Updated: Dec 1, 2020
“Here she goes again”, “Oh will you just let it go”, “Can we not just talk about something nice?”
Random men tell me to “smile." My family members and peers are constantly telling me to stop bringing up sexism every 5 minutes because it “ruins the mood.” My mom tells me to “please not bring my radical feminist commentary to the dinner table.”
All of these instances are rooted in patriarchal thought. The idea that I need to conform to the patriarchal social norms in order for other people to be “happy” is harmful to womxn and only perpetuates oppression. I am passionate and proud to be a KILLJOY and today I want to teach you how to kill the joy!
What is Feminist Killjoy Theory?
In debate, often called “Fem Killjoy” most commonly refers to the literature of Sara Ahmed who coined the term. In her book, Living a Feminist Life, she discusses how women are forced to conform to society's standards, like crossing your legs, wearing a bra, smiling constantly, etc. She examines that women often fake happiness to please the patriarchy. She says that the only way to break away from this is to kill the joy. This means that bringing up unhappy subjects (feminism, speaking about racism, homophobia, etc) refuses the happiness society imposes on women.
As long as the present system remains the majority of the population will experience deep alienation because “happiness” is only attainable by few. The inability to fix this false idea of happiness leads to many womxn feeling depressed, unsatisfied, and lost. This is often seen when women have a baby because social constructs tell us that motherhood will bring an abundance of joy yet, it often doesn’t. (Postpartum Depression) The same phenomenon happens when womxn get a significant other, get married, or even lose their virginity. On top of that, media and literature have popularized the idea of the “happy housewife” for centuries.
What are the benefits of Killjoy?
1. Killjoy is key to changing RACISM within the feminist system.
Ahmed explains that Black women killjoy without intending to due to stereotypes and that by forcing uncomfortable conversation we can challenge racism. We can place the figure of the feminist killjoy alongside the figure of the angry Black women, described as a killjoy; she may even kill white feminist joy, for example, by pointing out forms of racism within feminist politics.
2. Maintaining joy in the face of oppression is counterproductive.
Pretending to be happy while being oppressed quite literally does nothing.
3.Destroying the current idea of “happiness” will enable womxn to destroy systems of oppression because many issues are currently not addressed as they rely upon the idea that the oppressed are happy with their situation.
4. Reconceptualizing female “happiness” will dismantle the constant need for womxn to be the source of male happiness in heteronomative spaces.
How do I KILL the JOY?
First off, I think it’s imperative that you understand you cannot voluntarily choose to participate in patriarchal institutions and kill the joy at the same time! THOSE ARE MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE! You might ask “Anna, what do you mean voluntarily choose?”
I mean you cannot purposely say things or do things to bring other women down, you cannot choose to put yourself in a position where you or others are comparing your beauty ie. beauty pageants, homecoming court, or anything where the end goal is to beat another womxn, you cannot slut-shame, etc.
To truly kill the joy, you must kill the joy in all nuances of your life… even if it’s scary! Trust me when I say, I know it’s scary! Speaking out in front of your religious group, classmates, men, or even your family is scary but I believe with my entire being YOU CAN DO IT!
One more disclaimer if you haven’t already skipped down to the steps, you by NO MEANS need to do what the media claims as “Feminist Actions”. Shocker! You can be happy and still be a feminist killjoy! You can shave your legs, wear a bra, be straight, be religious, etc, AND STILL BE A FEMINIST KILLJOY! Ignore all the funny business the media is telling you and listen to actual Gender/Sexuality scholars, like Sara Ahmed!
1. SPEAK UP!
If someone is being sexist, racist, or homophobic in any space you should call them out! Now, calling someone out doesn’t mean saying “Hey! Stop being Sexist! You're a PIG." Rather, you should civilly speak to them. Something like, “Hey ___, when you said ___ that was (sexist, racist, homophobic, etc) because ____.” You will never know how this person is going to respond but, as someone who wants to make the world a more equal space, it is your job to call someone out when they’re being problematic. Living in Arkansas, a lot of times a racist 17-year-old boy probably could care less about what I have to say, but we must PERSIST! Don’t give up and keep going!
2. DON’T CONFORM!
SHOCKER! The term “Be Ladylike!” is complete BS and is rooted in patriarchal thought! You can curse, not wear a bra, not shave, be outspoken, be UNHAPPY, talk about your PERIOD, etc. Conforming to society's expectations for womxn is at the very root of the problem! So DON’T! Be proud to be a womxn! Be proud to be UNLADYLIKE!
3.REFUSE TO PRIORITIZE THE COMFORT AND JOY OF THOSE IN POWER!
Calling people out means refusing the comfort of others. Refuse the comfort of your preacher, teacher, mom, dad, Trump-supporting neighbor, best friend from 5th grade, principle, boyfriend, girlfriend, debate coach, etc. YOU HAVE TO REFUSE THEIR COMFORT TO PROTECT THE HUMANITY OF ALL WOMXN.
I AM PROUD TO BE A FEMINIST KILLJOY. Frankly, I have no choice. I have to be a feminist killjoy because the world is broken, and pretending it isn’t hurts people. Feminist killjoys make people uncomfortable by calling out flaws in the system, BUT THAT’S THE ONLY WAY THEY CAN BE FIXED. No one is coming to save us!
In the words of my hero, Sara Ahmed, “There can be joy in killing joy. AND KILLJOY, WE MUST AND WE DO.”
Anna Dean (Co-Founder)
Bentonville West Senior