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Highlight keywords  |Print this articlePrint this article
From: The Socialist issue 945, 19 April 2017: Tories out!

Search site for keywords: Feminism - Feminist - Review - Sexism - Women - Oppression

Non-fiction review: Why I am not a feminist

Mass movements, not 'fringe cultures', can win feminist change

Millions of women and men have marched against Trump like Socialist Students members in London, 4.2.17, photo Sarah Wrack

Millions of women and men have marched against Trump like Socialist Students members in London, 4.2.17, photo Sarah Wrack   (Click to enlarge)

Helen Pattison, East London Socialist Party

When I picked up a copy of 'Why I am not a feminist: A feminist manifesto' I thought it was just what I needed to read. A book that calls for the "total dismantling of the system of oppression" sounded appealing.

It sounded appealing because - as its literary critic author Jessa Crispin identifies - the establishment portrays feminism as simply being about getting more female executives, or the first female president of the US, at the top of sexist capitalist structures.

This is opposed to socialist feminism, which fights to end inequality and oppression for all women, as well as the system that prolongs sexism.

But unfortunately this book isn't a useful tool for taking up different ideas about what feminism is and should be, partly because it's quite a confusing read.

Crispin uses very few direct quotes when attacking ideas she disagrees with, so it's often unclear which strand of feminism she is arguing against. She prefers to write imaginary dialogues between her ideas and "other feminists."

But I don't want to read her rebuttal of what she imagines other feminists might say. I want to know what other feminists are actually saying, and why she thinks they are wrong.

Crispin's own ideas are also unclear and contradictory.

'Why I am not a feminist' is an attempt to attack what she sees as mainstream feminism taking the focus away from the massive institutions which maintain sexism, and instead blaming the individual. But ultimately her own "radical" feminism isn't very different.

While feminism shouldn't have a "condescending attitude" towards women in less developed countries and the sexism they face, Crispin takes a condescending tone when she asks the reader to "do something difficult... Look at what you are participating in when you are engaged sexually or romantically with a male partner... Think about how you are contributing to these imbalances through your own personal choices."

She is nostalgic for a time when she believes feminism was "a fringe culture." She equates feminism growing beyond a small group of radicals with it 'selling out' and becoming ineffective.

This is where I disagreed with her the most. We have seen and will see mass movements of women and men against capitalism and sexism. But sadly, in this book, Jessa Crispin seems to conclude that we are not up to the task.






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Related links:

Feminism:

triangleThem and us

triangleHugh Hefner's exploitation of women

triangleInternational Women's Day 2016: Should women support Hillary Clinton?

triangleYork Socialist Party: Marxism and feminism

triangleWomen: fight for equality, fight for socialism

Feminist:

triangleFighting sexism, violence and capitalism - an international struggle

triangle1967 Abortion Act reflected social changes

triangleTheresa May, Frida Kahlo and turning women into wares

triangleInternational Women's Day: taking action against capitalist oppression

Review:

triangleBT pensions review - oppose the attacks on the pension schemes

triangleTV review: Abortion on Trial - hard-hitting look at impact of 1967 act

triangleComprehensive account of bloody conflict

Sexism:

triangleSE London Socialist Students & Socialist Party: #MeToo! - Sexism and how to fight it

triangleTower Hamlets Socialist Party: #metoo - how can we end sexism?

Women:

triangleSocialist Party national women's meeting

Oppression:

triangleWestminster sexual harassment scandal