Dites Donc: A sexual force…with a feminist agenda

by Jason Hart


Milwaukee-based Dites Donc (pronounced “Deet Dahnk,” French slang for “Look here!” or “Hey!”) incorporates irresistible dance music, intelligent lyrics, irreverent attitude, and innovative performance art into an ingenious and sex-saturated amalgam of music, dance, and theatre. Fresh off of a recent tour of points south and a magnificent performance at the Art Bar, Dites Donc members Allison Halter and Lindsay Hayden (producer and band member Mike Stasny was not available) sat down with the Riverwest Currents to discuss seduction, feminism, and men as sex objects.

Riverwest Currents: So what is Dites Donc?
Lindsay Hayden: We’re a performance art band, but at the same time I don’t like the performance art label…
Allison Halter: I like it because it’s dorky and wrong. We’re a feminist performance art band.
LH: People are surprised when they come to our show and see more than music.
AH: I think the way we make music is more like…
LH: …making art than making music.
AH: We don’t jam.
LH: The way we make songs is more like we’re building artwork, just like we would with a drawing or a sculpture, but we’re using sound.
AH: I want to make sure you write that we don’t jam and we don’t play guitars.
RC: How does feminism influence your work?
LH: We’re both unrepentant feminists. A lot of things we talk about are things that don’t get talked about openly and honestly or often enough.
AH: We as a band are interested in seduction as a persuasive technique.
RC: Can you explain that?
AH: I feel like a common misperception of feminism is that it’s only didactic or joyless or preachy. But we aren’t coming down on second wave feminism.
LH: Even sometimes when you read Ms. Magazine and they’re trying to be, “We’re funny,” but it’s so forced. You get the idea that they are trying to force the idea that feminism is funny.
AH: It’s really a way to win people over through seduction, rather than coercion or didactic lecturing. Maybe not win over, but have people consider our viewpoints.
LH: The perception of feminists is that they are dour or unfunny. It’s basically a stereotype that gets lobbed against feminists to scare them out of calling themselves feminists, because no one wants to be seen as unsexy or unfeminine or dour.
AH: I want to make sure you write that we’re not coming down on second-wave feminism.
LH: It’s like the old myth in comedy that attractive women can’t be funny and funny women can’t be attractive.
RC: Your lyrics are very funny…
AH: They’re completely sincere.
LH: Like when we say, “Our ship is big, let’s fuck.” We mean it. We were thinking, “What does this song say?” and it says, “Let’s fuck.” Let’s just say it. We aren’t jokey.
AH: The first instinct is to laugh. It’s different and weird and uncomfortable to think of men as being sex objects.
LH: The myth of women not being funny is dying.
RC: Your songs and stage shows include a lot of sexual content. Have you ever experienced any harassment?
AH: We own our sexuality; we own what we’re putting out there. I don’t ever really feel afraid.
LH: I don’t ever get hassled after the show.
AH: I think people get a little scared. Especially when I take my clothes off.
LH: It’s so sexual that no man would ever hit on us afterwards.
AH: Because then we’re woman-beasts.
LH: When we’re performing, we are presenting ourselves as a sexual force and a challenge, instead of an object.
RC: What do you challenge?
AH: It’s a challenge to traditional ideas about gendered sexuality. There’s that cliché of women being passive, which is being worked on, but there isn’t much being done on having men be sex objects.
RC: It seems like it’s being done in hip-hop…
AH: Even female rappers talk about what men will do to them on their body. They might talk about how big his dick is, and how long they will last, but no other parts of their bodies. It’s not the same at all.
RC: How does this influence the choices you make in presenting yourselves? Do you consciously seek to dispel stereotypes?
AH: I feel for us a lot of these issues are totally internalized.
LH: We don’t have to think about it when we’re on stage. They’re issues we don’t need to explicitly address because we are implicitly addressing them in our work. We have an idea for a song – it’s funny, it’s smart, it’s sexy; it sometimes has the side benefit of pushing forward our feminist agenda.
AH: Living as a feminist, it’s not something that we have to put a lot of extra work into. It’s just the way we live. But we are trying to challenge ourselves to communicate further.
LH: To really live sisterhood – not just pay it lip service and be backstabbing bitches.
AH: Sisterhood is powerful and we try to live that in the way we treat each other.

Dites Donc is playing at the Bremen Café on April 9 and the Riverwest Commons on May 9. Their music can be heard online at www.myspace.com/ditesdonc.

Riverwest Currents online edition – April, 2006