Why I am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto by Jessa Crispin

To feel safe, you need to control what the people around you are going to say and do. This is not achieved by going after the root causes of violence. This is not even achieved by working to slowly improve social conditions. It is achieved through silence and disappearance, by moving the offending object or person out of sight. . . . [However] [d]o we want to live in a world that is safe? Do we want to push the homeless out of our cities and call that a victory over poverty? . . . Or do we want to do the very hard work of recognizing and addressing the actual causes of harm to women? Safety is a short-term goal and it is unsustainable. Eventually, the unaddressed causes will find new ways of manifesting themselves as problems. Pull up the dandelions all you want, but unless you dig up that whole goddamn root it’s just going to keep showing back up.

“Feminism has been marred by these patriarchal values. It has been warped in the name of greed and power. Feminism was seduced by all the pleasures the patriarchal world has to offer and overwhelmed by the enormous amount of work it would take to break it apart. So we adapted feminism’s goals in order to live more comfortable lives.
In order to succeed in a patriarchal world, we took on the role of patriarchs ourselves. In order to win in this world, we had to exhibit the characteristics the patriarchal world values and discard what it does not.”

“Of course the universal feminists want to remove Dworkin from the face of feminism, along with every other woman who resembles her. Just from her appearance alone, Dworkin makes an easy target, something to gesture toward to illustrate just how harmless you are in comparison. And in her place, Gloria Steinem—that banal, CIA-funded icon for white, middle-class women—becomes the only feminist from the last half of the twentieth century worth knowing about. It’s not just Dworkin’s appearance that makes women uncomfortable. It’s her writing, which was merciless. Like all writers and intellectuals, not every word Dworkin wrote was magic, but the entirety of her work seems to have been tossed out by today’s feminists, simply because they disagree with some of her more extreme theories. Michel Foucault believed AIDS didn’t actually exist and was merely a social construct, but that doesn’t mean we refuse to read anything else he wrote, or that we use him as an example of when gays “went too far.”

“Unfortunately, many will think the only thing wrong with the system—and by “system” I mean this whole complicated world that we inadequately convey with words like “patriarchy” or “capitalism”—is that it is not allowing them entry. The whole thing is rigged to include some and exclude others, to benefit some and exploit others, therefore it is evil. By fighting for your own way to inclusion, you are not improving the system, you are simply joining the ranks of those included and benefiting. You are doing your own excluding and exploiting. In other words: you, a woman, are also the patriarchy.”

There is a difference between outrage and having standards. Outrage feminists are like the Furies, demanding an eye for an eye. Or an eye for an eyelash. A job for a joke. That need lives in all of us, and we’re fucked if we feed it.
Standards of behavior, which, fine, can be labeled “political correctness” if you like, require that everyone live up to a certain expectation of humanity. If someone violates those standards in a serious way, through violence or outright hatred, that person should be set up for punishment. But if someone simply fails to live up to a certain expectation of humanity, then that person should be, not banished, but disagreed with. Their action should start a conversation. We, if we are going to demand a certain standard of behavior, should also meet that standard ourselves. Existing in a community means tolerating hard moments and allowing for other people’s weaknesses, so that our hard moments are tolerated and our weaknesses are allowed.”

“We need a sharp-edged feminism that does not shy away from the big battles we have yet to face. If we want to create a better world, we need the foundations to be different, not to be the same foundations patriarchy was built on. But this is the sticky problem that it is going to be hard to circumvent: most women are not fundamentally better than most men. Unless the conversation moves away from the mire in which it’s become stuck—away from the outrage cycle that feels so good but is devoid of substance—we risk changing the world in an interior-designer kind of way. The basic structure is the same, but aren’t the new curtains nice?

Your first encounter with feminism should make you uncomfortable. It has to break through all of the messages you’ve been indoctrinated with. You’ll have to experience regret for your behavior, and you will have to acknowledge all the ways you’ve been consciously and unconsciously misogynistic during your lifetime. One way to avoid that discomfort is to ask women to reassure you that you are one of the good ones. To perform your sensitivity. It’s manipulative. Another way to avoid that discomfort is to sit alone with your dark thoughts about what is wrong with feminists.

A Sharp, Vibrant Critique of A Version of Feminism

Interesting and Infuriating Read

While some elements of the text seem a bit repetitive and it unfairly generalizes contemporary feminism without naming names, Crispin effectively eviscerates the notion that feminism can be a lifestyle or a series of consumer actions. Her most effective chapter, The Fights We Choose, offers an important call to end the crusades to destroy individuals for retrograde language and instead focus on broader social change. I can’t imagine anyone agreeing with all of this polarizing manifesto, but it’s an important, interesting read.