement where female punk bands from the Pacific Northwest brought feminism and punk rock together to the mainstream of pop culture at a time when Seattle bands such as Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam were also getting worldwide recognition. Bands such as Bikini Hill, Bratmobile and of course Sleater-Kinney were some of the more well-known names, but there were a plethora of artists, activists and rebels giving women a strong representation in modern culture like never before.

In a way this movement set the stage for a lot of women in music today. Women who are owning their on-stage persona’s and sexuality like never before, women who don’t subscribe to being compared to men and who know they can rock just as hard in life.

In 2006 Sleater-Kinney, made up of Carrie Brownstein, Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss went their separate ways, weary of touring and wanting to work on other projects, including having families. Carrie Brownstein is of course one of the creators and writers of the hit show ‘Portlandia’ which she created with ‘SNL’ alum Fred Armison.

In 2014 the female trio reunited and have released a new album called ‘No Cities To Love’ and it has got people revved up.

Paying homage somewhat to them being feminist icons and mouthpieces for a whole generation of girls, the band were interviewed by another artistic outfit who are pioneers in their own industry for women. Comedians Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer who created ‘Broad City’ sat down with Sleater-Kinney and an intimate audience at the Ace Hotel in New York to chat with them for NPR.

Feminism was a common thread throughout the majority of their 1 hour 20 minute chat (full video below) with a few key questions showing how strongly the girls still feel about the movement, despite any progressions being made for women even since the 1990s.

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“Does rocking hard feel like gender equality to you and does it touch on feminism?” asks Ilana.

“It’s a big part of what we do. I feel very strongly about that, about the idea of an alternative to women being a certain way,” says Janet in response.

“And you guys too are chipping away at that quiet, demure, soft-spoken stereotype that the three of us get on stage and try to break down. You’re not boxed into one thing for your entire life,” she said, giving credit to how the BC girls are giving rise to a whole generation of female comedy writers.

There’s something that exists outside of the band, the following, the tribe, the movement, and they’ve always been socially conscious musicians aware of that following. As the band as evolved over the years, so has their following, yet they remain fiercely loyal.

“How has your feminism and this level of awareness changed from phase one to phase two of the band getting back together?” asks Ilana.

“Phase one was a lot more confrontational,” says Corin. “But it needed to be because it was a totally different time then. Our culture has changed in the past 20 years and it’s evolved a bit which is kinda rad. A lot of people have worked really hard to be more inclusive and to feel more empathy for all kinds of people. We want everyone to feel comfortable no matter how they identify.”

“We are still in tumultuous times and Sleater-Kinney to me is the soundtrack to that. For me it is the conduit through which I can relate and feel empathy towards struggle,” says Carrie.

“I feel like we couldn’t be a show if it weren’t for you guys. Even though we’re comedy and you’re music, it’s the same. I feel empowered by you guys,” mentions Abbi. The SK girls respond by crediting it to the Zeitgeist which is slowly shifting the old attitudes of how women are perceived. But of course there are still many gender stereotypes that exist, especially in music.

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“Is it frustrating to be defined as female-fronted and female-centric?” Ilana asked. “We’re always called ‘women comics,’ like, is this my badge?”

Both Sleater-Kinney and ‘Broad City’ swapped notes about how they are often referred to by the term “all-female.”

“No one’s ever asked the question, ‘Why did you decide to be in a band with all men?’” Carrie responds. It is an annoying double standard, and a very frustrating state of our culture that a group of strong women doing something important and awesome, and who have been doing it for a while, are considered an anomaly of sorts.

“Because you guys are such a symbol of feminism its also like a burden you carry and anyone who’s not a white dude [can identify with how] it becomes this thing of ‘well I have this title that I shouldn’t be pigeon-holed into but then also I have to be proud of it’.” says Ilana.

Janet talks about how in their early days they would mostly only be featured in the “women of rock” editions of magazines etc, like that was the only time they got credit, as opposed to just being recognized for what they do, regardless of gender.

“People would always compare us to other female singers. And not that we don’t love those bands, it just seems so narrow-minded to me,” she said.

The Broad City duo say the same thing happens to them with comparisons to ‘Girls’ and how the media often pits them against each other, as if people aren’t allowed to like both. It’s that familiar notion of there only being room at the top for one, which is something that fosters competitiveness and division. In reality the media should be celebrating the plethora of female-centric artistry that exists today, and how popular it is not just with women but with everyone.

“I feel like only women and people of color get asked those types of questions. It’s like if you’re one of those “other” categories they want you to beat up on the other people,” says Carrie before joking: “Eventually men will solve feminism and then we’ll be fine.” The room explodes with laughter at that.

It’s awesome to see strong feminist representations in the media and Sleater-Kinney are just one example (in the Zeitgeist) of what it looks like to influence a loyal generations of fans who believe in their music, their message, and their existence in pop culture.

One Comment

  1. there are a ton of errors here.

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