It’s Women’s History Month – a time of the year where women’s achievements and contributions to society are highlighted and celebrated. Throughout the month, women’s narratives are centred on various platforms, emphasizing honour, celebration, joy. Joy, displayed throughout the month on social media through pictures of women with wide grins, can be weaponized. 

During Women’s History Month, when feminists bring up issues such as the problem with Girlboss culture, the disparity between white women and BIWoC, or how the gender gap has widened since the pandemic, they are often told to keep quiet, enjoy the festivities and stop disrupting everyone. In other words, they are told to be “killing the joy.”

What is a Feminist Killjoy?

According to Sara Ahmed, a scholar of feminist theory, the feminist killjoy is one who “spoils the happiness of others; she is a spoilsport because she refuses to convene, to assemble, or to meet up over happiness.”

The label of “feminist killjoy” can be ascribed to anyone who challenges oppressive societal norms observed in daily living. They are called a “killjoy” for calling into question the normative happiness embedded in sexist systems and societies, such as the “happy housewife” model masking signs of labour under happiness, for example. 

The joy being killed by the feminist refers to the collective joy upheld by oppressive systems. This joy is reflected in things such as racist, sexist, discriminatory jokes, terminology and beliefs. Statements such as “Everyone is so sensitive these days,” and “PC culture is destroying society” often retorted to someone highlighting why a thing is problematic are rooted in the oppressive systems. 

How is Joy Weaponized?

When someone dares to speak up against such oppressive systems, the joy of that society is weaponized against them. The comfortability of everyone upholding patriarchal norms is therefore placed above the needs of marginalized groups. 

When feminists speak up about everyday inequities, such as someone calling out a racist family member during dinner, they are held accountable for “killing the mood.” This action seen too often in society encourages the silencing of marginalized voices and the continuation of oppressive policies, beliefs, and norms. 

Feminists are bound by socio-political norms of a patriarchal society that reconstructs its “happiness wish into a politics, a wishful politics, a politics that demands that others live according to a wish.” 

To live according to a wish of an oppressive, patriarchal society is to remain silent and ignore the blatant injustices in life. To avoid killing joy is to compromise one’s rights and advocacy of others for the happiness of problematic societal norms. To have the joy of others weaponized against you.

Hence, the concept of the Feminist Killjoy is a testament to the weaponization of collective joy against women in patriarchal societies. 

But alas, the feminist killjoy keeps on killing the joy in favour of social justice and smashing the patriarchy.

“To kill joy,” Sara Ahmed writes in the introduction of Living a Feminist Life, “is to open a life, to make room for life, to make room for possibility, for change.”

About the Author

Priscilla Ojomu is a Nigerian-Canadian 3rd-Year BA student majoring in Psychology and minoring in Sociology at UAlberta. Priscilla's work at WEW is fuelled by her passion for promoting awareness of the experiences of marginalized communities through accessible information and resources.

Literature, tea, podcasts, Studio Ghibli movies (Fun fact: she has 100+ collectible postcards of the feature films from 1984 - 2014), art, volunteering and advocating for equity keep her busy.