The first time I heard a Peaches song was when Masti Khor did a burlesque number to her song song “Fuck the Pain Away” at a show. I was immediately drawn to Peaches, then and there. I had heard folks raving about Peaches, but had never bothered to get into her music. I think it was my rebellious nature not wanting to follow the crowd, but I soon realized I had been missing out, big time.
When I saw that Peaches was debuting her movie, Peaches Does Herself, at TIFF, I thought it was the perfect way to get into this Peaches phenomenon. I was in for quite a treat. The feature is an epic journey of her exploration of gender and sexuality, illuminated with a musical score compiled of all her music. I was sitting in my seat doing kegels just to contain myself as I watched it all unfold.
The film starts off with a pastor-like professor explaining the brilliance behind some of her songs in German with the song titles peppered in English, and the riot grrrl band The Plasmatics playing an ode to the song “Rockshow.” This assured me from the start that this was going to be an amazingly subversive film.
I started listening to chick-music as young as 15, seeking out female identified musicians that I felt a connection with and that spoke to my identity. I had found my own musical niche. When people asked me what I listened to, I would promptly reply: “chick rock.” As I settled into my feminism, I went through quite a struggle to find riot grrrl bands and immerse myself in riot grrrl culture, a lovely kick-ass endeavour that I wish for all girls to experience. It started with the movie Ten Things I Hate About You, one of my favourites back in the day where I was suddenly learning about music I had never known existed. There is a giant well out there brimming with girl bands and feminist music that nourishes me.
I can definitely see how Peaches’s work would make great material for gender and sexuality studies, and for inspiration for girl rockers. She sits wearing pink bottoms, legs spread, in her room while making music and experimenting with beats and lyrics. I think this is really encouraging for girls to see, because we are often mocked or put down in rock and roll culture, as if there isn’t room for us or we aren’t good enough. I hate going to rock and roll or punk stores where they sell merchandise and other goodies; I can never find any shirts or buttons with grrrl bands on them.
Peaches’s music is empowering, edgy and catchy. There are subtle as well as bold undertones of female empowerment, gender bending and sex positivity. The movie follows Peaches’s path from being a strong brave and kick-ass grrrl to an all-encompassing, genderqueer, superstar warrior —a journey I think is important for many young feminists to learn from. The desire and need to feel pride in a girl identity is great, but to desconstruct gender norms, and show love for and to welcome masculinity and embrace gender as a whole, is something I especially admire about Peaches. Peaches’s music is brash and sassy and sprawling with hidden meanings and an idealogy that she so poignantly names “the teaches of Peaches.” This movie is the epitome of what a radical, queer, feminist, trans-positive haven would look like and a musical like no other: the bigger, better and bolder version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.