Review: Why I Am Not A Feminist by Jessa Crispin


Jessa Crispin’s polarizing new work declares feminism irrelevant.

Reading this book in public was an experience. I got pitying stares from women of all walks of life, from nurses on their ways to shifts, mothers pushing carriages to bored subway teens. These are the exact kind of women Crispin derides in her new book. She posits that today’s feminism has become intertwined with capitalism, that the new feminism of radical self-acceptance is just narcissism, that when a movement becomes universal and globalized, it must also become banal and ineffectual. These are fascinating claims for Crispin to make. If she were to follow up on them from an unbiased, intersectional perspective I guarantee she would have audiences on tenterhooks waiting to hear the Modern Feminist Theory of 2017. Unfortunately, in indicting white feminism, this book becomes the personification of it.

Crispin declares her dislike towards a growing sense of misandry in today’s women. She spends a decent length of time discussing and defending men from the “feminist outrage mob”. These men wield their powers indiscriminately, from punishing a scientist for an awkward joke to extending jail sentences. Crispin seems at war with herself as she alternately defends and denounces men. In a chapter titled Men Are Not Our Problem, she writes, “Whenever we feel superior to anyone else, we take away that person’s humanity in order to bolster our own sense of self and worth.” So women should not insult men as a group because it would make them seem … insecure? Crispin spends much time poking holes in modern day feminism, aiming to remove the universal banality of it. But what she imagines will replace it is unclear. Humanism?

One particularly rankling part of Why I Am Not a Feminist comes when the author speaks of long-term peace. She claims it should be prioritized over short-term safety because longer jail sentences and the avoidance of triggers become part and parcel of the whole feminist outrage mob thing. She implies that women use their influence to lock men up for longer sentences. Moreover, she ties the discussion to race by implying that white women are the ones who maintain responsibility for locking black men up. Of course, a topic like this deserves discussion, but I don’t think Crispin seems informed enough to have it.

Feminism has been guilty of racist acts before and will be again. Thus, feminism must make an effort towards intersectionality. Yet to imply that the entire system of locking guilty men up is wrong marks an insanely privileged position to take. This seems to be a position taken by someone who does not need to worry about her own personal safety.

Crispin makes interesting points about expanding meaning in women’s life outside of beauty. Instead of expanding the definitions of beauty so that all women can feel beautiful, it is time to discuss finding value in things other than beauty. Crispin condemns personal feminism. She condemns the thinking that, ‘If I am a feminist, then everything I do is a feminist act. Therefore, I am insulated from ever being wrong.’

Yes, Beyonce is a feminist. Taylor Swift is a feminist. In fact, consumerism pairs well with feminism. Empowerment became a marketing strategy. To Crispin, this means feminism, and what it stands for, is nothing but a pile of feel-good I’m a woman hear me roar babble. To me, this only tarnishes feminism if you look at it as a movement and not an ideology. It’s both.

A final note on reading this book in public; while I experienced pitying stares from the women, I also received interested glances (I’ll generously not refer to them as leers) from the men. Perhaps here was a woman not interested in the ridiculousness of feminism, they thought. She’ll definitely like me then, they concluded.

Related Story: Review: Firebrand, Kristen Britain

Nope. Unfortunately, their reactions (and how I reacted to those reactions) lends more evidence to the fact that I identify as a feminist. Of course, that’s in the classical sense, connotations be damned. More importantly, it proves that the world needs more feminism. (But what kind of?) Crispin brought up some intriguing ideas. If only she had thought through more of them.