JD Samson is a musician, producer, activist and gender rebel. Samson started her musical career with Le Tigre, the band that made songs like “Deceptacon” and “TKO,” creating music that was part of the cultural heart of Third Wave feminism, with the band that supplied much of the “grrr” in the Riot Grrrl movement.
JD grew up in the American heartland – in Pepper Pike, Ohio, a town that seems to breed teenage feminists – where it wasn’t easy to be a feminist, or an out lesbian, or an aspiring rock star. JD was all three, and she has written about her struggle with being so far from the all-American girl she was supposed to be. That sense of difference, and a desire to rebel against dominant gender norms, comes through in the music she made with Le Tigre, and with her new band, MEN.
MEN’s debut album, Talk About Body, came out earlier this year, and the band is currently touring the country. With MEN, Samson says, she wants to make music, and she wants use that music to send an activist message about gender, sexuality, body image and politics. The LA Times observes that Samson’s music walks “the knife edge of volatile politics and for-the-hips rhythms without shortchanging either,” which is exactly what Samson aims to do. Check it out for yourself:
And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with JD Samson.
Chloe Angyal: What led you to this new album, and why did you want to integrate themes of gender identity and equality into the music?
JD Samson: “Talk About Body” came from collaboration. With old friends and new. Building spaces and retrieving old memories in order to subconsciously supply a reality check. For us but for you too. We integrate these topics into our work because these are the themes that we are faced with every day of our lives. We look in the mirror and see different bodies. We don’t accept the binary gender system. We are radicals, queers, punks, we want to push ourselves to recognize the inequality so that we can all build a better world together. Where difference is rejoiced instead of frowned at. And where change is not only possible, but necessary.
CA: Who is your favorite fictional heroine, and who are your heroines in real life?
JDS: My favorite fictional heroine is Thelma in Thelma and Louise. My real life heroines are Johanna Fateman, my grandma, “Nana”, and Ann Cvetkovitch.
CA: What recent news story made you want to scream?
JDS: This past year I have been completely obsessed with the story of Caster Semenya. I have followed the news of her public identity dispute religiously and felt extremely connected to her emotionally through this journey. Hopefully a song we wrote for her will come out on our next full length record.
CA: What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge facing feminism today?
JDS: I believe that we, as feminists, are facing the difficult task of sticking together as a team. I think most subcultures and oppressed communities who had once united together for a common goal find it difficult to look past our small differences and almost more necessary to separate. The internet has created a wonderful space for community yet i think has divided us into smaller and smaller categories. This can be brilliant and helpful for some, but I think we face the challenge of thinking of both the big picture of feminism as well as our smaller sub-groups.
CA: You’re going to a desert island, and you’re allowed to take one food, one drink and one feminist. What do you pick?
JDS: Chicken parmesan, Welch’s grape juice and Ann Cvetkovitch.