Sunday Video: Public Speaking With Kathleen Hanna

The Julie Ruin singer’s tips for talking in front of complete strangers.

Kathleen Hanna is the lead singer of the Julie Ruin and has been in bands such as Bikini Kill and Le Tigre. She also gives lectures at colleges and other places on topics such as feminism, art, activism, and punk. It’s given her a TON of practice at being in front of crowds of complete strangers, and in this video she has some personally tested public-speaking tips—plus words of (life) encouragement, including these: “This could suck. But it doesn’t really have to do with you.”


  • AidaA August 4th, 2013 12:13 PM

    This is some real good advice. I hate public speaking so much. I get so nervous when giving presentations that my leg shakes like crazy. I guess having visuals means the audience has something to look at which could make me feel like they weren’t boring holes into my soul with their stares! Next presentation I’m gonna remember the hand thing! Thanks guys!


  • Sophie ❤ August 4th, 2013 12:30 PM

    She’s so cool! This is also amazing advice.

  • FlorenceEyre August 4th, 2013 1:21 PM

    I fell in love with Kathleen Hanna. Seriously, she seems like one of the best people EVER.

    I also started to think about starting a feminist club at our school, but probably I will be the only one member, since already the word “feminist” is seen as something negative, but I guess that is a good reason for starting it.
    Do you have any ideas how to make it work or something like that? It would really help me if anyone gave me some advice. Thanks :)

    • Ozma August 4th, 2013 3:11 PM

      I’m in the same position! I want to start a feminist club but I don’t think anyone at my school will take an interest in it.

      • KatGirl August 4th, 2013 10:34 PM

        Same, I’d like it if there were more feminist girls at my school next year but there are also a few reaaaaally sexist people -_-

      • Jen L. August 4th, 2013 11:14 PM

        Hey there! As a recent high school graduate and “feminist club starter” myself, I have lots of things to say about this topic. First off, you guys are awesome. Stick to your guns, and don’t let people get away with trying to talk you out of your beliefs.

        Now here’s a little rambling story for you:
        I started a club at my rather small high school my junior year with a girl I didn’t know all that well. We both went to a local screening of Missrepresentation, and after we got to talking about feminism, and realized we had a lot to say. The next week at school we found a faculty sponsor and formed a club from there. For ALL of junior year, our club meetings were just the three of us. Disheartening? A bit. But looking back, it was a really formative time. We did things like making fact posters, trying to get the school to screen Missrep (which happened this year!), watched lots of videos on Feminist Frequency’s YouTube channel, and brainstormed how to get more members. Going into senior year, I pretty much had resolved that we weren’t going to get any more people interested, and that the club would die a sudden, tragic death when I graduated. But lo and behold, and the club fair about 15 people signed up to get our emails! Only about 6 people became dedicated members, (including one male staff member who totally kicked ass) but suddenly we had way more support and the club really took off. We accomplished a ton this year: a fundraiser for a girl’s school in the DRC, a letter writing campaign, more fact posters, and a presentation to the whole high school.

        • Jen L. August 4th, 2013 11:22 PM

          Point is, you never know how an idea will take off if you stick with it!

          Here are a few assorted pieces of advice:
          -Choose your name wisely. Though it pains me greatly, the word “feminism” can be really alienating for some people. We had lots of success with the name the “Gender Equality Club.” But it’s up to you.
          -Start by trying to get your close friends involved. None of mine ever actually joined our club, but having their support and understanding is huge. A great conversation starter for this type of thing is “Does it ever bother you guys when…*insert any commonly occurring sexist phenomenon*?” People usually have a lot to say once someone else starts the ball rolling.
          -Choose your battles wisely, and keep this quotation in mind: “Prejudices are rarely overcome by argument; not being founded in reason they cannot easily be destroyed by logic.” If someone is trying to get a rise out of you be the bigger person!
          -Don’t assume that everyone is automatically against you because you are crusading for women’s rights. In my experience at least, I found that a few people really wanted to help, but most people didn’t care. The good news is that the more knowledge you provide people about an issue, the less likely they are to be apathetic about it.
          -For me, the absolute best source of confidence I found as a high school activist was deciding that the cause I was working toward was more important than what people thought of me in the short term. That being said, in the long term people will definitely respect you for standing up for what you believe in.
          Best of luck!!!

    • CelianotCecelia August 4th, 2013 11:15 PM

      Oh my God just go for it! I’ve started two clubs at my school and am working on a third, and I know it sucks when you think no one’s interested. Just be friendly and don’t doubt yourself or what you’re doing.

      • FlorenceEyre August 5th, 2013 2:57 AM

        Thank you so much for your support! I am definitely going to do it!
        Thank you! <3

  • cicconeyouth August 4th, 2013 3:05 PM

    thanks kathleen! lots of good advice. i wish you could be my own personal life coach!

  • Suzie Q August 4th, 2013 3:46 PM

    Great advice, usually whenever i public spoke i just went ahead and winged it ahaha

  • Steward3 August 4th, 2013 5:04 PM

    woo, it is nice that I learned this advice before going back to school. I need to not worry about speaking my ideas and opinions.

  • atinybitquiet August 4th, 2013 5:10 PM

    This is so relevant for me right now! I gave a speech about feminism to about 200 people back in April at my local TEDxYouth event and the youtube video for it was posted, like, 3 days ago and I’ve been watching it over and over to see what I need to improve on when it comes to public speaking.

    GREAT advice Kathleen, and thanks Rookie for showing something like this!

  • Vilms_99 August 4th, 2013 6:08 PM

    I hate public performing, but once when i had to sing in concert, i realized that all the time theres bunch of people who have 10 times scaryer things to do and some people accualy enjoy public speaking/performing. So, I like to pretend that I´m that kind of person!

  • emseely August 4th, 2013 9:36 PM

    Kathleen is playing the rookiefest right now :)

  • rayano-banano August 5th, 2013 3:24 AM

    That was really great and useful! more stuff like this please.

  • sissiLOL August 5th, 2013 4:27 AM

    I think I love her!!! <3 :-D
    Look at my LOVELETTER for Rookiemag!

  • fashionbambini August 5th, 2013 8:38 AM

    This is kind of crazy as I had public speaking the other day for school which is compulsory- but I got into the finals! Which is weird because I hate public speaking- but such great advice! hehe x

  • Chloe22 August 5th, 2013 8:45 AM

    OMG KATHLEEN HANNA! she is so awesome omg! bikini kill FOREVS!

  • thenoisythinker August 5th, 2013 9:04 AM

    Great advice! I used to be so terrified of public speaking but then I’ve gotten so used to it through the years that I can even sing in public comfortably.

  • Silja Jónsdóttir August 5th, 2013 9:04 AM

    It would be so cool to make a feminist club but at our school (i live in Iceland) we don’t even have any clubs!! it sucks, so i don’t think it would be accepted to make a club because there has never been a club at our school EVER! but maybe i should just make a secret club that would also be pretty cool!

    • FlorenceEyre August 5th, 2013 11:51 AM

      I am from Slovakia, and we only have classical “clubs” for chemistry and such things.
      I think it would be totally cool if you started it!

  • MaddieMae August 5th, 2013 3:56 PM

    This was surprisingly helpful! I’ve been thinking about starting a feminist club at my school, but I’m nervous that if I do start one, no one will want to join. Does anyone have any tips on how to effectively start a club and/or recruit people?

    • FlorenceEyre August 6th, 2013 3:35 AM

      Some amazing people gave me some advice about that above :)

  • Lorelei August 5th, 2013 6:28 PM

    I have been giving some thought to starting a feminist club at my school but the majority of the student body is…not very into feminism (don’t know how to word this exactly). Like in one of my classes last year we were learning about something in history and feminism came up and this one guy (who I am FRIENDS WITH WHAT) was like “Ew, feminists are lesbians” and I was like…speechless. Maybe people just don’t understand what it is. I think if i started a club like that, studens might be…idk, mean about it. But i know that shouldn’t stop me. It’s just that whenever i have brought up feminism the reaction has been bad. Like I tweeted something under the #ThankAFeminist hashtag or whatever it was a few months ago and this guy responded with “I’ll thank a feminist when i can hit a woman”

  • Cactus Woman August 5th, 2013 11:26 PM

    Wow. Just wow. So much love for this grrrl!

  • Taavishi August 6th, 2013 10:38 AM

    Helpful and inspiring :)

  • SweetSarahO August 6th, 2013 6:33 PM

    She’s just so amazing, and these tips are spot-on! I took a bunch of speech/communication classes at my local community college, and these tips basically sum it all up. Brava to Professor Hanna!

    • SweetSarahO August 6th, 2013 6:36 PM

      Also as a sidenote: SO MUCH LOVE TO ROOKIE for having Kathleen Hanna at the Rookie Fest in L.A.!!! It was so crazy to speak with her IN PERSON. So many of my best memories are thanks to Rookie events. So, thanks. xo

  • tobtob August 12th, 2013 1:43 AM

    I saw this and was like:
    Kathleen Hanna?
    THE Kathleen Hanna?
    On Rookie!!!!!!!

    My life is complete <3 Thank you so much