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  • Writer's pictureESSMAT SOPHIE

The significance of the figure of “the feminist killjoy” and/or “the willful subject” from Sara Ahme

Sara Ahmed highlights the feminist killjoy in her narrative of willful subjects. She explores both negativity and its promise of agency through willfulness and acting as a killjoy. A feminist can be viewed as a killjoy when she “gets in the way of other people’s happiness” or as a willful subject when she goes against social constructions and flow. Willfulness and unhappiness share a historical path. Ahmed points out that when most of a population thrives under the protection of patriarchy, those who attempt to disrupt the system are a source of trouble, feminist killjoys who bring unhappiness. Willfulness refers not only to unwillingness to go with the flow but also willingness to block the flow. The term “striking bodies” in Sara Ahmed’s article refers to those who strike with the intention to obstruct. In all cultures, willfulness is portrayed as the character faults of disobedience. Ahmed argues that we must intentionally translate this from a project of condemnation to one of empowerment. This translation, however, is not without risk. In her article Sara Ahmed is a good example of the killjoy feminist or willful one. She is the “feminist daughter” whose contributions to family conversations at the dinner table cause people to roll their eyes. Willful subjects are an alternative to less subjectivity. Willfulness is related to stepping outside and criticizing the power operation. History demonstrates its high cost. However, it is vital, particularly for women of color and those from other minority groups. The truth is that individuals who are willful or killjoys have contributed significantly to feminist movements and other human advancements. According to Ahmed, Black radicalism are supposed to be “charged with willfulness” and comprised of agents who oppose typical White feminists by emphasizing embodiment, lived experience, and intersectionality. Ahmed makes the important point that we shouldn’t think of willfulness as lonesome people opposing social norms. We can understand how the social can be perceived as a force when we resist norms, the law, or power structure. Those fighting for an alternative existence must organize and gather under an umbrella of collective willfulness. Those individuals willing to put their bodies in the way form the history of willfulness. As Ahmed points out, “Political histories of striking and of demonstrations are histories of those willing to put their bodies in the way, to turn their bodies into blockage points that stop the flow of human traffic as well as the wider flow of an economy.”

Street demonstrations are one manifestation of movements and revolutions that have led to fundamental change—both throughout history and now in the movements as “Woman, Life, Freedom”. The roots of such political demonstrations are willfulness and a willingness to “killjoy.” Demonstrations are important not only for bringing people into the streets but also reshaping those streets by changing and altering social structures and norms. Though political protests are loaded with the risk of violence, they are necessary to reshape norms and laws. A position of willfulness serves as a forum for both political claims and political tensions.

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