...feminism, she argues, has been rebranded into banality. The universalising of feminism has been a kind of declawing. It has made it pointless ... [Crispin] rails against feminism as self-empowerment, and is determined to rediscover its true and radical potential ... Crispin is unafraid to say that if feminism did actually make women happier, giving us better jobs, marriages and orgasms, 'the proselytising would be unnecessary.' This book’s real bite comes when she talks about power and how women use it. The more money we have, the more we are able to buy our way out of patriarchy. The notion that equality is about living the way men live is not radical – we have to reset the values and dismantle the whole shebang ... Some of these ideas are just floated in the book, and they need more work. But she is always sharp. Her discussion of 'outrage feminism,' which exists primarily online, is a breath of fresh air ... Crispin is telling us that we have to imagine something better in order to build it. Feminism as self-absorption, as an add-on label to a new lifestyle, has got us … where exactly? Where we are now. Stalled. Look how quickly we can go backwards. When did feminism get so small? When it became polite, unthreatening and marketable. Crispin blasts through all this by asking us to think big, properly scarily big.
The point of Why I Am Not a Feminist isn’t really that Crispin is not a feminist; it’s that she has no interest in being a part of a club that has opened its doors and lost sight of its politics ... Crispin’s argument is bracing, and a rare counterbalance; where feminism is concerned, broad acceptability is almost always framed as an unquestioned good ... in some places where Crispin’s argument requires her to take a precise measure of contemporary feminism, she—or this book’s production schedule—can’t quite account for the complexity of the times...Much of what she denounces—'outrage culture,' empowerment marketing, the stranglehold that white women have on the public conversation—has already been critiqued at length by the young feminist mainstream ... The most vital strain of thought in Why I Am Not a Feminist is Crispin’s unforgiving indictment of individualism and capitalism, value systems that she argues have severely warped feminism, encouraging women to think of the movement only insofar as it leads to individual gains ... her book arrives at a useful and perhaps unexpected cultural inflection point: a time when political accommodation appears fruitless, and when many middle-class white women have marched in closer proximity to far-left ideas than perhaps they ever would have guessed ... Of course, this being a polemic, there’s not much space given to how, exactly, the total disengagement with our individualist and capitalist society might be achieved.
At its best, the resulting manifesto serves as a useful skewering of feminism’s worst tendencies ... Crispin’s stance in Why I Am Not a Feminist fits with this outsider mentality. Her main objection to contemporary feminism seems to be that it is popular. To her mind, if a social movement is popular, then it must necessarily be 'banal…nonthreatening, and ineffective' ... The problem with Crispin’s vision is twofold: It misconstrues feminism’s past, and thus offers the wrong prescription for the present. For starters, the last decade has seen renewed interest in the art and thought of many radical feminists, including those Crispin name-checks...What’s more, there was as much ideological variation within second-wave feminism, and even within radical feminism, as there is in the feminist movement today ... By missing this history of conflict and coalition-building, Crispin implies that one should only participate in a movement when it mirrors your own beliefs—beliefs you’ve already formed ... Living with conflict, building coalition—this is the stuff of politics. As the threats to feminism grow ever more apparent, I hope Crispin will stay in the fight.
...[a] bellicose and bracing book ... Anybody who sets out to diagnose flaws in any movement is probably going to find a lot. So too is anybody who sets out to diagnose the flaws of the person pointing out the flaws. It's possible to come at Crispin's book with the intent of engaging in an infinite regression of flaw-diagnosing, a hall of mirrors of pointing hands. So it's worth mentioning that Crispin's book feels woolly at times and in need of better editing. It's also long on strawmen (strawwomen?) for its surprising lack of sources and specifics, and short on prescriptions for how to actually do the revolutionary work she rallies the reader to do ... A useful attitude when dealing with such a brickbat of a text might be to let the provocations have their intended provocative effect. And then, after the initial impact has settled, decide whether the missiles have really hit their mark — and whether we feel inspired to react.
The ultimate failure of Why I Am Not a Feminist, Jessa Crispin’s fiery denunciation of modern American feminism, is all the more disappointing because the good parts are so good ... Crispin rightly calls out the rich feminists, the racist feminists, and the lazy and entitled feminists who’ve lost touch with their less advantaged sisters ... where has this history led women like Jessa Crispin? To a haughty, point-blank refusal even to listen to any man who may have a response to her work ... It’s absurd that this needs to be said, but egalitarian politics has to include men, include them openly, and in a welcoming spirit, with no resentment, as equals. Or else fail, and fail deservedly.
Until equal means equal, until the last shameful vestige of misandry is eradicated from the feminist conscience, I will continue to refuse, along with Crispin — albeit for significantly different reasons — to call myself a feminist.
...presents a loop of circular logic; while some of the writer’s essays on similar material have been clearer and more forthright, the manifesto suffers for want of a through line ... she offers her strongest critiques when going after capitalism, celebrity, and self-help culture. But much of Why I Am Not a Feminist suffers from a lack of grounding in external references or specific examples of what she’s critiquing. Whereas Crispin’s other work in essays is direct and specific, Feminist offers something less consistent ... Why I Am Not a Feminist relies the most on abstraction where it is the most angry, in its first third... [it is] at its most thoughtful when it is tackling specific issues ... The problem is that she doesn’t offer much in the way of a specific call to action. How might this be accomplished?
This is, after all, a manifesto. Crispin asks the reader to get on board without providing historical or narrative evidence. A manifesto doesn’t tend to involve nuanced cultural criticism or social history. The writing is casual, decidedly nonacademic, and involves generalizations about the subject as it is and as it ought to be. But most manifestos have two things in common that this book lacks: they speak on behalf of a group of people with a specific collective interest, and they articulate a set of values and beliefs that sketches a blueprint for specific, determined actions. Whether artistic, political, or otherwise influenced, manifestos put forth a vision of how a group of people believes something should be. Why I Am Not a Feminist is a manifesto of one ... the echoes of the far-right in tone and style are troubling. Punditry is a shaky base for and unreliable route towards the kind of humanist politics Crispin would have feminists construct.
Why I Am Not a Feminist, which it turns out is neither particularly feminist nor really much of a manifesto, makes for a baffling, unpleasant read. The breadth of Crispin’s disdain for other women’s choices in this book is apparently boundless ... It is from [a] predetermined, closed-off starting point that she writes her book, and the result is just as disjointed, exhausting, and unproductive as you’d expect ... empathy is something not much present in Why I Am Not a Feminist, and that’s a shame. It’s odd to read a polemic against contemporary feminism that takes no concrete stock of feminist activism as it currently stands ... If Crispin hopes to critique feminists for not thinking boldly enough, why is her book so contextually shallow? Why no endnotes? Why no references? Why no calling out these Bad Feminists by name?