After 30 Years, Ani DiFranco Is Still Fighting the Patriarchy With Her Music

In the latest episode of Ann Delisi’s Essential Conversations, musician and activist Ani DiFranco talks about her new single “Do or Die,” and what politics have to do with shaving her head.

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This isn’t the first time Ani DiFranco shaved her head. But she’s also had “every hairdo known to human along the way … just trying on every identity.” 

The prolific musician and activist has been writing songs and performing for her dedicated fan base for over 30 years. In 1989, she started her own record company, Righteous Babe Records, and has defied categorization ever since.

From the beginning, DiFranco’s music has challenged social norms, especially patriarchy. Early in her career, DiFranco shaved her head for the first time at age 18.

“I was part of a movement that built a context for that kind of ‘you know what, screw the pretty, thing’ community of young women.”

“There is something of the counterculture, of the social movement, that I was part of. Young people beginning to give voice to these social movements that have been ongoing for a long time.”

Sonically, DiFranco found that she never quite fell in with a particular subgenre of music either, whether it be “women’s music” relegated to the back of music stores, folk, rock or punk.

“It’s not always easy to be welcomed into the world when you’re shaking things up.”

But shaking things up is what DiFranco has done, time and time again. 

With her latest single, “Do or Die,” DiFranco was inspired to respond to the current political climate.

DiFranco sees the movement for social justice that was “such a tiny thing” in her youth is not tiny anymore.

“It was just an instinctual thing. I was like, I think I should shave my head again. I just want to reconnect … I’m not tired, I’m not giving up, I’m not done. And I’m still in it with you guys, so let’s go.”

In this episode

  • Ani DiFranco remembers the challenges of her early career
  • How combatting patriarchy and injustice has inspired her music
  • Why she decided to shave her head again, 30 years later
  • The inspiration behind her new single, “Do or Die”

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  • David Leins
    David Leins is a Podcast Coordinator and Producer at WDET. He also oversees the StoryMakers program. When he isn't making radio and podcasts, David is probably on a hike somewhere marveling at the trees.