Jett said she’d refuse to answer: “I realised in that moment: Joan, if you answer this question, they’re never going to ask you another question about music again. It’s over. So you can’t ever make it about sex. Sex is inherent in rock’n’roll. But they didn’t think we knew anything. So it was very interesting, sparring with people through that time.”
If she could speak to her 16-year-old self, Jett said she’d warn her about the misogyny she was going to face throughout her life. But she’d also issue a message of resistance.
“What I would tell my young self is that people feel threatened by strong women. And that’s been the case, not just since America was around, but for thousands of years. That’s just reality. So people use these words to hurt you on purpose, to try to get you to stop,” she said.
“So I would tell my young self, take it all with a grain of salt. It’s meant to do exactly what it’s doing to you: hurt your feelings. It’s not to help you in any capacity, to steer you in what they feel is a proper direction. They’re just trying to get you to stop.”
As we know, Jett did not stop. After the Runaways split up, she went on to have decades of global success with Joan Jett & The Blackhearts. They’ve given the world some of the most-loved songs in the rock’n’roll cannon: I Love Rock’n’Roll, Bad Reputation, I Hate Myself for Loving You. Currently on tour in the US, they’ve recently released a new EP, Mindsets.
Throughout all the attacks, Joan Jett kept going for one reason: “I wanted to make it easier for the next girl. Because I knew I had already thrown in my lot.”
In that, she unquestionably succeeded. With her six-string and an ironclad will, Jett carved a place for women with guitars. Her fearlessness paved the way for so many women to rock – among them riot grrls Bikini Kill, The Distillers’ Brody Dalle, Miley Cyrus. She has also produced many bands throughout her career under her own label Blackheart Records.
She doesn’t regret the hard times. “Important moments can be great, and they can also be devastating and sad, but they all build who you are as a person,” she explained. “You can feel better about losing because you know it’s building your character. People who don’t lose anything, they don’t know even the meaning of winning.”
Read Joan Jett’s full Letter To My Younger Self interview – including her memories of David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Robert Plant – in The Big Issue magazine, out from Monday 7 August 2023.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ new digital EP Mindsets is out now. joanjett.com
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