...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.