Notes: Sara Ahmed, “Lesbian Feminism” in Living a Feminist Life

Ahmed, Sara. (2017). Lesbian feminism. Living a feminist life. Durham: Duke University Press, 213-234.


Ahmed moves in this chapter to recall lesbian feminism in order to show lesbian feminism as confronting structures that inflict violences. From lesbian feminisms withdrawing from and building from the ruins of oppressive systems, Ahmed calls for an intersectional feminist army.

Keywords: feminism, feminist theory, intersectionality, queer, queer theory, theory, transgender


“When a life is what we have to struggle for, we struggle against structures. It is not necessarily the case that these struggles always lead to transformation (though neither does one’s involvement in political movements). But to struggle against something is to chip away at something. Many of these structures are not visible or tangible unless you come up against them” (p. 214).

“The desire for recognition is not necessarily about having access to a good life or being included in the institutions that have left you shattered. It is not necessarily an aspiration for something: rather, it comes from the experience of what is unbearable, what cannot be endured” (p. 221).

“To build from the ruin; our building might seemed ruined; when we build, we ruin. It is lesbian feminist hope: to become a ruin, to ruin by becoming” (p. 232).


Notes: Sara Ahmed, “Being in Question” in Living a Feminist Life

Ahmed, Sara. (2017). Being in question. Living a feminist life. Durham: Duke University Press, 115-134.


Ahmed discusses how bodies that are not accommodated by institutional norms are made to give account of their arrival, to their being, and to their doing.

Keywords: feminism, feminist theory, theory, intersectionality, diversity, access


“To be questioned, to be questionable, sometimes can feel like a residence: a question becomes something you reside in. To reside in a question can feel like not being where you are at” (p. 116).

“These questions only appear to be questions; they often work as assertions. When you are stopped, a right to stop you is asserted. In being assertive, such speech acts render you questionable, as someone who can be questioned, as someone who should be willing to receive a question. A body can become a question mark” (p. 117).

“For some to be is to become an imposition or restriction on the freedom of others” (p. 122).

“Diversity work: when you have to try to make others comfortable with the fact of your own existence” (p. 131).

“When we do not recede into the background, when we stand out or stand apart, we can bring the background into the front: before we can confront something we have to front up to how much depends on the background” (p. 132).

Notes: Sara Ahmed, “Willfulness and Feminist Subjectivity” in Living a Feminist Life

Ahmed, Sara. (2017). Willfulness and feminist subjectivity. Living a feminist life. Durham: Duke University Press, 65-88.


Ahmed traces the willfulness as part of feminist subjectivity, as part of how one becomes feminist, and as how one takes up or raises arms in a feminist revolution.

Keywords: feminism, feminist theory, theory, killjoy, intersectionality


“This perception of feminist subjects as having too much will, or too much subjectivity, or just as being too much, has profound effects on how we experience ourselves as well as the worlds we come up against” (p. 66).

“[T]o suffer the cost of a judgment can be about who you are rather than what you do” (p. 68).

“The willfulness of women relates here not only to disobedience but to desire: the strength of her desire becoming a weakness of her will. In the history of willfulness, women are found wanting” (p. 70).

“Her will becomes a willful will insofar as it is defined against a collective will or general will. Her own will is deemed to get in the way of what the collective wills. A willful will becomes identified as the will to govern others. Her willfulness, in other words, is interpreted as a will to power, as if protesting against something masks a desire for that very thing. And then when she speaks the language of injustice, that speech is heard as just another way she imposes her own will on others. The language of injustice is treated as a screen behind which a will lurks: a will that is wanting” (71).

“When you are assumed to be for others, then not being for others is judged as being for yourself. Perhaps willfulness could be summarized thus: not being willing to be owned. When you are not willing to be owned, you are judged as willing on your own” (p. 74).

“When separation becomes a command, willfulness is what returns; willfulness not as severance but as perseverance” (p. 79).

“Willfulness: a life paradox. You might have to become what you are judged as being” (p. 82).

“A feminist army that gives life and vitality to some women’s arms by taking life and vitality from other women’s arms is reproducing inequality and injustice” (p. 86).

“Willfulness: how some rise up by exercising the very limbs that have been shaped by their subordination. And: it is those women who have to insist on being women, those who have to insist willfully on being part of the feminist movement, sometimes with a show of their arms, who offer the best hope for a feminist revolution” (p. 88).

Notes: Charles Morris & John Sloop “Other Lips, Whither Kisses”

Morris, Charles E., & John M. Sloop. (2017). Other lips, whither kisses? Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 14(2), 182-186.


Morris and Sloop, in response to the Pulse shooting in June, 2016, respond to the performance and discourse surrounding two men kissing, asking after performances of race, ethnicity, and ability that are omitted in this dominant discourse.

Keywords: Queer, Queer Rhetorics, Queer Theory, Queer Futurity, LGBTQ, Rhetoric, Communication, Intersectionality


Muñoz, José Esteban. (2000). Feeling brown: Ethnicity and affect. In Ricardo Bracho’s “The Sweetest Hangover (and Other STDs)”, Theatre Journal, 52(1), 67–79.

Chávez, Karma. (2015). The precariousness of homonationalism: The queer agency of terrorism in post-9/11 rhetoric. QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking, 2(3), 32–58.


“[I]t is fair to ask on what grounds we invoked queer worldmaking when our analysis and vision exhibited noexplicit markers or sustained analysis of intersectionality” (184).

“Both of these interventions offered a vibrant critical visual mass, but more, they helped us realize that kissing’s queer futurity… has so much to do with performance, affect, race and ethnicity—which is to insist that we’re seeking here the very specific bodies-in-pleasure gathered on Latinx Night at Pulse before they were cut down, brown bodies in pleasurable excess affectively interconnected, who in their racial and ethnic specificity were subsequently and unsurprisingly erased in large measure by mainstream public discourse” (184).

Notes: Sara Ahmed, “Introduction: Bringing Feminist Theory Home” in Living a Feminist Life

Ahmed, Sara. (2017). Introduction: Bringing feminist theory home. Living a feminist life. Durham: Duke University Press, 1-18.


Ahmed opens her book by describing how living a feminist life is a question of living and outlining the premises for the feminist theory and work she conducts arrive and are constructed within the text as modeling these living questions.

Keywords: Feminism, feminist theory, intersectionality, theory


“To build feminist dwellings, we need to dismantle what has already been assembled; we need to ask what it is we are against, what it is we are for, knowing full well that this we is not a foundation but what we are working toward” (p. 2).

“Hope does not only or always point toward the future, but carries us through when the terrain is difficult, when the path we follow makes it hard to proceed. Hope is behind us when we have to work for something to be possible” (p. 2).

Where we find feminism matters; from whom we find feminism matters” (p. 5, original emphasis).

“Intersectionality is a starting point, the point from which we must proceed if we are to offer an account of how power works” (p. 5).

“There is no guarantee that in struggling for justice we ourselves will be just. We have to hesitate, to temper the strength of our tendencies with doubt; to waver when we are sure, or even because we are sure” (p. 6-7).

“We can be space invaders in the academy; we can be space invaders in theory too, just by referring to the wrong text or by asking the wrong questions” (p. 9).

A question can be out of place: words too” (p. 9, original emphasis).

“To bring feminist theory home is to make feminism work in the places we live, the places we work. When we think of feminist theory as homework, the university too becomes something we work on as well as at. We use our particulars to challenge the universal” (p. 10).

“I began to appreciate that theory can do more the closer it gets to the skin” (p. 10).

“[I]f we start with our experiences of becoming feminists not only might we have another way of generating feminist ideas, but we might generate new ideas about feminism” (p. 12).

“I think of feminism as a building project: if our texts are worlds, they need to be made out of feminist materials” (p. 14).

“To be a feminist at work is or should be about how we challenge ordinary and everyday sexism, including academic sexism. This is not optional: it is what makes feminism feminist” (p. 14).