Erin Wunker is a feminist killjoy, and she thinks you should be one, too.
Following in the tradition of Sara Ahmed (the originator of the concept “feminist killjoy”), Wunker brings memoir, theory, literary criticism, pop culture, and feminist thinking together in this collection of essays that take up Ahmed’s project as a multi-faceted lens through which to read the world from a feminist point of view.
Neither totemic nor complete, the non-fiction essays that make up Notes from a Feminist Killjoy: Essays on Everyday Life attempt to think publicly about why we need feminism, and especially why we need the figure of the feminist killjoy, now. From the complicated practices of being a mother and a feminist, to building friendship amongst women as a community-building and -sustaining project, to writing that addresses rape culture from the Canadian context and beyond, Notes from a Feminist Killjoy: Essays on Everyday Life invites the reader into a conversation about gender, feminism, and living in our inequitable world.
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Excerpt from Notes from a Feminist Killjoy: Essays on Everyday Life
I have a bitchy resting face. You know what I mean: when I am busy thinking or walking or going about my daily business, my natural resting expression is one that reads to others as bitchy—or mean or angry or sad. Perfect strangers have told me to smile, cheer up, or simply not to look the way I do. Much to my chagrin, my automatic response is often to flash a grimacing smile. My reaction drives me bananas. I continue what I am doing while thinking of witty comebacks. I imagine crossing my eyes and sticking out my tongue. On a few occasions, though, I have had the inverse response to the automatic smile: I have given the happiness-seeking stranger the finger.
Not because the stranger necessarily deserves to be told where to go (though let’s be frank, sometimes he does). No, I’ve given people the finger or imagined doing so because there is something incredibly condescending about telling a woman to smile. Whether or not this smile-seeker is well meaning or a creep, there exists in much of the Western world a long and entrenched history of telling women how to think, feel, and act. And how to look. This history is complicated. It is varied. It shifts depending on your racial, gendered, ethnic, and class identity, but we can, for the sake of simplicity, just call this the history of patriarchal culture.
Praise for Notes from a Feminist Killjoy: Essays on Everyday Life
“If a feminist killjoy was to keep a notebook, scrawl down her thoughts and feelings as they come up, record her memories, her readings, and leave traces of herself as she is intertwined with others, then you might end up with a book rather like this one. Erin Wunker’s Notes from a Feminist Killjoy takes up the figure of the feminist killjoy as a site of political potential, and as a life method, a way of handling situations that are difficult and demanding: from becoming a mother, living in a gendered body, to dealing with rape culture. This book offers a powerful plea for a feminism that is willing to kill any joy that derives from inequality and injustice. All feminist killjoys will want this book on their shelves!” —Sara Ahmed, former director of the Centre for Feminist Research and professor of Race and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths (London), and author of Living a Feminist Life
“In our political and politicized world, it’s sometimes easy to downplay everyday experiences as simply that: everyday, the norm, what’s expected. But then along comes a book like Erin Wunker’s Notes from a Feminist Killjoy to remind us that everyday experiences—women’s shared experiences—matter. I am connected to other women because of events shared in this book—the killings at Pulse nightclub, the Ghomeshi trial, the community of #BeenRapedNeverReported—and I feel more connected to them having read Wunker’s analysis and brilliant consideration of what they mean. I’m grateful for this smart and irreverent book, which so clearly and unapologetically says all the things I’ve been feeling but haven’t been able to articulate.” —Megan Leslie, feminist, activist, former MP for Halifax and Deputy Leader of the NDP
“As plucky and resourceful as the heroines of her favorite novels, Erin Wunker once thought she didn’t need feminism. She didn’t want feminism, because who wants to be a bra-burner or man-hater? Feminists are no fun, right? But, confronted with a world where we teach girls to avoid rape rather than question rape’s prevalence, where women’s friendships are portrayed as catty and competitive, and where moms still fight to teach their girls about power, Wunker realized she needed feminism. She realized that the fear of being “no fun” holds many of us back from being the change we want to see in the world. In Notes From A Feminist Killjoy, Wunker embraces the concept of the killjoy, asking, whose fun is upheld by the patriarchy, anyway? Weaving deeply personal anecdotes with ideas from dozens of brilliant thinkers, conversing especially with Sara Ahmed, Wunker opens up space to talk about rapists who are loved ones, not strangers; about personal privilege; about how even feminists can devalue the situated knowledge that mothers hold. This book names the cultural pressure points that feminism must address now, in Wunker’s hip, funny, teacherly voice. This book is an act of radical friendship: let Wunker be the savvy BFF who has your back as you let your inner killjoy roar.” —Sonnet L’Abbe, Canadian poet and critic, and author of A Strange Relief and Killarnoe
“Wunker renders the label “feminist killjoy” one that readers can be proud to wear.” —Becky Robertson, Quill and Quire (starred review)
“Women reaching out to one another, telling each other our stories. This is a structural tactic. It is also crucial to the work of justice and social change. Let us take Wunker’s core message to heart and continue this messy, complex, and vital conversation.” —Julia Feng, The Fem
“Over 209 pages of linked notes, the volume wends like a passionate discussion over a long afternoon with your very-smart-and-ready-to-disrupt best friend.” —Krista Foss, Hamilton Review of Books
“Written as a series of linked notes, Erin uses her training as an academic to name and articulate the things we feel in our bones but do not have the words for, rendering intelligible to us the things we experience moving through the world in gendered bodies.” —Melissa Dalgleish, Hook and Eye
“Erin Wunker’s first book is a useful navigational tool even for those steeped in the precepts of women’s studies. Her Notes represents a smorgasbord of reflection.” —Sarah Murdoch, Toronto Star and Metro Canada (Toronto)
“What is a Feminist Killjoy? In Erin Wunker’s introduction to her new book, she attributes the term to Sara Ahmed and calls the FK “that irreverent figure who lights a match and joyfully flicks it into the dry hull of patriarchal culture.” With everything that’s happened, you bet your bottom dollar we’re on board.” —All Lit Up
“Wunker uses pop culture, feminist theory, and anecdotal experience to articulate the feminist killjoy’s invaluable role. She also pays particular attention to acknowledging and checking privilege and focusing on the ways that the issues she explores are intersectional and impacted by lived experience. ” —Kate Hargreaves, All Lit Up
“This collection by Erin Wunker…is the spiritual successor to Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me. The essays are air-tight, intertwining traces of memory and theory, the best kind of non-fiction. Wunker takes up the figure of the Feminist Killjoy and explores its political potential, bringing an essential stream of feminist theory to a wider public.” —Large Hearted Boy
“Notes from a Feminist Killjoy is an answer to what is needed now — a self-consciously contingent rejoinder to the question of “who needs feminism?” —Christina Turner, rabble.ca
“We live in dangerous times, where hard-won human rights and freedoms are in danger of being lost. Wunker’s book is a reminder that those on the frontlines of culture and language are doing brave and necessary work.” —Kerry Lee Powell for Writers’ Trust of Canada’s 2016’s Best Books of the Year, Recommended by Canadian Writers
“I want to gift the book to everyone I know and share the experience of reading it with them. In a time when I needed one, I read this book and found a friend.” Lee Skallerup Bessette, The Chronicle of Higher Education
“I love the way the narrative thread of Wunker’s book makes its way with seeming effortlessness. There is nothing laboured about how a discussion of rape culture leads to the Jian Ghomeshi trial leads to women coming together leads to a chapter on friendship.” —Kerry Clare, Pickle Me This
Notes From A Feminist Killjoy : An Interview With Erin Wunker —Ploughshares
Reading to Smash the Patriarchy: A Recommended Reading List for International Women’s Day by Erin Wunker —49th Shelf
Joyfully: Reading as Generative Resistance by Erin Wunker —All Lit Up
Erin Wunker is Chair of the Board of the national non-profit organization Canadian Women in the Literary Arts (www.cwila.com) and co-founder, writer, and managing editor of the feminist academic blog Hook & Eye: Fast Feminism, Slow Academe. She teaches courses in Canadian literature and cultural production with a special focus on cultural production by women. She lives in Halifax with her partner, their daughter, and Marley the dog. Notes from a Feminist Killjoy is Wunker’s first book.
Essais Series No. 2
November 3, 2016 | Non-fiction
8×5.25 inches | 220 pages