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Living a Feminist Life Paperback – Illustrated, February 3, 2017
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- Publisher : Duke University Press Books; Illustrated edition (February 3, 2017)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 312 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0822363194
- ISBN-13 : 978-0822363194
- Item Weight : 15.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 6 x 0.78 x 9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #17,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Every person who feels isolated in the righteous and often lonely fight for equality would benefit from Ahmed’s book. The volume combines deeply personal anecdotal (and often painful) stories of feeling like an outsider, even while surrounded by her closest family members, with easily digestible feminist theory. She ends the book with two practical survival guides to endure the onslaught of injustices feminists of conscience are sure to encounter as they navigate through patriarchal society.
Raised in a conservative Muslim family, Ahmed delicately and heartbreakingly details her strained relationship with a father who clearly loves her as a daughter, yet is disdainful of her non-compliant willfulness. Ahmed views willfulness as consciousness brimming at the surface: questioning and challenging social mores that prescribe happiness in a predetermined set of criteria. “Being estranged from one’s own life can be how a world reappears, becoming odd…to become conscious of possibility can involve mourning for its loss” (Ahmed, page 47).
Once feminist consciousness is turned on, evidence of injustice seems to rear its head at every turn, leaving the feminist killjoy feeling like an alien in a world full of people who seem incapable of breathing the same air she does. Ahmed states that feminist killjoys become a problem when we describe a problem: (Ahmed, pg 38, 39, 62):
Through feminism you make sense of wrongs; you realize that you are not
in the wrong. But when you speak of something as being wrong, you end up
being in the wrong all over again. The sensation of being wronged can thus
end up magnified; you feel wronged by being perceived as in the wrong just
for pointing out something is wrong. It is frustrating….Feminist
consciousness can be thought of as consciousness of violence and power concealed under the languages of civility, happiness, and love, rather than simply or only consciousness of gender as a site of restriction of possibility.
Ahmed also takes aim at diversity and inclusion initiatives instituted at organizations. She sees them as simply a ruse – a way of looking like something is being done, when really nothing is being done. It is a doubly violent exercise of giving the appearance of doing something, but really doing nothing, and exploiting an oppressed person as the lead in the futile exercise. She utilizes a metaphor of a wall that she encountered in diversity work that keeps the master’s residence standing. Her metaphor conjures memories of feminist Audre Lorde’s contention that you cannot tear down the master’s house with the master’s tools.
Ahmed’s description of feminist snap, that point when the pressure of the cumulative injustices ruptures one’s ability to be complacent any longer, is a powerful metaphor. She describes it as the basis for feminist revolt and the gathering of an army willing to stand for feminist hope. It is why, when I hear my feminist sister lost in a sea of despair I slide Living a Feminist Life to my comrade and suggest: “You need to read this book”.