By Jaclyn Munson
Someone asked me recently how I became a writer. I’m always curious about why people ask me this rather than why I became a writer- specifically, a feminist writer. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to make equality and reproductive access a priority. This has been marinating for a long time and after suffering from anorexia, enduring two emotionally abusive relationships with ex-boyfriends and being sexually harassed by my former boss and other male colleagues, I needed a space to empower myself. Onward and F-Word came not long after I reported my former boss’s sexual harassment to HR and was asked, “well, what do you want us to do about it?” and right before I left that job for another, where I now work with a bunch of really badass women.
I had wrongly assumed that people would agree with what I would go on to write and would support or at the very least, respect, my work. Having been through some pretty traumatic experiences, some of which I attribute to patriarchal oppression, one would think I’d be prepared for opposition. I expected to be trolled on social media platforms by fringe pro-life advocates or MRAs (I am, and it’s annoying) but never expected it to come from my own microsystem.
Shortly after launching my blog and getting published a few times, I was having dinner with some girlfriends and lamented over dating issues. I’m the first one to admit that I’m picky but in relationships, you kind of have to be. We should have expectations, right? It’s how we sustain our own emotional stability and make sure we’re dating someone who recognizes our self-worth. For me, I expect to be in a relationship that is gender equal and could not, under any circumstances, be with someone who did not support a women’s right to choose. I will only date someone who is pro-choice. I’m not asking to date an activist because this work isn’t for everyone but you’ve got to be down with reproductive rights, which is a huge part of my life. Fin.
“You really need to tone down this feminist stuff if you want to get a boyfriend,” my friend said. She wasn’t the first to say this and hasn’t been the last since she did.
Not only was the insinuation that I can’t get a boyfriend unless I’m more submissive or accommodating of the very systems (‘systems’ being the idea that women shouldn’t be too opinionated or they’ll never get a boyfriend. Clutch your pearls, folks) I am fighting against offensive, but calling it ‘feminist stuff’ was unnerving. This ‘stuff’ has helped women make more money at work (thanks, Lily Ledbetter!). It has allowed women to enter the workforce. It has helped women vote. It extended the right of privacy to include a right to an abortion. It has literally allowed women to stand in the spaces we are in today. Hamburger Helper is ‘stuff.’ My garbage is filled with ‘stuff.’ Feminism is not stuff. While this work involves challenging and disrupting the entire foundation upon which our social, economic and political systems were founded, it is necessary, and I can’t quite understand people who demean those trying to work to make the world better.
Now, I’m well aware I can be a difficult person to have a conversation with, relative to most women my age. I am hyper-sensitive to racist and sexist jokes (they’re still not funny! Find some new material), I am a political nerd and my favorite water-cooler discussions involve advances in good faith (and good policy) legislation and who’s ass is getting canned next in the Christie bridge debacle. I’ve found a great group of friends who also have similar interests and that community is so, so important to me. It’s necessary to have people in your life that are on the same page as you.
But, people have been turned off by me- specifically, people who have known me for a long time and who have just recently become aware of my politics. I have been told I’m “polarizing,” “different,” “too caught up in my writing” and that my work in women’s rights is a “whirlwind passion,” something the accuser equated with my short-lived attempt at veganism. Because, you know, trying not to eat cheese is the same thing as advocating for equality. Yet, it’s these same people who are offended by my work that refer to it as ‘stuff.’ These are the same people who suggest I change my personality and interests so I can get a boyfriend, as if conquering the world of dating is the most important thing I will ever do. These are the same people who refuse to challenge the structures around them or recognize their own privilege and action perpetuate the inequality that exists today. These are also the same people who exist as a reminder about why feminism exists, too.
There is nothing popular, trendy or comfortable about what I do. But I’m not here to make people comfortable- comfort and stability for the majority are what have perpetuated oppression in the minority. It is my belief that because I have energy to do this work, that I am obligated to do it. I believe in it. I won’t apologize for having a voice, and I certainly won’t apologize for using it.