Introduction
When I first heard Le Tigre perform ‘‘Keep on Livin’ ’’ at the 2001 Michi-
gan Womyn’s Music Festival, it was as though the writing of this book
had come full circle, since one of its starting points was a performance
by Tribe 8 on the same stage in 1994. In connecting the experience of
living with a history of sexual abuse to the difficulties of coming out,
songwriters Kathleen Hanna and JD Samson credit as one of their in-
fluences the article I wrote about Tribe 8’s 1994 performance, an article
that formed the nucleus of this book, and they dedicated their Michigan
performance of the song to Tribe 8’s Lynn Breedlove. Even without those
associations, I would have fallen in love with the song because it captures
the way that survival is as simple and as elusive as being able to ‘‘taste
that sweet sweet cake.’’ I hear the insistent refrain of ‘‘you gotta keep on
(keep on livin!)’’ as part curse and part celebration; Hanna’s cry of ‘‘you
gotta keep on’’ sounds like an impossible demand for survival, but when
the chorus answers with ‘‘keep on, keep on livin’,’’ it sounds like the cheer
that can help sustain you. Performed live, the song creates an opportu-
nity for the audience to shout out the words as a group and affirm the
many kinds of survival that bring them together. The music helps return
the listener to the pleasures of sensoryembodiment that trauma destroys:
‘‘Cuz those are your arms, that is your heart and no no they can’t tear you
apart.’’ Unapologetically feminist and queer, Le Tigre supplements their
songs with videos and slides projected on a screen behind them to create
a multimedia forum for the polemical messages inspired by their politi-
cal commitments. The combined power of song, visuals, and live perfor-
mance lends itself to the formation of a public culture around trauma
that doesn’t involve medical diagnoses or victims.
Performances by bands like Le Tigre and Tribe 8 have been my inspi-
ration here and form the archive in which my own feelings are deposited.
Sometimes the most effective way I can explain my project is to point to
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