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Feminist everyday resistance 

Living and Feminist Life
Forfatter: Sara Ahmed
Forlag: Duke University Press (USA)
Living a Feminist Life is a sparkling handbook in practicing feminism in a world of new divides.


Sara Ahmed has for many years been a leading queer theorist and one of the most recognized feminists on the international stage. Last year, she resigned her professor position at Goldsmiths University in London, in protest of what she perceived as a management's unwillingness to combat student sexual harassment. For three years she had worked intensely to put the topic on the agenda – but although management seemed to take the issue seriously, no real changes were made. Those who tried to address the problem experienced little support.

Meat and blood. Ahmed has for many years written and lectured on how the distribution of power follows race, gender, sexuality orientering and class background – and thus prepares the ground for discrimination. Discrimination can be seemingly innocent, but can also be life-threatening, for example through police violence. Ahmed's work has aimed to analyze the underlying mechanisms of discrimination, to enable people to oppose. The dismissal of the Goldsmiths was a natural extension of this work. The university was a safe workplace for Ahmed, but eventually she could no longer be part of an institution that systematically overlooked abuse of the most vulnerable of the students.

Experiences that Ahmed has accumulated throughout life as the dark-skinned, lesbian woman form the basis of the book, along with references to literature, film and theory that have been important to her. Feminists stand on each other's shoulders, she believes, referring, among other things, to the African American poet and activist Audre Lorde (1934-1932). This is how she makes Lorde's poem relevant, while also building on the poet's mindset. The desire to read unknown female writers is triggered by the reader. No white men are allowed in Ahmed's book to make up for the fact that male academics generally quote each other.

No white men are allowed in Ahmed's book, to make up for the fact that male academics generally quote each other. 

Fatalism. Ahmed works specifically to identify the sources of the unjust distribution of power and discrimination. She believes feminist theory and activism must be based on everyday experiences, where the body is central: the sensations that arise when one's own body meets the outside world. Even earlier in his writing, Ahmed has explored this field – how bodily experiences affect our being in the world. Different bodies are met differently depending on whether you are light or dark, feminine or masculine. The discomfort people feel, whether it is about looks, comments or experiences of not being the way you "should", are sources of knowledge about discrimination and oppression, she believes. Feminism must be a tool to take this discomfort seriously, which limits us and narrows our room for maneuver.

We humans meet from the birth of expectations of us, which we take for granted. Ahmed calls this "gender fatalism". Boys' behavior is interpreted as typical of the boy sex – "He there will be a girl's foot if he continues like this" – while girls encounter something completely different. One of the foremost qualities of Ahmed's book is her ability to put these expectations into words. The author describes, for example, how in a toy store, when she touches the various toys, she can physically sense the future that is envisioned for the boys (with the toy gun) and the girls (with the dollhouse). Girls' lives are fully aimed at caring for others, and vice versa.

Comments and looks. As a colored, female university professor in a male-dominated academy, Ahmed has often been asked, at the start of a seminar, whether she really is the professor – as if the students become insecure when they see a woman like her in this position. Such seemingly innocent comments give the impression that a person like Ahmed does not really belong at the university. Similar episodes from Ahmed's life, and her ability to see these in the context of social structures and queer and feminist theory, make the book an important wake-up call. At times the author writes almost poetically, this experience reinforces. Ahmed summarizes his book with a feminist toolbox and a two-point manifesto.

Experiences that Ahmed has accumulated throughout life as a dark-skinned, lesbian woman form the basis of the book.

Intersectionality. Resisting expectations is Ahmed's key strategy. She addresses the reader directly with urges that we as feminists must oppose oppressive norms: We do not have to marry, or dress in accordance with the gender stereotypes. The author also wants us to acknowledge that privileges are unequally distributed, and that people therefore have different starting points for feminist resistance.

Ahmed defends the disputed trigger warnings – alerts about potentially offensive messages – to create safe spaces. She is also concerned with identity politics – strategies that articulate the interests of different groups – not because these divisions are natural, but because society discriminates against people who differ from the norm. White men in particular have tended to call those who point out discrimination as "outdated". Oppression that does not affect one's self can be difficult to grasp, but concrete experiences are worth listening to and starting from. To create more room for diversity, we must realize that some are more vulnerable than others in the face of oppressive systems.

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