Le Tigre Talk Clinton Support, Disabling the Comments, and Secret Feminism in 2016
"It's actually very disturbing to see the unacceptable hate speech emerging from Hillary's critics from the right and from the left."
If you have a pulse and/or a vagina, then this 2016 election has been one enormous mind fuck. Arguably the most social media and internet driven election in history, the Clinton Vs. Trump narrative has birthed some of the most socially conscious and venomously nefarious reactions from the world both online and offline. So much so, that Le Tigre was inspired to reunite after over a decade to release new music in support of Hillary Clinton.
The song that would eventually become "I'm with Her" was birthed by two of Le Tigre's band members—JD Samson and Johanna Fateman—for another artist. Once that deal didn't go through, de-facto frontwoman Kathleen Hanna offered up the spunky track to a potential tampon commercial. "It was so upbeat and I was like this would be hilarious for a tampon commercial because it's so happy," Hanna explains. Both Fateman and Hanna had been previously tossing around ideas to take a firm stance on their candidate, and when the cut didn't reach the tampon circuit, the group opted to reimagine it for their pro-Hillary declaration.
"I'm With Her" is a fun anthem, pieced together over two weeks' time in the same rogue fashion as previous Le Tigre offerings. Those who get it truly get it: it's a light-hearted yet strong affirmation that for Le Tigre, Hillary Clinton is not the "lesser of two evils," she's their choice. "If you play it really loudly over speakers, it could be something really fun to dance to," Hanna says. "I just think it would be cool to play in a club and get really excited." But the response has been less than spectacular from some. Attacking how "punk" the song is, negative feedback has reflected that the group's Riot Grrrl beginnings are diluted by siding with Hillary. And while it's something that they inevitably expected, it was eye opening in other ways.
"I handle all the social media for Le Tigre and had to close the comments on the YouTube video and filter comments on Facebook," Fateman says. "We've gotten all this pushback like we're trying to silence the voices of people who are critical of Hillary Clinton or voting Green Party or whatever." That wasn't the case. "It's like actually we're filtering words like cunt and bitch," she adds. "You'd be surprised how many Jill Stein supporters also use gender slurs and make age jokes. It's actually very disturbing to see the unacceptable hate speech emerging from Hillary's critics from the right and from the left." Per Fateman though, even announcing a supporting side is punk in and of itself. "I think that is the brave part," she says. "These are the final days of the election, so writing a song that's like 'Hold your nose and vote for Hillary Clinton' is actually not very notable. We are going to go out on a limb and make a case for the person we want to win. I think that's kind of more punk rock than trolling people with #JillNotHill hashtags."
Another aspect of siding with Hillary is the reemergence of secret feminism. Kathleen mentions how Johanna's early support of Clinton resulted in backlash, and the two found themselves sneaking on Facebook secret groups in support of HRC early on. "The way [Hillary] was deemed as less radical and on the wrong side of history stayed with us since the primary and forced some to feel shame now in voting for her, when in actuality it's what we need to do more now than any time in history," JD says. "My mom had to be a secret feminist because my dad would explain feminism to her if she tried to talk to him about it," Kathleen recalls. "Before the phrase mansplaining was even a thing, my mom was a secret feminist, and she would tell me I could do whatever I wanted behind my dad's back while my dad was not giving me positive messages. I feel like I've gone back to that place in this election."
And that's a scary and dark place, especially when Le Tigre was far from challenged when they showed up in support of John Kerry in 2004. For every tour stop, Hanna would call local offices for information on voter registration and sign up voters at Le Tigre shows—something seemingly far more reactionary and active than a song release. No hate came from those moves. "I just think back to when we were linking arms for John Kerry and basically praying to God that he was gonna win," Samson says with a laugh. "It's funny to think back that there wasn't a culture of criticizing presidential candidates in this way." Hanna adds, "Nobody was angry at us for that, for John Kerry. Why are you so mad about Hillary Clinton? I understand the mistakes that she's made but I also understand that you're gonna have more mistakes made if you've been in the business for 30 years. It's easy for somebody who's never been in politics to say 'I never voted for this or I never voted for that,' and it's like well you never had the opportunity."
And really, support of Hillary Clinton for Le Tigre isn't just a gender-driven measure. It's watching a far more experienced candidate battle a reflection of everything wrong with America: racism, sexism, bullying, and blind fury. Kathleen explains it's all about the name-calling with Trump. "It's like 'Crooked Hillary!' and 'She's got evil in her heart' and these kinds of things," she says. "Those aren't real criticisms, those are playground taunts."
For many women, Trump's antics are a trigger to a time when they experienced sexual harassment and even worse, assault. While Kathleen Hanna made a joke about how Trump is similar to Looney Tunes character Pepe Le Pew ("They even have the same hair!") his verbal and proven physical unwanted advances to women drum up her own bad memories, particularly familial ones. Here is her really vivid account of Trump reminding her of her own father:
"When I look at some of the photographs of him with Ivanka, I see my own childhood. My dad was not a billionaire and we didn't have a photographer around when he would grab me creepily by the waist or ask me to sleep in the same bed with him when I was 15, but it's documented in the way [Trump] has spoken about her. And whatever happened at their home—whether it was incest or not—it's incesty. It's called growing up in an incest household where even if it's not actually happening it's implied. It's implied that your dad is looking at you in a sexual way, and I grew up that way too. Now I'm watching someone who is a billionaire version of my dad publically do this. My dad used to yell at women out of cars, and I think Trump is just doing it into a microphone. We'd be in the car and my dad had a P.A. hooked up in our van so he can be like 'Hey, nice boobs' or whatever while his children were in the car! Like I'm in the car. So this whole past couple of weeks have been a total flashback for me and tons of people who are like okay Trump is secretly in the Access Hollywood bus or van saying all these creepy things and being letchy. My dad was yelling out of a car saying those things. It's different, but a lot of it's the same."
One positive thing to come from the political shit show, though, is the return of Le Tigre as a group. It was a perfect storm, as the trio has collectively said the process was natural and a thank you to fans and Hillary supporters, as well as a way for them to contribute in some small way to the campaign. "If she can fuckin' take everything she's gone through, the least we can do is write a song," Kathleen says. And while every member is open to collaborating again, Johanna says the real test of that will come after Election Day. "I guess we'll have to wait and see whether or not the world ends on November 9."
Kathy Iandoli is hoping the world doesn't end on Election Day. Follow her on Twitter.