Five Questions with Jessa Crispin
While we’re dedicating this month to thinking about The F Word, The Stella Prize and upcoming International Women’s Day, we thought it would be a great idea to have a quick chat with author Jessa Crispin before her talk at Sydney Opera House’s All About Women festival on March 5th!
Here are our five quick Q’s with Jessa, author of Why I am Not a Feminist…
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born in a small, rural town in Kansas, and at 23, while working at Planned Parenthood in Texas, I started a blog and online literary magazine called Bookslut.com. It ran for 16 years. My day job is to read tarot cards, but I’ve done some writing along the way, like the books The Dead Ladies Project and Why I am Not a Feminist, a books column for The Baffler, and contributions to assorted newspapers and magazines. I have lived in Kansas, Texas, Chicago, Ireland, Berlin, and assorted other places. Right now, my library resides in the Hudson River Valley, but I’m thinking of leaving again.
What experiences have shaped your personal approach to feminism?
Well, I came of age in the 90s, during the riot girl, third wave feminism, which related very little to my life. I grew up in a very conservative town and home, where women were supposed to be wives and mothers and anything other than that was seen as a transgression. Then when I was 20, after I had given up on college and my family and moved to Texas, I began working at the education department and sexuality resource library at Planned Parenthood, and began volunteering as an abortion counsellor. There I again saw the disconnect between feminist writing — about self-empowerment, references to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, an emphasis on identity and haircuts and punk rock manicures — and the actual lived lives of women and girls.
My approach has always been practical, how do we actually make women’s lives better, how do we create a culture that is fair not only to women but to absolutely everyone.
Who have been your biggest influcences?
In my teen years, it was Kathy Acker. In my twenties, it was William James. In my thirties, it’s been St Teresa of Avila.
How do you feel about the recent Women’s March? Do you think this approach can effect change?
The Women’s March was this giant NO, and it was beautiful. But a No will only take you so far.
We need to start imagining better worlds, better value systems and better ideas.
We desperately need something to say yes to. For far too long the left has been distracted by personal achievement, lifestyle choices and identity. We’ve judged how well the world was doing by how well we were doing. We need to start thinking collectively. We need to be utopians again.
What book recommendations can you give us ahead of All About Women at the Sydney Opera House?
- Letters to Olga by Vaclav Havel
- Gentrification of the Mind by Sarah Schulman
- King Kong Theory by Virginie Despentes
- Varieties of Religious Experience by William James
- In Memoriam to Identity by Kathy Acker
- Against Marriage by Bruce Benderson
- On the Abolition of Political Parties by Simone Weil
- Close to the Knives by David Wojnarowicz
- The Formation of a Persecuting Society by R I Moore