'Why I am Not a Feminist' asks necessary questions

Sunday, March 5, 2017 - 3:55pm

Jessa Crispin is an author and the founder of two liberal magazines. Despite the ironic title of her 2016 novel “Why I Am Not a Feminist,” a spirited attack on modern commercial feminism, Crispin herself identifies as a feminist. Her nonfiction book explains her issues with the now popular “soft and Disney-ified feminism” that has counterproductive effects on the type of feminism she wishes to see destroy the patriarchy and change the world. Crispin starts with the general question: Are you a feminist? From there, she draws on her critiques of modern feminism. With her audience in the palm of her hand she outlines her confident opinions on the institutions of the current wave of feminism that has every female celebrity, young woman and modern feminist hooked.

Her critiques run on the basis that modern feminism has become essentially pointless — while it stands on the platform that it will become “universal,” it forgets that for something to become universal it must be accepted by all. It must essentially be non-threatening and ineffective for everyone to agree with its values. In order for feminism to recruit the masses, it needs to be close to the status quo — exactly what it does not want to do. Crispin argues that feminism should not have a desire to change the patriarchy we live in, but destroy it entirely — and reshape the world.

Crispin’s first major problem with mainstream feminism is the way in which it has gained popularity through the United States in recent years. “Feminism is trending,” she says in the first chapter of the book. Throughout the following eight chapters, she explains exactly how feminism has achieved that status. It bothers her that feminism has become “fashionable” when creating a more equal society has actually become more unfashionable than ever. Celebrities like Beyoncé proudly don the “feminist” label and Crispin claims she has every young girl calling herself one, as well. According to Crispin, so-called “feminists” are creating the problems within feminism itself.

When looking back to the first wave of feminism, Crispin argues that women had universal wants and desires, the right to vote being the one on the forefront. With this universal desire women were able to accept their differences, band together and gain this right. Women were united under a single cause. Today, Crispin argues, women have too many differences for modern feminism to work. Differences in race, personal history, class, location and education, among others, make feminism today not an institution that can bind women together but one that can tear them apart.

“Kill the dominant idea about what feminism is,” Crispin wrote.

Her novel works because she has strong opinions, a strong central voice, an idea of exactly what she wants and evidence to back it up. Crispin faces this beast knowing very well that society will have contrasting opinions — but she also knows that there are people who will pick up her words and agree with them.

In terms of anti-feminist literature, this is one of the most succinct, universal and sensible critiques on modern feminism.  It justifies disagreeing with modern feminism — even if this villainizes Crispin to every woman who does identify as a modern day feminist. The book is worth the read for modern feminists and women who disagree with feminism alike. Simply educating oneself on another woman’s opinions and ideas when it comes to feminism is something Crispin believes this society lacks. Whether or not you agree with her ideas, Crispin’s polemic puts you in the position to question your beliefs and the effectiveness of the second wave of feminism. She makes the reader uncomfortable and forces them to have a conversation with themselves about what they believe. It is impossible to close the book and ignore the central question of the text: Are the current goals and ideas of feminism likely to create the world we search for?

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“Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto”

Jessa Crispin

Melville House

February 2017