To celebrate the upcoming publication of Jessa Crispin’s splendid polemic Why I Am Not a Feminist, Rachel and Sarah M from the Marketing Team share their thoughts on the book and what feminism means to them.
Feminism is an incredibly loaded franchise, perhaps more so now than ever. I have never liked the term and usually shy away from identifying myself with it. Not because I don’t believe in its core tenets but because ‘Feminism’ often seems only to include and apply to white, middle-class, blue-stocking women. I also hugely dislike the way that feminism has gained currency in recent years, often via female celebrities, and has become, in short fashionable… and therefore accepted as de rigueur. (Jessa Crispin also dislikes this. This makes me like her – although I’m not supposed to like her, she tells me – I’m supposed to be afraid of her.)
However, on an extremely personal level, as a woman who is arranging her upcoming nuptials I’ve found myself all-to-often, whilst contemplating (and utterly rejecting) so-called traditions, getting exceedingly angry about all the way wedding customs subjugates women. It pisses me off that women are supposed to be asked for their hand in marriage (I refused to be); that they have restrictions imposed upon their attire by conventions (I will not wear white); that the ‘groom’ is supposed to ask the father of the ‘bride’ for permission (he didn’t and, guess what, my dad was pleased)… and that the ‘bride’ gets ‘given away’ by her father/parents (again, I will not be). Of course plenty of people also reject these things… but maybe not enough to make the change the norm. It’s stuff like this – although admittedly this is a very minor side of everyday life that needs to alter – that Crispin also takes issue with. She isn’t interested in simply smashing through any glass ceilings: she is ready to demolish the entire edifice. This is what not just women but the whole of society needs. There is a need to stop trying to make things work within existing structures, and build anew.
Crispin – as you might have gathered – also doesn’t like the word feminism, it makes her sneer, because she finds feminism too apologetic, too reassuring, and the attempt to become universal effectively renders it ‘banal… non-threatening and ineffective.’ She demands a more radical change. There cannot just be one feminism for all, there have to be many. She wants women (and men) to re-shape the world – to make new ‘religious systems, governments, and economies.’ Her brand of feminism is not something we can simply go along with and make fit into our current, day-to-day lives – it has to be more than that.
This book is stripped back and straight forward. It has lots of punchy, short sentences. It is easy to digest but its message lingers. Manifestos, such as this, are always criticised for not offering enough in terms of actual solutions to problems. But that is not the job of a manifesto. A manifesto makes you think, it shocks you out of complacency, makes you question your beliefs and values and often redress them. It is a call to arms not a tactical plan. It is the next first step.
And right now it is needed.
Photo credit The Independent
I found Why I Am Not a Feminist to be a powerful attack on contemporary concepts of feminism. Motivational and inspiring, it will certainly make you question your preconceptions of femininity and how influenced we are by existing feminists.
There are many ideas which Crispin displays that I agree with, such as, the stereotype of contemporary feminist thinking, which says that every ‘woman in power’ is ‘inherent good’ (This is not always the case). For me, there are many who take feminism to an almost unbearable level. Many ‘old fashioned’ ways, I find quite endearing, for instance, when a man holds a door open for a woman or offers her a seat on the train. These are classed as gentlemanly behaviours and yes, they are traditional, yet these traditions have taught men to treat women with respect. Is it not rude for a man to rush to a seat on the train, pushing you out of the way to get there? Is this really what feminists want? I know of so many girls who take offence in being invited to sit down by a man as though it is a heinous act and I still can’t fathom it.
Balance is important. When an ideal is taken too far, there is the danger of losing what started out to be good intentions to a kind of madness. I feel sorry for the men who don’t know how to behave nowadays. It’s a predicament. It becomes confusing. What is the right way to treat a woman?
Saying all that, I agree with some aspects of feminism; to strive for equality in a world where a gender has been oppressed is appealing. ‘Men’s work’ and ‘women’s work’ is not something I agree with. Yes, more men are in construction but I think that’s just a logical choice, as men are generally psychically stronger. It doesn’t mean however, that a construction site is no place for a woman. Likewise, it shouldn’t mean that a nursing role is not for a man. Perhaps we should be thinking of each other as human beings rather than male or female. As human beings, taking out tradition, I believe we should be treated as equals and with respect; a peaceful option.
Crispin, however, seems to want to begin a revolt as she clearly states: ‘Now is an interesting time to start a revolution…’ Maybe we should all just relax and learn to love each other?
In the end, you’ve got to love a book that empowers women! Why I Am Not a Feminist is the start of something new, whether you decide to join the cause or not, Crispin’s compelling voice will speak directly to all women in the world.
Why I Am Not a Feminist is published on 23 February by Melville House
(£12.99, 176pp, 9781612196015)