What Do You Mean You’re “Not a Feminist”?
As a writer sometimes the best way to cure writer’s block is to visit a writer’s church. A.K.A. a bookstore. Now I am a purist when it comes to bookstores in that I love to support the local establishments. Living in Los Angeles, there are so many to choose from. This story begins with me wandering around the walls of West Hollywood’s Book Soup. When exploring a bookstore with no agenda, I like to keep an open mind and just browse freely. I was looking at the “Staff Suggested” when I saw “Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto” by Jessa Crispin. The review that the staff member wrote simply said: “This book can be judged by its cover.”
First, let me say this: If women want to be treated like the rest of world that means women should be able to critique and question each other freely. So if I, as a woman, challenge or disagree with the views of another woman, that doesn’t mean that I am going against the laws of sisterhood. I am merely holding her up to the same standards I would with all other humans, aka men. Many assume that to debate or to have a politically charged conversation is the same as coming at someone from a place of hatred, to make the other party feel stupid and/or defeated. (Male logic perhaps, which is one more thing we need to get rid of).
I went into this book thinking one way and when I finished it, my mind hadn’t changed much, but I did gain some insight. I also thought buying this book would be like sleeping with the enemy. A way for me to gain a broader perspective by listening to a devil’s advocate.
It’s a collection of essays, (or get this, a manifesto) about why Jessa Crispin is disappointed with the current definition of “feminism” and therefore has decided to hate the word completely. I appreciated the history lesson she gives throughout the book: the origin stories and important names and dates. Her style is sarcastic and there is humor in her writing but, more than anything else, she comes off as angry. Yes, that’s a cliché and an easy name to call a woman these days, but her argument for why women should stop calling themselves “feminist” is a hypocritical and contradictory one.
READ ALSO: I’m an Angry Feminist and IDGAF
The book demonstrates the problems I have with my fellow white women and their privilege with regards to feminism. As white women, we have the luxury of freely signing up for the feminist movement without paying as big a price as women of color do. We are the privileged minority. When we’re deciding what to prioritize, we don’t have to choose between our race or our gender.
This is not to say white women do not experience prejudice. I am just making that point that being white softens the blows of society, including sexism. For example, there’s no question that women get paid less than men. But it’s also true that women of color tend to get paid less than white women, which means that they have to worry about competing with white women as well as men. Okay, you may think I’m just nit-picking here. And if that’s the case, you’re probably white.
But that’s something Crispin and I have in common, nit-picking!
She is not a fan of how far feminism has moved from its original purpose of standing up for the equality of women. Fair. But everything changes and evolves eventually. If feminism didn’t change or morph with the times, who’s to say whether the term “intersectionality” would have ever been discovered? New times requires new tools and tactics.
Crispin also expresses her disgust with modern feminism when it comes to the mainstream media. She believes that Beyoncé and other pop stars, are not as “feminist” as they claim to be. That their form of feminism is constructed around the male gaze. I realized this brings up the debate over the fact that some women don’t mind being over sexualized, because it’s a choice they have the right to make… BUT LET’S NOT GET SIDETRACKED.
Crispin doesn’t like it when pop stars, clothing brands, and other trending medias make money off of feminism, that using it as a marketing ploy is more harmful than anything.
READ ALSO: 5 Feminist Documentaries to Educate Your Ass
I believe using feminism as a marketing tool is just one way to get the conversation going. Young girls will see Beyoncé flashes the word FEMINIST during one of her shows, some will hear Taylor Swift call herself one, and little girls will do what little girls do and use the internet. Googling what the word means. And so it begins. Why is that a bad thing?
And my next thought was: Jessa Crispin, aren’t you also riding on this moneymaking train? I mean, writing a book that criticizes the use of feminism to sell things and then going on international book tours must be generating a pretty nice little paycheck for you too.
Once I finished the book I realized that her point is probably that equality for all humans can be achieved without a label. Well yeah, but does that negate the use of the word “feminism?” Which is why I found the whole thing too meta. And I kinda hated it. It was a real head scratcher. What’s real? What isn’t? Is this one big joke? I came out more confused than convinced.
Jessa Crispin states that “radical truth isn’t a comfortable place.” But who’s to say what is radical and what is truth? The truth of the matter is women get treated like shit. We don’t get half the respect that men in this world get simply because we’re women. And you know what is also true? Labels aren’t for everyone but they if they work for others, what’s wrong with that?
Gloria Steinem was once asked what she had to say to women who cared about equal rights for women but don’t want to call themselves feminists. Steinem poignantly replied, “You don’t have to if you don’t want to. But hey, good luck with that.”