Zohra Atash’s Kathleen Hanna Riot Grrrl Starter Kit: For Boys and Girls

Thank you Miley Cyrus for bravely coming out of the closet as a Kathleen Hanna fan. Perhaps Ms. Hanna inspired that adorable stage name that catapulted her into the Oprah-interview-worthy stratosphere? Or Netflix enticed her with The Punk Singer recommendation? Either way, I don’t care, I love it. Since she’s spreading the gospel, I’d like to nominate myself as her human “you might also like” algorithm, to broaden her list of girls for her #girlsrule hashtag. As a never-shuts-up-about-her longtime devotee, and also a lover of pubes, I’m the perfect grrrl for the job! My odyssey started with Pussy Whipped and it’ll chug along til my dying breath. As I’ve discovered, there’s no shortage of women who rule. This will be part one of many – I hope.

Angela Carter

I love beautiful things that are strange and unnerving. Of this, Angela Carter is a master – her works are chock full of feminist phantasmagoric erotism that question conventional social constructs. Whether it was by challenging the role of women in fairytales by re-imagining and “extracting the latent content from the traditional stories,” or creating dystopian landscapes heavy in hallucinatory symbolism, or celebrating de Sade as a “moral pornographer,” her work really gets ya thinking loads of stuff that #rules.

Bea Arthur

Maude was the first lady in primetime television to have an abortion and Dorothy Zbornak was an absolute hero.

Patti Lupone as Evita

The story of the harried Patti Lupone playing the role that launched her career, that of the legendary Eva Peron, would make a fantastic play within a play. She maintains that Lord Webber – ha! – hates women, and that the score was pitched to bust voices. She wrote in her memoir that she got through the year and a half playing the role by keeping a monk-like vow of silence to preserve her voice, outside of the six shows a week.


Turkish delight is a misnomer. In fact, it’s gross. Short of that, all things Turkish are beyond delightful. In fact, the language doesn’t exist for me to describe my love for Istanbul. The food, the smells, the architecture, the bazaars, the jewelry, and the music are enough to turn your soul into something tangible for one moment until it turns into Psycho-Reactive slime.

She is a social activist, plays an electric saz, and is the queen of one of my favorite strains of psych.

Rabia Balkhi

Uncompromising 10th Century Dari poet and one of the only females of Medieval Persia to be recorded in history. She fell in love with a slave and was imprisoned, veins slashed, and left to die in a bathroom by the hands of her brother. Legend has it she wrote her last poem in blood on the wall:

“Love” by Rabia Balkhi

I am caught in Love’s web so deceitful
None of my endeavors turn fruitful.
I knew not when I rode the high-blooded steed
The harder I pulled its reins the less it would heed.
Love is an ocean with such a vast space
No wise man can swim it in any place.
A true lover should be faithful till the end
And face life’s reprobated trend.
When you see things hideous, fancy them neat,
Eat poison, but taste sugar sweet

Annie Edson Taylor

The first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel. My family used to have big picnics at Great Falls in Virginia when I was very little, and I think my father was determined to show us something even Greater, because he packed me, my mother, and sisters all in the car and drove us from a visit with family in New York City all the way to Niagara. It wasn’t enough to show it to us, but he handed us shoddy rain ponchos and I knew something disgusting was about to happen. I was nine-years-old and had only stepped into God-made bodies of water twice. My father’s side of the family were former animists before Islam took the region over about a hundred years ago. There’s still this tradition of belief that elemental things have a soul and energy. Which is why I had always been skeptical and watched in wonderment as my older sisters bobbed in and out of waves like the daughters of Triton. I would sit in the sand collecting seashells and stare into the sea. The waves seemed to curl and crash with intimidating force and its graceful stretch to land was its apology to me. Its ‘I’m sorry I scared you.’ I would let it kiss my toes. It’s a show of strength in a measureless pulse. Its firm yet dedicated reminder that it’s bigger, stronger, and will outlive us all. While I love watching it and its hypnotic movement, its sparkle, its endlessness, my thinking has always been that you cannot trust it. I had a cousin who died in a river in Germany when she was only ten, and I haven’t forgiven Poseidon since. So my father hands me this poncho, and I say, “Why?” and he points to Maid of the Mist boat which I had seen from the observation platform. The boat saunters right under the falls, taunts it like a jerk provoking an otherwise eat-your-ass-alive animal at the zoo. My father insists. I feel overwhelming anxiety. I hide under my mother’s poncho, face buried into the soft belly from whence I came and wished I could crawl back into. I cried as I heard the jerks squealing with glee as the falls accosted their faces and bodies with spray. As we circled back to shore, the Captain Sadist gave us a bit of history which included stories of daredevils. The first name on that list was Ms. Annie Edson Taylor. I thought to myself, ‘Say again? A lady? In a barrel? Plummeting from that jerk over there? That’s a #coolchick.’

Mary Beth Edelson

A second-wave Feminist artist and pioneer. She has worked in so many mediums, but her photography is dynamite. Notable works are “Woman Rising” which according to her website is frequently used in feminist zines and “Last Supper”. Here’s one of my favorites – note, Miley, the pubes!


Lucille Clifton

If you’re fortunate enough to live in or around or visit NYC frequently, I urge you to visit the Poet’s House. It’s one of the most amazing free spaces in the city. The view alone is worth the trip – it overlooks the Hudson River. A few months back they had a Lucille Clifton tribute in their exhibition space. It toured her life from the original, handwritten first poem to last. She wrote so beautifully about the experience of being “the other” in a society brimming with bigots and assholes.

Here’s the brilliant “Wishes For Sons

Clarissa Pinkola Estes

My little nephew loves to tell the story of the time I was visiting from New York and I took him out shopping at Outlets at Orange. He was young and a bit of a rascal, but no more so than any child. He was playing a loose game of hide and seek with me. I was being accommodating while perusing racks, cos I’m amazing with children and the best aunt ever. He stumbles out of a pile of clothes and accidentally runs into a woman, I’d say in her late 40s, not with any great force. He apologizes, and I apologize to her, as he was at fault. The lady then made the mistake of not only not accepting the apologies, but she went into a stern lecture. I could see in his eyes she was scaring him. The punishment did not fit the crime. In the spirit of that, I lost my shit. I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do in front of him, but he’s my little cub. If I kept it hid, with the way I let things fester, it would have turned into a stress-induced ulcer. I’d have recurring lucid dreams of all the things I should have said. So I let it rip. She scurried away with the grace of a deflated hyena. He just looked up at me and said thank you and has been making fun of me ever since.

So when I read the following in Women Who Run With the Wolves, I couldn’t agree more:

“Wolves and women are relational by nature, inquiring, possessed of great endurance and strength. They are deeply intuitive, intensely concerned with their young, their mate and their pack.”

Liz Lemon

To try to quantify my love for Liz Lemon would be trivializing my devotion. It’s boundless. I grew up as the youngest by a sizable gap of four daughters in a home with a very present Grandma. The joke is that I didn’t have one mother, I had five. My oldest sister Alina was as close to a second mother as anyone can get. She was the caretaker and tough as nails with an amazing record collection. She not only would prepare us the most delicious meals I’ve ever every night after school and her part-time job, but she could fix a carburetor. She was my precursor to Kathleen Hanna, in that she taught me women didn’t have set roles we had to adhere to. She imparted this on all three of her younger sisters, and the impact is easy to see – Mariam has passed the Virginia bar after graduating Georgetown with honors while NINE months pregnant. On her first try. Then did it again when she moved to California a few years later. Samira is a communications and business whiz. And I’m the odd creature that I am. None of this would have been possible without the woman who lovingly called us dodo head when we weren’t living up to our full potential. This meant so much growing up in South Carolina and Virginia, where refugee parents had no way of understanding what we were going through.

Liz Lemon is so beloved to me because she reminds me of my dear sister, who sacrificed so much of her young social life to make sure I was picked up from school. She was there for me in the times when nobody else was, and has made me a better person for it. That is, in essence, who Liz Lemon is at her core. She is a smart, hilarious, feminist, deeply flawed, over-achieving smartass, the likes of which primetime television never saw before.

This says it all:

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