Reviewed by Ashley Supinski
Jessa Cripsin’s manifesto is not for the faint of heart. In a tell-it-like-it-is, don’t-hold-back way, Cripsin tells the reader why she refuses to call herself a feminist. And it’s not for the reasons you may think.
In Why I am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto, Crispin rejects the idea of contemporary feminism because it, “focuses dementedly on “self-empowerment” …[and] requires no thought, no discomfort, and no real change” (xi-xii). Instead, Crispin urges the reader to be uncomfortable, to step out of her (or his) comfort zone, and fight for those who are less fortunate than the reader.
The main argument that Crispin lays down for the reader is that feminism has become too easy. Women use the F-word to validate choices they make, but those choices are usually self-empowering or self-centered, and only benefit the singular woman, not the group at large. This type of feminism, Crispin argues, is just another way that women take part in the patriarchy they say they are against.
The manifesto, broken into nine parts, discusses the wider issues feminism should embrace. Crispin, a middle-aged, upper-middle class white woman knows that current feminism is mostly for the benefit of those who are like her. However, she reminds the reader, repeatedly, that feminism should really be about every woman, especially those of minorities and lower-class. If feminism only benefits a few, it’s doing the same thing women rail against middle-to-upper-class white men for doing with the patriarchy. According to Crispin, we are in a third-wave of feminism. Women no longer have to fight for the ability to get an education, or work in “man’s jobs,” but the fight is still far from over because equality is still nonexistent for every person, regardless of gender or race.
Coming in at just 150 pages, the manifesto is brief, but it packs a punch. Crispin’s tone alternates between hilarious reminders (“You as a man are not my problem”) and hard-hitting reminders (“If you want to create a better world and a better existence for your people, you must participate in the imperfect world that exists now”). She doesn’t hold back her punches, but instead focuses on reminding women why feminism exists in the first place: to help those who are subjugated by the patriarchy.
Crispin’s argument reminds women (and men, if they dare pick it up) that feminism isn’t there to work for them, but rather they need to work towards feminism. It’s time to stop making feminism fit into our lifestyle and venture out of the nice little box we’ve created and apply it to what it really means: help women who need it more than we do.
A must-read for everyone, no matter if you claim to be a feminist or not.
Ashley lives in Pennsylvania with her family, where she graciously dog-and-chicken sits for her siblings. She writes book reviews for the blog, After the Last Page and is also the co-coordinator of YA Fest.