The Current

Why this literary critic rejects modern-day feminism

When a radical movement moves into the mainstream, is that a mark of its success? Or has it been co-opted? In the fight for rights, culture and literary critic Jessa Crispin says not everyone is a worthy fighter. So who gets to be a feminist?
'I feel like women lose a lot of time and energy hand-holding men who ultimately are resistant to feminist ideas', says Jessa Crispin, author of Why I Am Not A Feminist. (Courtesy of Jessa Crispin)

Read story transcript

Jessa Crispin is not a feminist.

The culture and literary critic has even written a feminist manifesto, Why I Am Not A Feminist, to declare why she flat out rejects the label.

"I think the word has become so empty because it has become so co-opted by Ivanka Trump, by Taylor Swift, by pop stars, by shoe companies, and so now when somebody says I'm a feminist or this is a feminist belief, it doesn't convey information. It doesn't pinpoint what your philosophical viewpoint is anymore in the way that it used to," Crispin tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.  
Ivanka Trump, daughter of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is part of a lean-in feminism where Jessa Crispin says the goal is to make more money and obtain positions of power. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Crispin defines feminism this way: "To me, feminism means that every human being on the planet has as much value as any other human being, that regardless of sexuality, regardless of race, regardless of gender, that there is no hierarchy."

She says Ivanka Trump and Taylor Swift are not feminists because they're both working in their own self-interests. 

"Feminism used to be a political ideology. Ivanka Trump's ideology is money and power, and Taylor Swift's ideology is money and power and so that just by the basic definition of trying to live in a society without hierarchy — that's a complete and total contradiction," Crispin says.

It's not enough to just call yourself a feminist, Crispin points out.

"You can call yourself a unicorn, that doesn't make you a unicorn."

(slappytheseal/flickr cc)

She says there's a specific history of thought and action, an intellectual history of feminism that can't be ignored if you want to call yourself a feminist.

As for the goal of feminism, Crispin believes "there's never going to be just one particular overriding goal except for the dismantling  of systems of oppression."

"Personally I think that there's no way to destroy those hierarchies without removing or radically re-thinking capitalism and our current economy because our economy is entirely dependent on exploitation of the poor and women and the vulnerable," Crispin explains.

"I don't think there's any gender justice unless there's also economic justice and racial justice and international justice."

Crispin says mainstream feminism has become toothless and ineffective.

"The idea of universal feminism — all women should be feminists — I don't think that's true."

"Feminism used to be a radical terrifying thing … Now it's just a t-shirt, and a slogan, and Beyonce standing in front of the word on stage."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Willow Smith.

now