Jessica’s Last Day At The Frisky: Some FAQ

What?! You’re leaving?

Yes, it’s true. Today is my last day at The Frisky!

Where are you going?!

Beginning on October 6, I’ll be the executive editor of YouBeauty.com, a beauty, health and wellness blog.

A beauty blog! But I thought you were a feminist?

I totally am a feminist. And guess what? You can believe in women’s equality and love beauty products, care about healthy eating, and want to find a way to make exercising not suck so much. At The Frisky and everywhere else, I’ve always believed it’s not what you cover, but how you cover it.

The decision to leave is bittersweet, but at the same time, very exciting. I’ve done the odd job interview here or there over the years, but I jumped at the opportunity to lead the team over at YouBeauty: I’ve always loved writing about beauty when I’ve gotten the chance to do it here, I have a job-crush on Sali Hughes over at the Guardian, and much to my husband’s dismay I’m a huuuuuge (but organized!) beauty product hoarder. I’m psyched to focus on a topic that I love, but hasn’t been my main beat. I won’t start until October 6, but you can follow YouBeauty on TwitterFacebook and Pinterest to make sure you don’t miss anything coming up!

Still, it’s pretty impossible right now to imagine not coming to work every day at The Frisky. (I’ve been tearing up repeatedly as I’ve written this post.) We are all so close to each other that I really feel like we are a sisterhood.

I will always remember Sophie as the woman who loaned me my wedding dress and for her utter and complete dignity and grace.

Claire and Katie sit on either side of me like bookends and we spend all day talking, laughing and teasing each other. Claire is one of the sweetest young women I’ve never had the pleasure to mentor and come to call a friend. Katie is one of the strongest women I’ve ever known and she is an absolute blast to be around.

Even if they don’t work here anymore, I feel an instant connection with Winona, Ami and, of course, Simcha (who is now the ridiculously famous nail artist Miss Pop). All of us are still in touch regularly and I’ll always feel that we have each other’s backs.

And Amelia. Oh, Amelia.  I told her recently that my working relationship with her is the longest relationship that I’ve ever been in and it’s true. For the past six years, we have shared both the best and the worst times of our lives within the office; deciding to leave The Frisky had somewhat the same intensity as initiating a breakup. A huge part of the reason that I am who I am today is thanks to Amelia. She feels more like a big sister than a boss; she gave me so many opportunities and encouragement to change and grow, both as a thinker and a writer but also as a woman. I will always be grateful to Amelia for the many the blessings — personal and professional — that have come into my life as a result of being here.

I’ve also grown close to some members of the Frisky community. I count Rionator (Maddie) and LR52185 (Logan) among my good friends now; I have spent many a workday chatting with Applescruff (AJ). I once was at a party and a woman came up to me and said she recognized me from “What Are We Wearing Today?” She’s now one of my closest girl friends. “Internet commenters” as a group get so much attention for being trolls and jerks, but there are plenty of decent people out there, too. I feel so lucky that I’ve grown close to a few.

But … but … but … you’re leaving The Frisky

I know!  After six years!  That’s like a lifetime in Internet years. It’s crazy! When I started working here, I was 24-years-old, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young sprite. I’m leaving as a 30-year-old who feels, in a lot of ways, like a completely different person. All in good ways, though — I’m stronger, more empathetic, more mature, and most importantly, happier.

But, to be completely honest, I feel pretty burnt out from the type of ladyblogging I do.  A few months ago I wrote a piece called “Sometimes I Wish I Hadn’t Written So Much About Sex” and every thing I wrote there is still true. As recently as Monday, I got a long, unsolicited email from a guy my father’s age who wrote a graphically sexual missive. Some version of that email happens all the time.  I’m a strong woman, but I’m not made of stone. A person cannot be exposed to / write about rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, bigotry, racism, incest, etc. every single day without being emotionally affected by all of the injustice and ugliness in the world. I don’t think that blogging about hair and skin care and beauty will be be easy by any means, but I’m pretty sure it won’t make me cry!

Even though I expect to be far less well-informed as a result of not compiling Today’s Lady News every day, I’m really looking forward to engaging with women’s issues online now as just a reader. That’s going to be strange, to just read a news story about abortion or gay marriage and not blog about it!

Okay … I can accept you’re leaving … but was it something we said?

Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. How I’ve felt about what I do here has changed. I posted on Facebook last weekend that I was leaving The Frisky. In my FB post, I mentioned something about being “burnt out by sexism and trolls.” I meant that glibly (yet truthfully) and in the past few days, an editor at another women’s publication reached out to me asking if she could interview me about “women being driven off the Internet by misogyny.”

Well, I’m not being “driven off the Internet”; I am going to work at another blog. But I also think that “misogyny” is rather reductive way to summarize what I’ve been exposed to by writing online. There no doubt are misogynists, bigots and deeply disturbed people out there — and it’s my good fortune that many of them seem to have flocked to more vocally liberal blogs. No one was putting rape porn in our comment threads, is what I’m saying. Mostly what I have found extremely draining about the public aspect of this job has been the ability of people to anonymously comment and be as mean as they want, or make untrue assertions that go checked. It’s frustrating to see that whether it’s someone’s pseudo-scientific proclamation about abortion or victim-blaming about sexual assault or even just a mean comment about my belly fat. In my own experience blogging, I’ve long experienced women as being more horrible to me than men ever were. Men would send dick pics or write sexually inappropriate emails but it’s women — or at least, commenters/emails coming from female-named accounts — who have sent the most blistering nastiness.

Alas, if those are my biggest complaints, I’m lucky. I feel privileged compared to how other writers, especially women of color and LGBTQ folks, are treated online. I have not been “driven” from a job I love; no one has targeted my home or my family; I haven’t received serious rape threats or death threats. The bad people are few, albeit loud. Supportive communities do exist but all of us — especially feminists — could support each other better.

For many years, I’ve written about feminism, politics, beauty, fashion, home decorating, dating, relationships, my sexuality, my family, my friends, my marriage, my body image, and my mental health. I do have some areas of my life that I’ve kept completely private — namely involving my family — but mostly I’ve lived my life transparently online.

And I was fine with that. Friends and family could be a little incredulous about it — Really, you write about your sex life?! — and there are some feminist bloggers who are snotty about “confessional” writing, but it always seemed like a cool job to me. Personal exposure didn’t really make me uncomfortable; it made dating more difficult, to be sure, but then I found someone who didn’t care, and in fact, did it himself in his standup comedy.

My ease with personal exposure was also helped, to a certain extent, by the fact Jessica The Frisky Blogger is a different person from me in my every day life. In blog posts I sometimes come across as loud, bossy and opinionated, but in real life, I’m friendly, sweet, and actually sort of shy. Amelia once compared me to Sybil Crawley on “Downton Abbey” and I think that’s accurate. Both of my best friends, Lilit and Carrie, have me told me that they were intimidated by me before we ever met just from reading my writing online. I get a total kick out of that, because I am so, so, so not intimidating.

But I also … just  … don’t … care what other people think of me. Fundamentally, to me at least, feminism is about getting rid of the stigma and shame around  things that are supposed to embarrass women. To paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt,  no one can make you feel ashamed or embarrassed about something that you like about yourself. And one thing I am sure of after six years writing very personal stuff online is that I don’t need everyone to like me.  I’m not ashamed to enjoy sex, and I’m not ashamed to have lots of opinions, and I’m not ashamed to feel anxious or depressed sometimes, and I’m not ashamed to be a little overweight, and I’m not ashamed to be kinky and bisexual-ish.

These are the things who make who I am.

I love who I am.

I recently heard Mary Lambert’s song “Secrets” and it was like someone took the words right out of my head:

All that being said, my willingness to put myself out there pivoted, I think, when I got married last year — a  year ago next week, in fact. I have another person to think about now and quite simply, I feel more protective of him and of us as a couple. I didn’t necessarily feel that way at first,  but when I saw how Kale was treated by some a small but vocal minority Internet commenters, I felt a much stronger desire to be more private. It broke my heart to read to see spiteful, untruthful things written about him. Ultimately, I realized I am the one in control of how much information I share about him and about us.

Simply put, there’s a difference between being ashamed if you share yourself or being threatened if you share yourself and not wanting to share yourself. I am consciously, gratefully choosing the latter.

Well, okay. Will you be gone forever though?

I would love to still contribute to The Frisky occasionally if I have time in the future. AND IF AMELIA CAN AFFORD ME HA HA HA. Mostly, though, my future is dedicated to rocking out at YouBeauty and I’ll be throwing myself into it with the same zeal I threw myself into the Frisky!

I’ll still be able to read emails at [email protected] for a few weeks; going forward, I’ll be [email protected] (note, not Jessica but Jess). If you want to access my brain goop more closely, however, you can follow me on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram (which is mostly me forcing Kale to take selfies with me.)  I lost the URL JessicaWakeman.com, however, to someone else with my same name — dammit.

Fiiiiiiiiine. But before you go, do you have a ridiculous picture of you and Amelia wearing lobster hats you can share?

As a matter of fact, I do:

amelia lobster

How about one where Amelia’s holding a large rubber breast that got sent to us in the mail for some reason?

I’ve got that, too.

amelia boob

What about one where you’re inexplicably dressed in a “sexy panda” out?

You got it. (It was a Halloween costume, okay?)

jess panda costume

Well, that was embarrassing.

But seriously: I’ve worked enough jobs that sucked to know when I have completely lucked out. This was one of them.  Thank you to every single person who ever clicked a link, shared a post, emailed me an idea for a story, and most especially, sent me an encouraging message or email, either to me personally or to one of the many women writers whose pieces I’ve published anonymously. Kindness and community have meant more to me than you could ever know. I’m proud of the work I’ve done at The Frisky and leaving the place that defined my 20s is truly bittersweet. Keep in touch.