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Living a Feminist Life

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  991 ratings  ·  122 reviews
In Living a Feminist Life Sara Ahmed shows how feminist theory is generated from everyday life and the ordinary experiences of being a feminist at home and at work. Building on legacies of feminist of color scholarship in particular, Ahmed offers a poetic and personal meditation on how feminists become estranged from worlds they critique—often by naming and calling attenti
Kindle Edition, 312 pages
Published January 13th 2017 by Duke University Press Books
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4.33  · 
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 ·  991 ratings  ·  122 reviews

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4.5 stars

A stellar academic feminist text that delves into how feminists call attention to problems, therefore transforming the world in ways both uncomfortable and necessary. Sara Ahmed grounds her assertions with the premise that "happiness" often means conforming to problematic, patriarchal societal norms. To be a feminist, then, is to be a killjoy: someone willing to speak up against sexism, racism, ableism, transphobia, etc. even if it means detracting from people's joy. As a lesbian woman
Tonstant Weader
Living a Feminist Life demonstrates how feminist theory grows out of daily life, how taking the words of daily life, lifting them up and inspecting them from all sides brings deeper understanding of how the world is structured, how oppression is given force through expectations and demands to be happy, accommodating, kind, willing and helpful. How being feminist requires us to be assert our will, for example, to be willful in truth. But willful is pejorative while strong-willed is not…and you ar ...more
Deborah Rice
I really wanted to like this book, but I didn't. Although the book contained a lot of good information and ideas, the repetitiveness of them made it a slog to read. The author also writes a blog and I think it might be easier to read in short doses due to the author's style.
Dec 22, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, dnf
Disclosure: I received a digital review copy from NetGalley

I couldn't make it through the introduction, no big deal, I don't think EVERYONE reads them anyway... but in this case it should have been a sign. I felt like the writing was all over the place and lacked coherence between paragraphs to tie it all together.

In chapter 1 the author runs us through what makes a feminist in her opinion, and it isn't anywhere near comprehensive enough in my own humble opinion. It would seem for the author
Ron Stoop
May 23, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book made a slow descent from a meagre 2 stars to the absolute bottom of 1 stars. It is in fact the only 1 star rating I have given so far. Why?

Well the first statement that struck me as very odd was the fact that she apparently took pride in the fact that she has a policy of not citing "white men". From here I already had a hunch that this person did not have any intention to add something constructive, but simply to don the coat of self-righteousness.

The first part is a personalized accou
Ericka Clouther
Truthfully, I should have given it 3 stars because it is the most repetitive book I’ve ever read. But I imagined reading a book half this length with all the repeat sentences removed. Here’s what I appreciated: the focus on the falsity of the idea of the feminist as the cause her own suffering. I’ve recently encountered the argument here on Goodreads, that feminists aren’t unhappy because of outside injustice but because they’ve pushed back on this injustice too much. Ahmed also explores the ide ...more
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
this is one of the few books that moved me 2 tears bc it was so damn poignant and gave word to experiences, family histories and bonds that i did not have before.
sara ahmed is my no 1 academic crush i am in love with her writing
Nov 14, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The core of this book was good. It was informative but extremely wordy and a difficult read. You can easily edit one third of this book out and get the same message.
Sep 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this as an audiobook because it is referenced so often in my very favorite podcast Secret Feminist Agenda. Host Hannah McGregor did a wonderful interview the author, Sara Ahmed, in the final episode of season 3. Ahmed grew up in Australia with a white mother and a Pakistani father as one of few POC students in her elementary schools. She is a lesbian, a PhD scholar, a professor, and long-time writer of the Feminist Killjoys blog. Her feminism is queer, intersectional and trans-inc ...more
Living a Feminist Life by Sarah Ahmed is an academic feminist text that takes theory and puts it into practice. In my time at university, I have read a lot of feminist theorists, and learned a lot of really important things about how to view institutionalised sexism and how to view the world in an intersectional light. However, I have never before read a non-fiction text that so beautifully and accurately describes what it really means to act as a feminist. Not to think like a feminist, but what ...more
Duke Press
"Fans of bell hooks and Audre Lorde will find Ahmed's frequent homages and references familiar and assuring in a work that goes far beyond Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, capturing the intersection so critical in modern feminism." — Abby Hargreaves, Library Journal

"Living a Feminist Life is a work of embodied political theory that defies the conventions of feminist memoir and self-help alike. . . . Living a Feminist Life makes visible the continuous work of feminism, whether it takes plac
Jennie Rosenblum
Dec 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started reading this book with a joke about jumping in with both feet and I was right. I immersed myself very quickly. There is an old saying - if you can't walk the walk don't talk the talk -well this author can walk and talk Reading this book took me a lot longer than the average book. I wanted to take my time and think about what the author was saying. The book led to great discussions with the people in my life and was the subject of a few phone calls and dinner conversations. While I did ...more
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism, nonfiction
I was really looking forward to reading this book, but after reading the introduction I am completely put off by the redundant writing style. Just within the intro I was tripped up multiple times thinking I had accidentally re-read the same sentence, but in fact Ahmed had repeated the same words twice (or more) within a sentence with a very minor adjustment that didn't add to her point. It just has no flow and is poorly written, sorry.
Ian Ridewood
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ahmed's work continues to illustrate and illuminate the joys of being a killjoy: to refuse happiness when happiness means complicity in structural exclusion and violence. It took me exactly one year to read Living a Feminist Life because, I think, it's a manifesto that I wanted to consistently be present in my life. It's going to be a staple of my survival kit.
Daniel Casey
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
The writing style takes a bit of getting use to & may feel a bit rambling or stream of conscious. However, Ahmed writes a good work that centers the self attempting as well as actively challenging sexism & patriarchy. Her feminist killjoy manifesto towards the end requires backbone but she does the work to get us there
Olivia Slykhuis
Apr 27, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
I gave up on this book after a chapter and a half. Maybe I'm just out of practice reading academic stuff, but this was way more abstract than I was hoping for. I wasn't a fan of the writing style, and I wasn't getting enough out of it to continue slogging through.
Veronika Valkovicova
This book is an essential self-care manual for any feminist (killjoy). It took me only a week to read and now it saddens me that I cannot spend more time in conversation with Ahmed. This book is a new kind of Sara Ahmed, she changed her phrasing, her language is more accessible. I assume this is because she aimed to reach out to a broader scope of the readership - yes, feminist killjoys are not only in academia. The book is dedicated to a specific kind of audience. Rather than individuals who ar ...more
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am screaming my head off from the roof tops, urging all feminist killjoys to read this book. It is truly life-affirming.

P.S.: If you don't identify as a feminist because you're afraid of being a killjoy, I feel sad for you and your half life.
Bookforum Magazine
"Part of the book's project is to assert the generative value of words and actions that could seem merely destructive or negative–resigning, refusing, rejecting. One of Ahmed's most striking decisions in this regard is to not cite any white men at all. This explicit commitment is a gesture of refusal, but one designed to make room for what is usually ignored."

–Melissa Gira Grant on Sara Ahmed's Living a Feminist Life in the Feb/Mar 2017 issue of Bookforum

To read the rest of this review, go to
Nov 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism, activism
With its title evoking both the ‘improving’ literature of the nineteenth century and the ‘self-help’ industry of the current era, the distance between those genre and Sara Ahmed’s impressive and important Living a Feminist Life is belied by its big hitting academic publisher…. this is no step-by-step guide to living better or living well, but a rigorously argued, elegantly accessible exploration of feminist politics as praxis. But this is no simple restating of the personal as political; instead ...more
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book. It's such a clear and positive contribution to this kind of work. Written with clarity and wit, but also filled with looping, repeating, playful phrases. Ahmed's style might at first feel too indirect, or in some way imprecise, but actually over time you can recognize that she is nudging, re-deploying, remixing the ideas. On top of that, this looping, cyclic approach is mirroring the various mutually co-constitutive systems and views that smart careful feminism is looking to pe ...more
Jodi Geever
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A disclaimer before review: In my previous life, before I was a public librarian, I was an aspiring academic focusing on feminist ethics and social and political philosophy. This work is what my Master's thesis centered on. I am familiar with the work of many of Ahmed's references, including Gloria Anzaldua, Franz Fanon, Eli Clare, Marilyn Frye, Judith Butler, Audre Lorde, and Gloria Steienem. Ahmed and her work here relies on the reader already having a familiarity with the canon that she draws ...more
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sara Ahmed is one of the smartest people to ever live. Reading this book makes you a better person. A lot of books don’t do that. Like most. But if you want to learn about embodied feminist killjoy pedagogy, neoloberal University structures and oppressive systems of whiteness and maleness that pervade those institutions, and other big words with bigger meanings made accessible and situated in their proper socio-historical place, then yes: Sara Ahmed is one of the most important scholar-activists ...more
I think basically I thought that I should read this book starting from high school when people who were much better readers than I (Dandi basically) would quote it in papers and stuff?
But more or less this reinforced my general suspicion that I am still not smart enough to understand literary theory or gender studies beyond It's very complicated and everything is made up. :( SHWHMYSTDVE do Words about Abstract Concepts wash over me without sticking! the glueiest thing about this was the story a
Kathy Durand
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mind blowing. This book amazing. It put into words so many of my experiences with feminism. Made me.feel less alone but also heightened my analysis of different situations. I really liked how she naturally brings intersectionality into the analysis in a way that is visual and undsrstandable.
Katrina Sark
Introduction: Bringing Feminist Theory Home

p.5 – Where we find feminism matters; from whom we find feminism matters. Feminism as a collective movement is made out of how we are moved to become feminism in dialogue with others. A movement requires us to be moved.

I want to take here bell hooks’ definition of feminism as “the movement to end sexism, sexual exploitation and sexual oppression” (2000, 33). From this definition, we learn so much. Feminism is necessary because of what has not ended: se
Dec 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was so affirming and nurtured my soul. It's just what I needed at the end of 2017. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in feminist theory and praxis, to anyone who feels exhausted and worn down by doing the daily work of challenging patriarchal systems and relationships. Ahmed has a beautiful way with words, language, and analogies, I really love her writing. There's a materiality to her theories that's really unusual and poignant. But really this is less about theory and more a ...more
Dec 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the best book I have read all year. It has stimulated my thinking on what it looks like to live as a feminist, especially one engaged in what she refers to as diversity work. It took me quite a few pages to get into the rhythm of her writing style, but once I did, she kept me engaged throughout. While the book is definitely about feminism as theory, she develops it as theory in practice. Although I work in a different context than the academic one she primarily references, the lessons an ...more
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
By far the most impactful part of this book for me was the opening two chapters when Ahmed lays out her rationale for her strict citation policy that excludes "white men" as defined as an institution rather than actual individuals. I would describe this book as descriptive theory, and the academic heft of the theory is conveyed in Ahmed's lengthy, repetitive, meandering style which, ultimately, distanced me from the bulk of her larger arguments.
"My citation policy has given me more room to atten
In the second decade of the 21st century, "feminism" has become a buzzword of sorts. As varied technologies allow for wider inclusion in and engagement with feminist discourse, theories of feminism have become increasingly used in daily parlance. But what does it mean when theory doesn't align with practice? What happens when we separate feminist theory from the everyday events and occurrences that gave theory life? In this book, Ahmed uses critical theory, cultural studies, literary analysis, m ...more
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Sara Ahmed is a feminist writer, scholar, and activist. Her research is concerned with how bodies and worlds take shape; and how power is secured and challenged in everyday life worlds, as well as institutional cultures.
“Feminist consciousness can be thought of as consciousness of the 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. You can venture into the secret places of pain by recalling something. You can cause unhappiness by noticing something. And if you can cause unhappiness by noticing something, you realize that the world you are in is not the world you thought you were in.” 7 likes
“When you expose a problem you pose a problem. It might then be assumed that the problem would go away if you would just stop talking about it or if you went away. The charge of sensationalism falls rather quickly onto feminist shoulders: when she talks about sexism and racism, her story is heard as sensationalist, as if she is exaggerating for effect.5 The feminist killjoy begins as a sensationalist figure. It is as if the point of making her point is to cause trouble, to get in the way of the happiness of others, because of her own unhappiness.” 6 likes
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