Jessa Crispin: why she's not a feminist

From Saturday Morning, 11:06 am on 4 March 2017
Jessa Crispin

Jessa Crispin Photo: supplied

Contemporary feminism has lost its way, says writer Jessa Crispin. 

She tells Kim Hill the divide between the rhetoric of the movement and the real-life experience of women is only getting bigger.

The unquestioning support prominent feminists such as Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright gave to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign exemplifies the problem, Crispin says.

"Why are we supporting a woman who assisted the breakdown of the social welfare programmes in America that have left so many women, and especially others, vulnerable? Why are we supporting a woman who has campaigned for military interventions that have resulted in suffering and death for women worldwide?"

The feminist movement needs to take a better look at its goals and values, she says.

"If a woman attains a level of power where now she can cause the suffering of people worldwide or she can write policies that increase the suffering of the poor and women and vulnerable, that doesn't make a fairer world, that doesn't do anything, that doesn't destroy the patriarchy – that just means that now a woman is ruling the patriarchy.

"It doesn't create a better world for women, it just creates a better world for a few women."

Public vilification of figures such as the English scientist Tim Hunt (who was accused of making sexist remarks at a conference in 2015) doesn't actually help women. "Taking someone down" for misogyny may feel empowering, but it only contributes to a culture of fear and resentment, she says.

"What does that do? Does that actually decrease the amount of misogyny in the world? No. Calling for somebody's head or their job because they say the wrong thing, what does that actually achieve?"

Lena Dunham and other self-appointed representatives of the women's movement have a need for personal authenticity which can make them insensitive to the everyday suffering of most women in the US, she says.

"[Dunham] represents this kind of blind privilege, this kind of unaware, rich, white lady who doesn't understand what's actually at stake."

Crispin's own values system took a lot of work to define and takes a lot of work to live by, she says.

"We absorb a lot of the values of culture just by virtue of living in it – those values of selfishness and competition and greed. To remove them from yourself you do need some conscious awareness that you have taken on these values as your own and they need to be replaced.

"If your priority is something other than comfort and security, if it's meaning, then that immediately shifts what you're looking for in your life and it shifts how you exist on the planet, even."

Jessa Crispin is the editor and founder of Bookslut, and the literary journal Spolia. She is the author of The Dead Ladies Project and The Creative Tarot, and has written for the New York Times, the Guardian, and The Washington Post, among other publications. Jessa's latest book is Why I Am Not a Feminist, which focuses on what she believes are the disappointments of 'third wave' feminism.

Jessa will appear by satellite at the All About Women Satellite Event at Auckland Museum and the Christchurch Art Gallery on March 5th, and will be in Wellington in conversation with Jo Randerson on March 9th. Her Australasian visit is a partnership between the Adelaide's Writer's Festival, the Sydney Opera House, and Wellington lit-crawl event organisers Pirate & Queen.