The Killjoys of Tik Tok

There is no one way to be a perfect feminist. How a person chooses to support and share feminism depends first how they define their feminism, the spectrum is wide. That being said, popular feminist, Sara Ahmed, outlines one way to live a feminist lifestyle. In her book Living a Feminist Life she outlines what she believes feminism should be and the means to be a good feminist. For Ahmed, to be a feminist is both to stand up when appropriate and when not. Social media apps like TikTok has made larger spaces (accidently I’m sure) for many feminists to do this. Its within these spaces where we find Ahmed’s type of feminists, loud and unafraid to be heard for the better or worse. 

Sara Ahmed is a British-Australian scholar who studies the intersection of feminist theory, queer theory, lesbian feminism, critical race theory and postcolonialism. She is largely known for coining the term “feminist killjoy”, which she defines as a person that is willing to stand up to people or organizations that support oppressive systems based on race, gender, or disabilities. A person who identifies as a “feminist killjoy” is willing to stand up and speak out in potentially uncomfortable situations to challenge the systems of oppression. Its calling Uncle Donald out for using a racist or homophobic slur at the Thanksgiving table, despite how happy everyone is to be together. Instead of looking the other way, its making the choice to kill the joy and not let Uncle Donald get away with it again. For some these battles are fought at the dinner table, for others it’s through the app TikTok. 

Drew Afualo is a 25 year old living in Southern California that has become extremely popular for her witty remarks and sarcasm while responding to misogynistic videos on TikTok. She has culminated a following of 1.5 million on TikTok and is continuing to grow. She has created a relationship with her followers who tag her on videos from chauvinistic tiktokers which she then “stitches” or duets. She plays a part of the video first so the audience has context and then proceeds to dismantle the creator and their argument with jokes, sarcasm, and laughter. Her strategy, from what I have gathered, is to embarrass the creator into taking down their original post. This strategy is effective because she responds to the blatant misogynistic posts that are not really saying anything; they’re just insulting. 

Afuelo is a fantastic example of a feminist killjoy. She doesn’t care to be kind, which upsets a lot of people because she does not fulfill their social script, “a series of behaviors, actions, and consequences that are expected in a particular situation or environment”. She does not fill traditional gender roles and remove emotion to make her point seem more valid. In an interview with In The Know, Afualo shared how people have accused her of “sinking down” to the level of the misogynists who post the insulting, sexist videos. She responds to those accusations saying that, “If you’re bold enough to post it, I’m bold enough to respond to it… It’s cool when he does it, but when I do it, I’m a b****.” Here Afuelo exposes the double standard that women are held to. This also exemplifies how hard it is to be a feminist killjoy— you will be criticized regardless of if what you are doing or saying is right.  

Afualo is not the type of role model we were taught as kids to revere. She is loud, outwardly confident, and independent. The last two may be traits we would see in who we were told to admire but it is the loudness that eliminates her from being widely respected. Which is why if you think back to how we were taught about prominent women in history, were we ever taught about angry loud women? No. It is not a secret that when women get emotional or demand to be heard, they lose credibility. However, there is a lot of power behind rage. Anger can be used to fuel progress, Afualo exemplifies this with every misogynistic video that gets taken down. We’re all angry, let’s be angry together and do something with it.

One thought on “The Killjoys of Tik Tok

  1. Hey, I really appreciate your perspective. I typically think of TikTok in a negative light, but this is a great example of how social media apps can be a powerful tool used for social change if we use it with intention/ self-awareness.


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