Maria Bustillos on Jessa Crispin’s Why I Am Not A Feminist in the LA Review of Books:
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’s book would be an important read in any case; in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat, it is an essential one. Feminism, Crispin argues, betrayed its anti-capitalist roots in favor of “identity politics”: it failed when the focus shifted “from society to the individual.” “What was once collective action and a shared vision for how women might work and live in the world,” she writes, gave way to “a focus on individual history and achievement, and an unwillingness to share space with people with different opinions, worldviews, and histories.” Calls for women’s “empowerment” came, increasingly, at the expense of absolute demands for radical systemic change toward a fairer, more egalitarian society.
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. Feminism “ended up doing patriarchy’s work,” she contends:
Now that we have access as women, women in positions of power are much less likely to attempt to dismantle this system of inequality. Power feels good. Capitalism feels good. It gives you things, as long as its boot is not on your neck.
In an especially strong passage, she describes the treacherous path modern American women took, and are taking, to “empowerment”:
[Y]ou will have to exhibit the characteristics of the patriarchs who built [the system]. In order to advance, you will have to mimic their behavior, take on their values […]
It’s nice in there […] If you value power, people will give you power, and with that comes money, luxury, a way out of all that oppression and misery. Little thought will be given to those left on the outside.
This is exactly right, but it’s not the whole story. Middle-class American women turned their backs on those less fortunate not only because of selfishness and I-got-mine-ism, but also because life on the materialist hamster wheel is so utterly grueling and exhausting that it leaves you neither the time nor the energy required in order to comprehend the worthier cause, let alone contribute to it meaningfully.