Are you a feminist?
Do you believe women are human beings and deserve to be treated as such? That women deserve all the same rights and liberties bestowed upon men? If so, then you are a feminist, or so all the feminists keep insisting.
Despite the simplicity and obviousness of the dictionary definition of feminism, and despite years of working at feminist non-profits and decades of advocacy, I am disowning the label. If you asked me today if I am a feminist I would not only say no, I would say no with a sneer.
Don’t worry — this is not where I insist I am not a feminist because I am afraid of being mistaken for one of those hairy-legged, angry, man-hating feminists that are drawn up like bogeymen by men and women alike. Nor will I now reassure you of my approachability, my reasonable nature, my heteronormativity, my love of men and my sexual availability — despite the fact that this disclaimer appears to be a prerequisite for all feminist writing published in the last fifteen years.
If anything, that pose — I am harmless, I am toothless, you can fuck me — is why I find myself rejecting the feminist label: All these bad feminists, all these Talmudic “can you be a feminist and still have a bikini wax?” discussions. All these reassurances to their (male) audiences that they don’t want too much, won’t go too far — “We don’t know what Andrea Dworkin was on about either! Trust us.” All these feminists giving blow-jobs like it’s missionary work.
Somewhere along the way toward female liberation, it was decided that the most effective method was for feminism to become universal. But instead of shaping a world and a philosophy that would become attractive to the masses, a world based on fairness and community and ex- change, it was feminism itself that would have to be rebranded and remarketed for contemporary men and women.
They forgot that for something to be universally accepted, it must become as banal, as non-threatening and ineffective as possible.
Hence the pose. People don’t like change, and so feminism must be as close to the status quo— with minor modifications—in order to recruit large numbers.
In other words, it has to become entirely pointless.
Radical change is scary. It’s terrifying, actually. And the feminism I support is a full-on revolution. Where women are not simply allowed to participate in the world as it already exists—an inherently corrupt world, designed by a patriarchy to subjugate and control and destroy all challengers—but are actively able to re-shape it. Where women do not simply knock on the doors of churches, of governments, of capitalist market- places and politely ask for admittance, but create their own religious systems, governments, and economies. My feminism is not one of incremental change, revealed in the end to be The Same As Ever, But More So. It is a cleansing fire.
Asking for a system that was built for the ex- press purpose of oppression to, “um, please stop oppressing me?” is nonsense work. The only task worth doing is fully dismantling and replacing that system.
This is why I cannot associate myself with a feminism that focuses dementedly on “self- empowerment,” whose goals include not the full destruction of corporate culture but merely a higher percentage of female CEOs and military officers, a feminism that requires no thought, no discomfort, and no real change.
If feminism is universal, if it is something that all women and men can “get on board” with, then it is not for me.
If feminism is nothing more than personal gain disguised as political progress, then it is not for me.
If by declaring myself a feminist I must re- assure you that I am not angry, that I pose no threat, then feminism is definitely not for me.
I am angry. And I do pose a threat.
This is an extract from Why I Am Not a Feminist by Jessa Crispin, published by Black Inc. ($24.99)
Jessa is also touring Australia. for details visit www.blackincbooks.com