“Why are Republicans such dicks?” asked a pink cardboard phallus rising from the crowd at Foley Square in lower Manhattan on Saturday. Some 6,000 people had gathered to rally against the House Republicans’ vote to cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
“It’s great to see so many guys here,” said Kathleen Hanna, front woman of Le Tigre and high priestess of the Riot Grrrl movement, a few minutes before she took the stage. Ms. Hanna has long advocated for women’s rights in her lyrics and in her zines.
“I’ve been to Planned Parenthood in almost every state,” Ms. Hanna continued. “I was touring in the ’90s with no health insurance and no money.” A belated recognition of Riot Grrrl’s political underpinnings has elevated Ms. Hanna’s status in feminist debates, from ripped-tights provocateuse to expert speaker.
“It feels nice to be acknowledged, to talk how I want to talk,” Ms. Hanna told The Observer. “I guess that’s what happens when you’re 42.”
She added that the importance of speaking freely was made clear to her by the recent shooting in Tucson, during which her mother’s boyfriend was injured. The Republican woman beside him, with whom he had been having a friendly debate when Jared Loughner opened fire, was killed. The incident reminds her “how important it is that we’re not just sitting at home signing Internet petitions, that we come out and speak to each other,” Ms. Hanna said.
Public Advocate Bill De Blasio earned the loudest cheers of any elected official at the rally when he told the crowd that he would fight to the death for his 16-year-old daughter’s right to go to Planned Parenthood.
Mr. De Blasio was among the sharpest critics of a controversial billboard erected recently in SoHo that read “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.”
Though the advertisement was taken down after a week, it was still a topic of conversation at the rally.
“How dare they try to use us in their hateful, racist and oppressive campaign?” Jasmine Burnett of the grassroots organization Sister Strong NY asked the crowd. “Hell, no! You will not come in to our homes and tell us how to raise our children and tell us what to do what to do with our bodies,” she shouted.
Sauntering along the perimeter of the group, a lone 23-year-old counter-protester named Andrew was trailed by a dozen twenty-something women, who jeered and shook tambourines in his face. He didn’t seem fazed.
“I have a girlfriend,” he told The Observer.