Do You Think 'Both Hands' by Ani DiFranco Is About Fingering... With Both Hands?

Illustration for article titled Do You Think 'Both Hands' by Ani DiFranco Is About Fingering... With Both Hands?
Image: Righteous Babe Records

Look, I know we have more important things to worry about, but if I’m going to die I’d really like to know the answer to this before I go: Is “Both Hands” by Ani DiFranco about manual sex? Fingering? Fisting? Some kind of combo?


I ask because my sister said that one thing that made her laugh this week was remembering when she had a school assignment to bring in a song that meant something to her and I encouraged her to play “Both Hands” for her class. I did take her to her first concert, which was Ani DiFranco in Philadelphia, so it wasn’t an entirely invalid suggestion, but if I’m being honest it was mostly owing to me being an obsessed stan in the ‘90s, before the stanning was even a thing (at least by that name) and just wanting to get the word out on Ani DiFranco. Reach the kids, they’re the future, I thought. So she played it in front of her class and her teacher was like, “Uh...?” He told her it was not an age-appropriate song. (She was probably in 6th grade or so.) My one-man-street-team ways resulted in her embarrassment.

I disagree that “Both Hands” is necessarily sexually explicit. A “swan song” is mentioned as is “writing graffiti on your body” and “drawing the story of how hard we tried.” But in the chorus, when DiFranco urges, “Both hands, now use both hands,” this always seemed more to me like a general plea for effort as opposed to a sexual instruction. More “all hands on deck” than “ my vag.” I have literally never considered this song, which DiFranco wrote in her teens and remains among her catalog’s best-known, sexual in nature... until now. (It wasn’t until years after the fact that my sister even told me about being Ani-shamed by her teacher.)

Anyway, this reminds me of the time when I was listening to Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” a few years ago and I realized that the song was perhaps nowhere nearly as affectionate as I had initially considered it. Twitter confirmed.

So now I’m thinking about “Both Hands.” Okay, brain, fair enough. I understand that as time goes on, fewer people have engaged with DiFranco’s music (myself included, even though the release of her memoir last year prompted met to binge on her catalog and it all came flooding back). But in the off chance that you do have some opinion on this, won’tcha please fill out the poll below so we can get to the bottom of this? DiFranco generally resists analyzing her music in interviews and a cursory Google for quotes on this matter came up fruitless. Sound off if you have “A Case of You” opinions as well. Say whatever you want, really. Now’s the time.

Some Pig. Terrific. Radiant. Humble.



Both hands, now wash both hands

And please don’t touch your eyes

You’ve got to lather for 20 seconds now

So immunocompromised

Don’t have to dieeeeeeeee.