For Children At The Bikini Kill Reunion, 'Revolution Girl Style Now' Is Finally A Reality

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Kathleen Hanna performs with The Julie Ruin in 2016. (Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)

On April 26, at the second show of Bikini Kill's much-anticipated reunion tour, one of the most immediately noticeable things was just how many children were gleefully running around. They were overwhelmingly female, visibly thrilled to be there, and a lot of them already knew the songs.

One little girl, roughly seven or eight years old, sat atop a man's shoulders in the middle of the pit, waving her arms and headbanging. Another, nine or ten, watching from a balcony above the stage, grabbed her dad's hand whenever her favorite songs came on and used him as leverage to jump up and down, roughly shaking her head from side-to-side.

After Bikini Kill was done with their opening song ("This is Not a Test"), frontwoman Kathleen Hanna stopped to check on some little girls in the front row, concerned they might be getting hurt. (They were fine, apparently.) "It looks like you're doing a really good job of Girls To The Front," Hanna quipped. "I don't even have to say anything..."

On one hand, it makes perfect sense. Original Bikini Kill fans are now of an age where having young children is to be expected. But when the quartet first emerged in the early '90s, the content of their songs was considered pretty shocking, even for a teen audience. "Suck My Left One" features familial sexual abuse; "Carnival" starts with the line "This is a song about 16-year-old girls giving carnies head for free rides and hits of pot"; and "I Like F**king" embraces unapologetically assertive female sexuality.


Still, the number of kids in attendance at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles seemed planned for by the band. While Bikini Kill's first night featured support from sexagenarian punk icon Alice Bag, the second night's opener was The Linda Lindas—four pre-teen girls specializing in rock 'n' roll covers, including Kim Wilde, The Runaways and Le Tigre. The band wasn't just proficient, their music sounded like it was the work of professional adults, despite having a drummer who looked about three-feet-tall and a vocalist who literally cartwheeled off the stage. The crowd reception was warm and, during Bikini Kill's set, Kathleen Hanna made no less than three references to The Linda Lindas. "I'm going to keep talking about them," she said, apologizing for not apologizing.

Here are the Linda Lindas backstage with Bikini Kill, on a night that will no doubt be impossible to describe to their middle school teachers.

Bikini Kill's original audience was mostly comprised of feminist teenage girls sick of being lied to by grown-ups and furious about the lack of space afforded to female rock musicians. Back then, both band and fans embraced the traditional aesthetics of girl children—cute little shift dresses and barrettes—as a means to reclaim childhoods corrupted by societal sexualization that occurred far too early.

These days, the new generation embracing Bikini Kill are kids with cool parents, who no longer need to fight for space and have an inherent understanding of their rightful place in the room. Kids that are more sophisticated because of technology, and simultaneously more sheltered because of it. It's probable that the youngest of these children aren't paying much attention to lyrical details; it's enough to see a bunch of women making all of this glorious, freeing noise.

This particular Bikini Kill show was full of signifiers of the social progress made in the quarter century since the band originally split—the number of men and gender non-conforming people in the room represents another shift—but it was the kids who made it feel like the band's dream is actually finally being realized. These days, Revolution Girl Style Now is looking less like a future ideal and more like a reality.