Recently in 8: Ahmed/Ch 3 Category

Summary of Diablog

The diablog assignment was definitely one of my favorite ones, because it gave me an opportunity to collaborate with other people and really, as a group, delve into the subject matter and then talk about what we learned with other people. I enjoyed breaking up into 2 groups and talking about the 2 different aspects of Ahmed's main points: unhappy queers and achieving happiness even when nobody backs you. Then getting the entire class together to share what each group discussed was beneficial because now everyone was able to hear both sides of the story--people always seem to talk more in a smaller group too.

I was in the unhappy queers group, and we first discussed Ahmed's theory behind happiness. Half of the group said that happiness is dependent on other people and that someone is never going to be happy unless they are surrounded by people are are happy. But then what makes those surrounding people happy? How does happiness originate? The other side of the argument was that people are able to find happiness and that it is a subjective concept, so in other words, if you believe that you are happy, then you are happy. We also talked about the examples that Ahmed used in her chapter and that some of them were fairly obvious to understand if not over exaggerated. I personally enjoyed the use of her examples, because it put a clear understanding of what she was trying to demonstrate with the feelings experienced by unhappy queers.

I particularly enjoyed watching the movie clips as a whole group, because again it was nice to see her examples come to life and paint a picture in your head about all of these negative emotions towards unhappiness. Ahmed seemed to have a very appealing writing style as compared to Judith Butler, because everything seemed to flow in a logical order and the language was simplified to a point where you could thoroughly understand the use of her examples. Fun assignment!

Ahmed Unhappy Queers Summary


For our group discussion in class we chose to divide the class into two groups. One of the two groups were to discuss happiness in Ahmed's Unhappy Queers and the other to discuss unhappiness. In referencing back to our discussion the week before Sara had mentioned the difficulty in doing group work and the distraction of working beside one another. I found it really interesting that both groups were busy talking about their set topics, but the group that was discussing happiness was not laughing nearly as much as the group discussing unhappiness. Maybe this shows the queer space of this class and the queer people who are a part of it??? In this space it brings up an important part of the chapter that was discussed in both groups, which is the ability to breathe or have the space to breathe. There is this idea of being able to live/breath in a certain way. A predetermined way to "breathe right".........Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for breathe-right.png

This script to breathe is prescribed in a similar way in which happiness is defined. "Having a space to breathe, or being able to breathe freely,... is an aspiration. With breath comes imagination. With breath comes possibility" (120). breathe-you-are-alive.jpg
This right/ability to breathe for queers is yet to be obtained much like the idea of happiness. Happiness and space to breathe must be acquired in a certain way, usually a heterosexual way. When queers don't follow these scripts they must become unhappy.......Queer happiness=inevitable UNhappiness! "It is because the world is unhappy with queer love that queers become unhappy, because queer love is an unhappiness-cause for the others whom they love, who share their place of residence" (98). Heterosexual happiness via coupledom, marriage, children, whiteness,class, domesticity is thus forced upon queer lives in order to achieve any sort of happiness..."Happiness for some involves persecution for others: it is not simply that this happiness produces a social wrong; it might even depend on it. The unhappiness of the deviant performs a claim for justice" (96). This right to prove and define happiness is not only saying that I am happy and you clearly are NOT and NEVER will be, but it is also a way to impose all heteronormative standards of happiness and social scripts. It perpetuates the idea that the only way an individual and their family will ever be happy is if they follow these scripts exactly.

Chapter 3: Diablog Response Post #2

Sarah Ahmed seems to use example of unhappy queers that are trying to fit the heteronormative standards. In If These Walls Could Talk, Fran and Val want to have a child. They feel the need to blend in with other mothers and families, and I think that sometimes they are more concerned on how something will appear to others in the outside world, rather than inside of themselves and each other. Then we watched that those It Gets Better videos with the 2 gay men and the one gay girl, and it really made me think how lucky I have it, because it could always be worse. The standards will always be the same, but I may not have been the person I am today if I didn't have the support of my friends and family. Would those standards appear more intense? Would I want to conform to those hetero standards more? It's amazing the influence people or society can have on an individual. I want to know who invented the standards of a perceived "normal" life. Why can't we live in a world without any standards on how to live an ideal happy life?


I think the day of leading the class went really well.
Breaking up into two groups was probably one of the best decisions, if mainly because it's easier to address a group that's smaller and more focused than a large one. It's also more comfortable, I think, for people to talk in a smaller, closer knit group, than a larger one.
The happiness group kind of focused on Ahmed's ideas of happiness, her argument for what is happiness and how it's possibly a duty, and then our conversation kind of turned into how symbols in our society kind of are determined to be the causes of happiness. For example, we talked about marriage and how there's a lot of heteronormativity in that institution and what it means that queers can't get married. We also talked about the image of the family a lot and how that can be made into a heteronormative situation and how it can also be queered. One person brought up the fact that, although he's gay, one of his goals in life is to raise kids with his partner, and how that, to him, would be happiness, even though there isn't necessarily a woman involved in the raising of the children.
We also discussed the clips a little bit and how children are almost always looked upon as an image of happiness. Their innocence is generally construed into a happiness ideal and people talk about how sometimes they wish they were little again so they could be happy.
When we came together to talk in a bigger group we discussed what the pros and cons were of Ahmed using a lot of pop culture references to get her ideas and theories across to her audience. I thought that her use of examples was really helpful in picturing some of the ideas and applying them to my everyday, but others thought that it was maybe a little bit too laid out. The concepts Ahmed discussed in her book weren't that incredibly complicated or too complex to easily understand so maybe the using as many examples as she did was unnecessary. I do think that it's a good idea though and I think that having more examples to apply the theories in other readings to would've been helpful in understanding them, especially some of Butler's theories.

Chapter 3: Unhappy Queers Diablog

"To arrive into the world is to inherit the world that you arrive into. The family us a point of inheritance, shaping what is proximate to the child (see Ahmed 2006). The queer child fails to inherit the family by reproducing its line. This failure is affective; you become an unhappiness cause."

When a son or daughter comes out to a parent it is not unusual for the response to be "We love you anyway." The "anyway" here is a paradox.

"It is always paradoxical to say that something does not matter; if you have to say something does not matter, it usually implies that it does."

What is stated is "We love you anyway" but what is heard is "I'd rather this wasn't the case because this will stand in the way of not only my happiness because it is not really what I planned for you but will also but will also stand in the way of your happiness because it does not conform to societal ideals of happiness. However, if you insist on making things more difficult for yourself then I suppose that's all right. "

"The father is unhappy as he thinks the daughter will be unhappy if she is queer. The daughter is unhappy as the father is unhappy with her being queer. The father witnesses the daughter's unhappiness as a sign if the truth of his position: that she will be unhappy because she is queer."

Let's take the statement: I am happy if you are. Such a statement can be attributed, as a way of sharing an evaluation of an object. I could be saying I am happy about something if you are happy about something. The statement, though, does not require an object to mediate between the "I" and the "you"; the "you" can be the object, can be what my happiness is dependent upon. I will only be happy if you are. To say I will be happy only if you are happy means that I will be unhappy if you are unhappy. Your unhappiness would make me unhappy. Given this, you might be obliged to conceal your unhappiness to preserve my happiness: You must be happy for me.

If love is to desire the happiness of another, then the happiness of the subject who loves might depend upon the happiness of the other who is loved. As such, love can also be experienced as the possibility that the beloved can take your happiness away from you. This anxious happiness, you might say, forms the basis of an ambivalent sociality: in which we love those we love, but we might also hate those we love for making us love them, which is what makes us vulnerable to being affected by what happens to them: in other words, love extends our vulnerability beyond our own skin. Perhaps fellow-feeling is a form of social hope: we want to want happiness for those we love; we want our happy objects to amount to the same thing. Even if we feel guilty for wishing unhappiness upon our enemies, it is a less guilty wish than wishing unhappiness upon our friends. In other words, our presumed indifference toward the happiness of strangers might help us to sustain the fantasy that we always want the happiness of those we love, or that our love wants their happiness.

What about being unhappy? What does this mean? Does this mean queers need to be sad and wretched? The killjoy? Is unhappiness necessary? Can you be a happy queer? What does that mean? Does happiness come when you queer heteronormative standards? When you have a family? When you have children? Or does happiness come you deviate from any type of heteronormative expectations?

It is interesting to think of these questions and wonder what it means to be really happy or unhappy. Such ways of thinking help use to imagine living a life that is different from the "normal "ideals of happiness - whatever that may be. Freedom to be unhappy means freedom in itself. It would mean the freedom to cause unhappiness by acts of deviation.

Ahmed Chapter 3 and Hegemonic Happiness

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StRAigTnEss+Happiness= THE GOOD LIFE

Queer happiness=inevitable unhappiness

Just Happiness:
"There is no doubt that the affective repertoire of happiness gives us images of a certain kind of life, a life that has certain things and does certain things" (90).

"The bliss in domestic bliss takes us somewhere, for sure" (90).

Heterosexual love becomes about the possibility of a happy ending; about what life is aimed toward, as being what gives life direction or purpose, or what drives a story" (90).

The institution of marriage: the idea that you cannot have LOVE, COMMITMENT, or a FAMILY without marriage.

*There must be this internal conflict in maintaining a self image that is congruent with heterosexual stereotypes.
*A psychological distance from their thoughts, feelings, and interests that are ALL viewed as incompatible with social scripts.
*Marriage as a compulsory act, which is both normal and necessary.
*This "otherness" then of not conforming to these gender and/or social scripts is a constant reminder of ambivalence, failed goals, conflict, and misunderstandings.
These scripts are what perpetuate the unhappy queer or the inability for "others" to ever be happy. Like the It Gets Better Campaign they strive for coupledom, family, "normalcy", and the ability to blend.

"To deviate is always to risk a world even if you don't always lose the world you risk" (91).

I'm happy if you are......."If my happiness is dependent upon your happiness, then you have the power to determine my happiness" (91).

But I Juuuuuust....
" if wanting happiness is not to want other things that might demand more from the if to say: 'I don't want you to be this, or to do want the child to have happiness by not giving up on these things." (92-93). my ahmed notes.jpg

The "things" mentioned here are a reference to heterosexual things. If you don't choose/succeed in these "things" you will never be happy.


I typed in happiness in Google search to see what images came up. I found the following and it reminded me of the artist Kara Walker and her use of black and white silhouettes. Walker's violently and sexually charged images forces the viewer to draw on culturally adjusted standards including racism and sexism. Walker's picture of only silhouettes shows structures of class, race, age, deviancy, reproduction, etc. The "happiness" picture clearly depicts white children who are fortunate enough to enjoy a beach vacation. I think Walker's work is perfect way to correlate what is considered happy. By using a heteronormative lens what is happy, who looks happy, who acts happy, can all be decided at a quick glance.

success happiness.jpg

Thumbnail image for kara walker between the thighs.jpg


Chapter 3: Unhappy Queers Diablog Entry

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Sarah Ahmed begins chapter 3 by claiming that, "The unhappy ending (of a book about queers) satisfies the censors while also enabling the gay and lesbian audience to be satisfied...and what mattered was the existence of a new book about us," (88-89). She explains her claim in further detail and states that happiness scrips = straightening devices and that deviating from the "straight" line = unhappiness. Ahmed implements an allegory and transitive property of straight versus gay life: the happy endings symbolizing straight life, the desire of literature signifying the fiction of desire, which would in turn = fiction of heterosexual desire (91).

"Happiness is not just how subjects speak of their own desires but also what they want to give and receive from others. Happiness involves reciprocal forms of aspiration: I am happy for you, I want you to be happy, I am happy if you are happy" (91). Ahmed tries to redefine happiness as a concept that is merely dependent on the other person in the relationship. She gets away from individuals trying to achieve happiness for themselves and instead incorporates all of these thought out scenarios on how someone can only be happy if their partner is. "If you're happy, I'm happy. My happiness is dependent on you. If my happiness is dependent upon your happiness, then you have the power to determine my happiness" (91).

Ahmed jumps into how queer life can negatively affect familial situations and mentions the lacking components one is not able to have if they are gay, a husband/wife and kids. She touches on a coming out story of Annie on My Mind and quotes, "I just want you to be happy. I can see that you've found love. It doesn't matter what from it takes as long as it makes you happy" (94). Ahmed claims, however that if you have to say that something doesn't matter, then it usually does and leaves a sense of worry and insecurity in that person. "The very pressure to be happy in order to show that you are not unhappy can create unhappiness for sure" (94-95). Again Ahmed captures examples of where queer intimacy is shattered by the interrogating outside family in the case of Sigmund Freud's Anna, who is happy being a lesbian but is unhappy about the ideas and structures concept: those who are unhappy with her, because she is not what they (the selfish family members) want her to be.

Ahmed states that because the world is unhappy with queer love is why so many queers become unhappy. A simple concept really--it's called wanting to be accepted by your family and friends, in other words...wanting to be seen and treated as an equal. Again, another example of familial nonacceptance is in Mary's case in The Well of Loneliness, where Mary "is in the very act of hiding underneath happy heterosexuality;" Ahmed furthers states, "You share not simply unhappiness but the unhappy consequences of being the cause of social and familial unhappiness" (101-102). An additional of this kind of unhappiness and unpleasing satisfaction is found in the movie, Lost and Delirious, where Tori is in love with Paulie, because she "cannot bear the thought of not living the life her parents have imagined for her" (105). Each of these examples illustrate the conformity a family can have on one of its own--pretty selfish and insecure if you ask me.

Ahmed mentions another unhappy aspect of queer life--visitation rights to a hospital by a partner--they didn't allow it in one of the films of These Walls Could Talk 2 with Edith to visit her lesbian lover Abby after she fell out of a tree. Ahmed noted that you become non relatives, you become unrelated, you become not; you're left alone in your grief and left waiting (108-109). Edith waits alone and Abby does alone in despair. "Queer intimacy leaves an impression on the walls." The house thus is the intimate space and when it is cleared out, it's like the relationship never existed and the happiness was never grown (109).

Sarah, towards the end of the chapter talks about queers being happy and happily queer. She mentions the short film that involve Fran and Kal--all they want to do is get pregnant and have a kid of their own--no man involved. They believe they can achieve happiness by having a child that looks like them and blends in, so they would appear to look more like a typical family and look like typical mothers at the playground (114). In the third film of If These Walls Could Talk 2, Molly is a character who is "happily queer in a world that is unhappy with queer lives" (118). Here, Ahmed writes about a sense of hope for queer people in that a sense of positive admiration instills a wall of confidence inside of these individuals. Ahmed sums it up best when she says, "People feel happy if they are with people like themselves" (121).

Chapter 3: Diablog Response Post

When discussing the first part of Chapter 3, it was very clear that Ahmed targeted the downfall of queer unhappiness to the sadistic views of general society and towards negative familial influences. In each of the brief narratives she shared with us, Sarah would give us an overview of what was going on and then explain the reason for the unhappiness caused. It just goes to show you how much happiness really does play on other people in the sense that society is unhappy with the queer lifestyle, so it really does bring down the happiness levels of queer individuals, and furthermore it proves how selfish society is. Just because something like being gay/queer is different, rare, not the "norm" does not justify for discrimination to be imposed. It's wrong and immoral. Just think about it for a moment and really try to imagine what these people go through everyday--it's a haze of judgmental remarks. Ahmed truly captures somber ambiance illustrated in her text with such a wide range of examples out there in queer literature and film; it provides the foundation for resentment aimed at all the prejudiced heterosexuals and the emotions experienced by these queer victims. Sarah opens the eyes of both readers: to queer people, explaining how significant and ubiquitous unhappiness is throughout this minority population and to heterosexuals, exploiting their cruel and narrow minded perspectives and negative intentions towards their homosexual peers and family members.

Diablog: If These Walls Could Talk 2

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In the book, Ahmed brings up the movie, If These Walls Could Talk 2, and I didn't really mention it in my last post, so I wanted to make another one.

I watched the first part of the movie, about the two older women and one dies in an accident. Edith, the one who lives, struggles with how to deal with her pain, especially because no one really understands how difficult it is for her to lose the woman she loves, Abby.
There is one part specifically that stand out as really portraying her sadness...

Edith is waiting for the verdict the doctor gives and she goes up to the desk to ask about what the doctor had to say and the nurse tells her that Abby died at 3 AM that morning. Edith asks why no one got her and the nurse just tells her that she's "sorry." The look in the actresses eyes combined with the silence seems, to me, to portray a deep sadness that maybe words just can't get across.
(towards the end of the clip)

[Sara's note: I embedded the youtube clip directly in your entry.]

Do you think silence may be the form of communication that displays the feeling of unhappiness most effectively?

Diablog: Ahmed

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I think possibly the best way for me to do this is to go through by scanning what I read and summarizing what I believe Ahmed is saying and then following with questions that I had when reading it.
So let's begin Chapter 3: Unhappy Queers.

Ahmed references the book, Spring Fire, and how the ending of the book (about two lesbians) had to have an unhappy ending or publishers wouldn't take it. Vin Packer resigned to this limitation but ironically, it turned out as a good thing. "The unhappy ending becomes a political gift: it provides a means through which queer fiction could be published." (88) Basically, the book served to satisfy everyone: the general populous because the ending was sad, and the queer community because there was finally a book about them.
This brings to mind Machiavelli and The Prince, which is a philosophical novel in which Machiavelli sends the message "the end justifies the means."
Do you think it's ok for Spring Fire to end badly just for the sake of having a book about queers? Or would it be better to not sacrifice the integrity of your novel the way you wrote it and simply not have it published?
It seems to almost go against what Judith Butler is saying about creating trouble- I feel like she would probably have sacrificed the book and left it unpublished than have sacrificed the conclusion of the book just to have it published.
Although it's true that "we are not obliged to 'believe' in the unhappy ending by taking it literally, as 'evidence' that lesbians and gays must turn straight, die, or go mad' it is a kind of statement, intentionally or not, that the first book about queers ends horribly.

However, the ending of the book led Ahmed into a discussion about the importance of acknowledging that society looks at queer life as difficult or hard or wrong depending on who you're talking to. She says, "Rather than reading unhappy endings as a sign of the withholding of moral approval for queer lives, we must consider how unhappiness circulates within and around this archive, and what it allows us to do." (89)
To me, what's she's saying is that it's crucial for us to see the unhappiness of queer life, but perhaps more importantly, the genesis of the unhappiness.
She goes into how we view happiness and how the statement, "I am happy if you are happy" does't necessarily mean what we think it does. The logic follows:
1. I am happy if you are happy.
2. I will only be happy if you are.
3. I will be unhappy if you are.
4. Your unhappiness would threaten my happiness.
5. You have a duty to be happy for me.
Do you think this is a legitimate argument?
Ahmed clarifies that not all speech can be read this way, but she does say that "we [should] note the swiftness of conversion between desire and duty; the very desire for the happiness of other can be the point at which others are bound to be happy for us." (92)
To further illustrate this point, Ahmed takes an excerpt from Annie on My Mind when the father is telling the daughter what he thinks her life will be like should she choose to embrace the fact that she is a lesbian.
"I've never thought gay people can be very happy-- no children for one thing, no real family life. Honey, you are probably going to be a damn good architect-- but I want you to be happy in other ways, too, as your mother is, to have a husband and children. I know you can do both. . . ." I am happy, I tried to tell him with my eyes. I'm happy with Annie; she and my work are all I'l ever need; she's happy, too-- we both were until this happened." (93)
Ahmed explains that what the daughter means by "until" which is "the moment that the father speaks his disapproval. . .The unhappy queer is here the queer who is judged to be unhappy: the judgment of unhappiness creates unhappiness." (93) The question the follows, for me, is "how much unhappiness is caused by the expectation of unhappiness?" Especially within a family unit, I think Ahmed may be inherently right in that your happiness depends on the happiness of everyone else within the unit not only because your tied by blood but also because you are in such close proximity with one another.

Later in the Chapter Ahmed talks about a different view of happiness and draws illustrations for the concepts from the book The Well of Loneliness. There's a scene in the novel where a group of people are collected in an are and Adolphe Blanc, a character who has been shunned from society along with the rest of the people in this group, talks to the two main characters, Stephen and Mary. Referencing the greater part of society, those who aren't queer, Adolphe says, "The are thoughtless, these happy people who sleep." (96) Ahmed says that this statement speaks "the truth of the novel: the happiness of the straight world is a form of injustice."
So is this true? Does the happiness of straights and the fact that it's an expectation that a straight person will be happy affect the happiness of queers? Is the argument "Straights will be happy, queers are not straight, and thus queers will not be happy" a valid one?
I think The Well of Loneliness attempts to argue that yes, it is valid. The end of the book is sad as Stephen gives Mary over to a man because she can never be happy with Mary because by doing that she will make Mary an outsider and deprive her of the happiness she might receive from other people by being with a man. Ahmed explains this as "Certain subjects might appear as sad or wretched, or might even become sad or wretched, because they are perceived as lacking what causes happiness, and as causing unhappiness in their lack."
The end of the book was clearly unhappy, but perhaps unhappy in a different sort of way. Mary ended up with a man at the end of the novel, but there was clearly unhappiness surrounding the arrangement and for Stephen there was absolutely nothing happy about giving up Mary. Stephen also proclaims hatred for those people who pretend to be straight and by doing so, never having to go through what she is going through now: "As for those who were ashamed to declare themselves, lying low for the sake of peaceful existence, she utterly despised such of them as had brains; they were traitors to themselves and their fellows she insisted."
This brings to mind the idea of "ignorance as bliss." Personally, I don't believe in that saying, but I think the concept should be brought up. What Adolphe said earlier in the novel about the happy people who sleep also feels like it's referencing the "ignorance is bliss" idea. 
It seems like straight people are grouped together as one collective source of discrimination. And this group doesn't really intentionally discriminate against queers, but instead chooses to ignore their existence altogether, which may be worse or not, but the result is that they don't need to acknowledge the fact that there are people who are different and because of that, they are outsiders who feel like they don't belong because the straight community makes them feel that way because they think the queers feel that way. (Follow that?) So, again, bliss belongs to the straight and the queers are left with unhappiness.
It's as if the world is empty to the queer community and is a constant backdrop for unhappiness, wretchedness and disappointment. In the movie, Lost and Delirious, there is a scene where one of the characters, Paulie, who is lesbian, kills herself- kind of. She and a bird who she had found and brought back to health fly away together. She jumps off the roof of a building and "Paulie becomes the bird, or the bird becomes Paulie, the open sky above the school signifying both the prmise of another world and the wrtched emptiness of the one they leave behind." (105)
All of these examples, Ahmed says, should help us to realize that it's important to embrace the "unhappy queer." "The unhappy queer is unhappy with the world that reads queers as unhappy. The risk of promoting the happy queer is that the unhappiness of this world could disappear from view. We use stay unhappy with this world."
She also says that "in being acceptable you must become acceptable to a world that has already decided what is acceptable," (105) meaning, I think, that through literature and other media the queer community can display to the straight community what it truly means to be queer and possible convey to them that it's really the straight community that causes queer unhappiness- not that queers are unhappy being queer.

Ahmed also talks about the actual idea of happiness and what it really means, and how being "happily queer" is not necessarily synonymous with being a "happy queer." In the book, Rubyfruit Jungle, on of the characters, Molly, has this refusal to be put back into place and loves the fact that she is a lesbian and she is perfectly happy to be a lesbian even if that means being made fun of and constantly being a source of unhappiness for those around her. She is essentially the exact opposite of Shirley Temple, who she brings up and uses her symbolic image negatively as opposed to positively as one would assume most everyone in our society today would have. Is it fair to use her image in this way? To make her out to be a spineless, typical girl, who conforms to every stereotype the straight world can create?
Later in the novel Molly, explains to the dean why she is lesbian: "I know it's not normal for people in this world to be happy, and I'm happy." (117)
What do you think Molly means by this? Ahmed explains that Molly has performed "the ultimate act of defiance by claiming her unhappiness as abnormal." (117)

Diablog Group??

24250_1240498733962_1274100155_30601077_7735864_n.jpgI'm signed up for the week where we focus our discussion around Ahmed... I'm wonder who else is signed up for that??

-Shelby (picture is added so you know which one "Shelby" is, just in case you don't know me)

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