By Lisa Slater
What do you hear when you hear the word ‘feminism’? Sara Ahmed poses this question in the Introduction to her forthcoming book, Living a Feminist Life. After hearing her speak at the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, Sydney University, I headed to her blog, http://feministkilljoys.com to read more. Especially to be asked the kinds of questions she does: ones that demand honesty, story sharing, reflection, and generally re-energise us and feminism. For someone who describes the dynamics, mechanisms for reproduction of racism, discrimination, misogyny, and the accompanying pain and erosion, she somehow manages to rally hope, drive and no small dash of wilfulness.
Her Syd Uni talk was called Feminism and Fragility. She started with, ‘the histories that bring us to feminism are often histories that leave us fragile’. If, over the last few years, you have heard her speak than you will know it is wide ranging, highly engaging – weaving and conjuring rather than a linear argument – and I would do Ahmed no justice to give you the abridged version. ‘To leave a support system can mean to become more fragile, less protected by the bumps of ordinary life’. Such talk could make, at least me, sad, deflated but instead she does the great work of solidarity. Ahmed provides the space, the words, to reflect, describe, to begin to articulate what is happening, how something is working, and its effects. These words build support systems, alliances and vitality.
I especially like this line (Ahmed might be quoting) so will sign off with it: ‘privilege is an energy saving device’.