Ahmed sets up the this chapter by discussing the figure of the happy housewife and "how this figure works to secure not just ideas of happiness but ideas of who is entitled to happiness". Making this important distinction, she argues that it is "not so much how happiness is distributed [...] but the distribution of relative proximity to ideas of happiness" or "the feeling of a promise [...] as such" (51). So then, the aspects and measures of 'happiness' that are even thought to be attainable and within reach/possible are given much weight for Ahmed's argument, seen as the ability of envisioning beyond the constraints seemingly imposed on one's life. As feminism often uses such tactics as 'consciousness-raising' and the like, becoming aware of that which is hidden or distorted as it relates to the way one lives a life can be seen as a loss (or unhappiness) for what could have been but isn't/wasn't. Ahmed also discusses a new age of happy housewives who rail against the notion that they are subjugated and repressed and instead seek to claim their own form of happiness against a more 'liberated' and feminist notion of what constitutes the 'good' life.
Along with the figure of the unhappy housewife (as deployed by some feminists), the feminist killjoy enters the discussion as a person that disrupts this 'script' and the happiness associated with the supposed 'good' life. Ahmed suggests that, "we can reread the negativity of such figures in terms of the challenge they offer to the assumption that happiness follows relative proximity to a social ideal" and that "feminist consciousness as a form of unhappiness [...] may be useful in an exploration of the limitations of happiness as a horizon of experience" (53). Whether striving for a feminist social ideal of how to live life or any other ideal, if what we are seeking is to find a narrow idea of happiness we are perhaps misled. Rather than focusing on an individual or group's disposition or ability to be happy, we can look to what feminists (especially the killjoy here) are unhappy about (67).
"Feminist consciousness can thus be thought as consciousness of the violence and power that are concealed under the languages of civility and love [... and...] you can cause unhappiness merely by noticing something. [...] Feminism becomes a kind of estrangement from the world and thus involves moments of self-estrangement. Our feminist archive is an archive of unhappiness even though the threads of unhappiness do not weave our stories together" (86).
And, stating what I believe to be the overall goal with this text (so far): "My desire is to revitalize the feminist critique of happiness as a human right and as the appropriate language for politics" (87).
The last lines provide the basis for what may unite those of us seeking to disrupt that which has been covered over with happiness: "There is solidarity in recognizing our alienation from happiness, even if we do not inhabit the same place (as we do not). There can even be joy in killing joy. And kill joy, we must and we do" (87).
To critically engage and question this idea of happiness and how it can be deployed either for or against feminist claims in a political context as well as how we individually and collectively place our hopes in finding happiness in social ideals seems to be what Ahmed is taking on with her work. By exposing unseen imbalances of power and bringing to the surface that which is hidden in the form of raising consciousness is inherently a sort of mourning for that which has been lost or covered. Though this is an inherent part of becoming aware, rather than to rework how we can interpret and deploy a more affirming perspective is rather to question if happiness should even be the aim for feminists. Pushing this further is not necessarily redefining 'happiness' to suit our needs/desires but to constantly disrupt what others may find happiness in.
The role of the feminist killjoy is something that resonates deeply with me and that I can completely relate with. I'm not faced with too many situations in which I am read as an angry feminist, however my silence and awkwardness kills just as much joy I'm sure. I tense at the mention of essentialist characterizations of anyone on account of appearance (race/class/gender/etc.) and of oversimplified descriptions of anything (events/life/people) that too heavily rely on larger social ideals. When intersectionality and critical engagement are missing, there are very few ways I find what others say as anything of importance or value. I tend to complicate and problematize even the most simple of gestures and statements, and often this means causing awkward silences or situations in which I am estranged. Events such as this past thanksgiving bring me to face discussions such as: my 16 year nephew 'being friends with all the girls but no girlfriend!', and how knowing the sex of my nephew-to-be 'makes it so you don't have to deal with the green and yellow thing' and various other heteronormative gender ideals. Though these examples are small, I wonder more generally when killing joy is most effective and appropriate. Specifically in the context of family, are there some things best left unsaid? Is it worth engaging in debates over the ridiculousness of gendering babies with harmless color schemes? Is it worth pointing out that heterosexual development as seen as inevitable can be harmful? Where do we choose our battles? What if others cannot argue on our terms and are so completely in a different reality that what we say makes no sense?