“We Don’t Want Your Tiny Hands Anywhere Near Our Underpants”

How feminist punk bands are igniting the fight against Donald Trump.
Taco Cat.jpg

Tacocat. Photo by Sam Gehrke. 

“We don’t want your tiny hands anywhere near our underpants,” quips Fiona Apple in her anti-Trump protest song “Tiny Hands.” Apple recorded the vocals by phone and released the song last week, intending it as a chant for the Women’s March on Washington.

“We don’t want your tiny hands anywhere near our underpants.”

Her voice sits above a frantic piano riff as audio of Trump’s infamous “grab ’em by the pussy” comment loops over and over. The song lasts only a minute, but has garnered a considerable amount of media attention and amassed over half a million plays on the music-sharing service SoundCloud just a week after its release.

And Apple isn’t the only female musician to show her support for women. Tacocat, a feminist band based out of Seattle, has also felt the sweltering heat of sexism. In the early days, they’d get labeled as “that one feminist punk band at the hardcore show,” said Emily Nokes, the band’s lead singer, which includes three females and one male. As smaller, female-identifying people, they’d often get stomped on or disregarded, and rarely would anyone say anything about it.

This deeply ingrained misogyny is partly why Tacocat played a benefit show on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration. All of the proceeds went to the Shout Your Abortion, a social media campaign, which is smaller than Planned Parenthood but more specific in scope—it creates a space for people to share and discuss stories about abortion, on the streets or online.

“Abortion is something that’s definitely on the line in an election like this,” said Nokes. “So it felt really important to zero in on that one issue and blow it up as much as we could.”

The benefit show is just a taste of the band’s interest in feminism. They describe themselves as “feminist-sci-fi” and write lyrics about things like being on periods and getting catcalled. The hope, Nokes said, is to empower women by talking about topics often swept under the rug.

“These are just concepts that we talk about and embody anyway,” said Nokes. “Everything I do is feminist because I am.”

While the Women’s March on Washington served as an amplifier for issues like abortion, many claimed that it sidelined other issues, such as race and sexuality.

But some feminist bands are trying to keep those issues in focus. Kitten Forever, a feminist punk trio from Minneapolis, decided after the election to offer all of their music and merchandise via a pay-what-you-want model on the online music platform Bandcamp. In the past, they’ve donated show and album proceeds to Black Lives Matter and the NoDAPL movements. This time around, all the proceeds go to RECLAIM, an organization that provides mental health access to trans and queer youth.

“We participate heavily in a queer-friendly scene,” said Laura Larson, a member of the band. “Many of our friends have benefitted directly from RECLAIM’s services, so we really wanted to donate money to a smaller and local organization.”

The decision, Larson said, was not a difficult one. The band, which describes their sound as “fuzzed out, caustic party punk,” hasn’t been shy about the feminist undercurrents of their music.

“For us, our strength is in our art,” said Larson. “Even if it’s ‘more work’ for us, it gives us an extra sense of purpose beyond just playing shows.”

Art as resistance in the age of Trump

Artists have been making political work for a long time. Andrew Boyd, author and contributor to the book Beautiful Trouble: A ToolBox for Revolution, says the employment of art as activism goes back at least to the conception of the Trojan Horse, when the Greeks fit several men inside a large wooden horse before entering Troy and winning the Trojan war.

The book is a way to bolster the effects of grassroots movements. It’s a step-by-step handbook that brings together tactics, principles, theories, case studies, and practitioners, celebrating and encouraging creative change.

But why turn to art to fight Trump when his opponents could just point out his lies and falsehoods? Boyd asserts that facts and logic don’t form a straight path to a just society.

“We’re motivated by story, by song, by visuals, by moving our body.”

“They’re actually not the strongest tool in the toolbox, for better or worse,” he said. “Our hearts are as important, if not more important, than our minds. We’re motivated by story, by song, by visuals, by moving our body.”

Boyd experienced his own radical awakening in June 1982, when he was in college. He was part of a civil disobedience action against the development of nuclear weapons at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, outside of San Francisco. More than 1,300 protestors, including Boyd, were arrested.

During that campaign, he met many fellow artists and activists who inspired him to “recentralize” art and use it as a tool for change. Ever since then, he’s focused on the intersection between art and activism, and that ultimately led to Beautiful Trouble.

“When you can put 3.7 million people on the streets in one day, you’re a movement.”

Artists have played important roles in most of the major uprisings of recent decades, including the protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle in 1999; Occupy Wall Street in 2012; and, more recently, Black Lives Matter. But something (or a lot of things) about President Trump has lit a bright new fire in many people. It caused 3 million to 4 million of them—about one in every hundred Americans—to take to the streets of cities like Washington, New York, Los Angeles, and even snowy Moose Pass, Alaska, to fight for women’s rights.

“This particular election just feels way more egregious [than others],” said Nokes. “It’s so much more serious; it’s so much more alarming; it’s so much more of a visceral reaction from everyone.”

Boyd agreed and affirmed that musicians—particularly ones with a feminist agenda—have a place in activism. But their voice must be tactical, he said. It needs to have purpose. “It’s not just about people sharing stories, but being able to enclose your values and arguments in a strong narrative,” he said.

Due to the strong narratives on display in the Women’s March, Boyd said, the anti-Trump revolution is not only in full swing, but more robust than those that sprung up to oppose right-wing presidents in the past, such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. The resistance to Trump, he said, is historically unprecedented, and art is already a driving force behind it.

“When you can put 3.7 million people on the streets in one day, you’re a movement.”