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Warnings: Do not express your boundaries

Just after I read chapter 2 of »Complaint« I went to the FLINTA*- Kampftag rally at the Theaterplatz where a young woman was courageously giving a speech on how she often does not respect her boundaries in order to please others. She even said something like: “It took me so many years of therapy to realize that I even have such a thing as boundaries.” I could relate to that. And to my mind, not expressing and advocating for your boundaries is directly related to what Sara Ahmed explains as “warnings [that are] an instruction about what you need to do in order to avoid a damaging situation” (Ahmed 2021: 70).

Especially as a young woman, I receive so many warnings that depict me as being self-damaging when I express personal boundaries, articulate my opinion or complain about institutional or societal problems. The sketch below shows me being influenced by such warnings. I wrote down a few that were still so present to me that I could easily remember them. They are representative of so many more.

Illustration 1: Receiving warnings


In this sketch, where I receive warnings, I decided to keep the warnings in my native language because I feel they have more impact on me that way

English translation:

Fellow student: “Be careful not to complain too much or you’ll get a bad grade.” Grandma: “Don’t always complain or you’ll never find a boyfriend.”
Dad: ”Don’t engage in political activism in Weimar – it could be dangerous.”
Ex-boyfriend: “Why are you always so bitchy? It’s not that bad. I don’t like you like that.”


Ahmed, Sara. Complaint!, New York, USA: Duke University Press, 2021.