In the ten years since Sleater-Kinney disbanded, the band’s popularity has only increased, and now they’re going on tour with Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood has done this before, most notably with Lena Dunham for her Not That Kind of Girl book tour. At the Sleater-Kinney shows, PP will sell an exclusive t-shirt designed by artist Molly Schiot and will ask concert attendees to take the “My Health, My Life, No Matter What” pledge, which calls on legislators to stop interfering in women’s health care decisions. The band is pumped about the partnership, “We hope to provide information and access to Planned Parenthood to a whole new generation of Sleater-Kinney fans.”
And the partnership makes sense: Sleater-Kinney is riot grrrl royalty from the ’90s whose popularity has only increased in the ten years since the band disbanded and guitarist Carrie Brownstein became a pop culture icon with her sketch comedy show Portlandia, featuring Saturday Night Live alum, Fred Armisen.
But I have to give pause for a moment. While Planned Parenthood’s partnerships don’t hurt anyone, it’s important to note who they exclude. The riot grrrl movement — as much as I loved it — was by and large a white girl one. And the two choices — Lena Dunham and Sleater-Kinney for Planned Parenthood partnerships don’t exactly do anything to squash the idea that PP whitewashes their outreach.
Sure, Sleater-Kinney may be popular, but the band has never reached the mass influence of say, Nikki Minaj. It’s a stretch, believe me I know this, but Minaj is taking questions about her new album, The Pink Print, featuring a song about her decision to have an abortion as a teenager, and giving interviews to Rolling Stone about being pro-choice. Did PP reach out to her camp? Can you even imagine the kind of outreach a Minaj + Planned Parenthood partnership could offer? It would be a Lisa Frank explosion of unicorns and birth control pills.
Women of color have consistently shown up to the polls to back the key measures Planned Parenthood advocates for: reproductive choice and healthcare for all women despite their ability to pay. While single, white women do back progressive policies for women, it’s once they get married that they go Republican. Perhaps the strategy — as Planned Parenthood sees it — is to align their message with the Youngs so if and when these concertgoers turn traditional, they’ll have their Lena Dunham and Sleater-Kinney memories giving them pause inside the voting booth.
The partnership is a good one, but Planned Parenthood needs to expand their outreach and partnerships beyond white women and riot grrrls.