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Feminists ‘kill joy’ – you should, too

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Tierrai Tull is an undergraduate at the University of Toronto & University College London

As feminists, we ruin everything. Sara Ahmed, author of Living a Feminist Life and self-identified “killjoy”, acknowledges the feminists who make spaces uncomfortable by confronting patriarchy out in the open. Killjoys disrupt the status quo in classrooms, boardrooms and bedrooms by embracing a feminist ideology. The killjoy frequently tells her peers, “I literally just said that” after they paraphrase her words yet present them as original.

A killjoy can never “just watch a movie” riddled with sexism or listen to loaded misogynistic lyrics because feminist ideology extends to private life.

Ahmed writes, “Whenever the [killjoy] speaks, eyes seem to roll,” they are seen as nuisances, looking for attention, or even angry. I adore the feminist killjoys who courageously disrupt the status quo yet remain mired in self-doubt. “Should I have said that?” “Maybe I shouldn’t tell them that was misogynistic” “Oh no, now I made this awkward; maybe he’s right; I should have an off switch.”

This is the life of a feminist killjoy, acutely aware of how her identity affects her daily experience. Still, killjoys choose bravery over groupthink and fear, inspire others and annoy the room. What a trade-off. Ahmed admitted during an interview that “being a killjoy can feel like you’re getting in the way of your happiness” but reminded us that if our “happiness [comfort or relationships] require [you] to not notice injustice around,” it’s probably not happiness at all (Mehra, 2017).

Prioritising your happiness before the comfort of others is an important lesson for young girls who grow up biting their tongues and betraying themselves. Especially poor Black girls. We discuss the effects of racism and sexism on our ability to develop material wealth, yet underestimate the severe damage to our collective self-esteem and self-concept.

Author bell hooks wrote about this phenomenon in her bestseller Rock My Soul: Black People and Self-Esteem.

Moreover, Ahmed’s reclamation of the word “killjoy” points to a recent diluting of the feminist movement in Bermuda. Advocates appear comfortable addressing political representation, pay equity and open demonstrations of violence, yet nothing else. Although these are extremely important goals, it ignores that feminism was born to address how our relationships are affected by our gender, race and class, etc.

Sexism existed privately and diffused into the workforce, media, governments, etc. Still, it is much easier to get support for equal political representation in functional democracies than have groups confront their misogynistic value systems, sexist heroes and select religious texts that are fundamentally oppressive.

The “killjoys” that Ahmed describes should be celebrated. We should learn from them, borrow courage from them and affirm them, even when they appear self-assured. Based on my observations, people appear more selfless once they have children. They seem to embrace the possibility that the world can change. Or at least they want it to, so children can exist in loving and promising spaces that are conducive to learning. The “killjoys” open space for such a reality.

We should learn from “killjoys”, borrow courage from them and affirm them, even when they appear self-assured

Ahmed says, “[Killjoys] open room for possibility and life (Mehra, 2017).” We should remember this before judging someone for being a disrupter. Feminists do ruin everything, and they have the right idea. Some things should be destroyed, then rebuilt again. Feminists kill joy, and you should, too.


Mehra, Nishta J. “Sara Ahmed: Notes from a Feminist Killjoy.” Guernica, Guernica, 31

July 2017, https://www.guernicamag.com/sara-ahmed-the-personal-is-institutional/

Tierrai Tull is an undergraduate at the University of Toronto & University College London

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Published March 27, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated March 26, 2023 at 12:47 pm)

Feminists ‘kill joy’ – you should, too

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