Sleater-Kinney’s “Can I Go On” Music Video Gives Middle-Aged Women Permission To Exist

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Lauri Guzda and Mami Kimura quaintly sip tea and share a proper laugh as Sleater-Kinney frontwoman Corin Tucker croons the opening lyrics, “everyone I know is tired / everyone I know is wired”. But, wait… What’s that? Is Kimura about to break? Her hand trembles, grasping the cup. 

“Half the day, thrown away / But I can’t find the thrill anymore.” Maybe it’s time to let down your hair, ladies? Coy looks exchange between Guzda and Kimura, in an agreed “fuck all this” nod, and the middle-aged women scream out social supression.

Directed by Ashley Connor, the video for “Can I Go On” celebrates the resilience of the female form as only one of the longest-running female rock bands can. Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein, women navigating their way through their 40s, exhibit one of the most underrepresented demographics in pop culture and politics. While Hollywood tries tirelessly to hide away aging actresses behind flawless looks and ageless performance, Sleater-Kinney is here to showcase the female body and all its well-worn parts.

Within the broader thematic context of The Center Won’t Hold album, we wanted the video to speak to an existence that has been fractured and frayed by age or by loss, by divisive politics, by trauma or depression,” the band wrote in a statement. “We aimed to showcase the female body as a place of resistance, to explore how much it can withstand trespass, sorrow, and chaos. The body, then, becomes a site of transformation, repurposing invisible wounds and wear into kinetic energy and power. The women in the video display modes of strength and joy in ways we do not traditionally see.”

But perhaps the most important performance here is the unapologetic display of desire. Desire goes on. It doesn’t die after your 20s. While men are encouraged (and medicated) to embrace their sexual nature until death, women are shamed out of it immediately after their prime childbearing years. No one wants to know a forty, let alone fifty- or sixty-year-old woman still gets her kicks. But FUCK all that. To desire and to be desired is OK.

Let your hair down, tear your clothes off, and scream with the strength in all your bones. Let desire flow unchecked. Can you go on? Damn right you can. You are strong, beautiful and desired bb.

“Can I Go On” appears on Sleater-Kinney’s newly-released ninth album, The Center Won’t Hold. Produced by St. Vincent, the album takes a wide, but not wholly unfamiliar turn from the lesser-polished sounds of the groups previous work. All of Sleater-Kinney is there under the sheen of St. Vincents polish, and through the lyrics we’re thrust into the world these women find themselves in today. Aging, compounded with loss, divided by politics and still standing on stage, screaming it all in your face: “Sell our rage, buy and trade / But we still cry for free every day.”