cover image Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto

Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto

Jessa Crispin. Melville House (PRH, dist.), $24.99 (176p) ISBN 978-161219-601-5

Crispin’s (The Dead Ladies Project) slim polemic fits into the long tradition of advocates for women’s rights condemning the feminist politics of their historical moment for betraying the cause. Modern feminism, the author argues, has become a nonthreatening, commercialized, narcissistic lifestyle. In a series of nine brief chapters, she charges feminists with embracing a “universal feminism, devoid of any real personal internal change” or political action that benefits a privileged few. Many young feminists, she points out, have rejected the fiery radicalism of activists such as Andrea Dworkin, Shulamith Firestone, Germaine Greer, and Catharine MacKinnon in favor of more banal and self-interested versions of feminist philosophy and practice. They embrace victimhood and ideological purity, and are obsessed with individualized power rather than collective action for lasting, systemic change. Critique from within is vital to any movement, but Crispin’s analysis relies heavily on outdated stereotypes of young activists and “Internet feminism.” This work ignores or disparages the diversity of feminisms embraced by contemporary activists, including those under 30, women of color, trans and non-straight women, disabled feminists, and male allies; “disowning” a falsely singular and caricatured feminism is likely to alienate more readers than it will convert. Those seeking radical inspiration would do better to start elsewhere, perhaps with Alexandra Brodsky and Rachel Kauder Nalebuff’s 2015 anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. (Feb.)