“Men like to act as if commanding women’s attention is their birthright, their natural due, and they are rarely contradicted. It’s a radical act to refuse them that attention. It’s even more radical to propose that if they want it so fucking much, they can buy it.” from “Where’s My Cut?”: On Unpaid Emotional Labor
Who She Is
Jess Zimmerman lives in Brooklyn. She’s edited and/or written for almost every site you read online. If you want to know about Jess Zimmerman, you really should read her essays. Especially A Midlife Crisis, By Any Other Name. Although, really, how would I know? Here are some of the places she can be found online:
Why You Should Read Her
It feels like a cop-out to say this, but if you love Roxane’s essays, you’ll probably love Jess Zimmerman’s. Like Roxane, Zimmerman can take apart a problem, a situation, even something you didn’t realize was a problem and show you how that thing works, how it worked on her, how it is working on you in ways you hadn’t even noticed. And she can WRITE. She had this to say about Bad Feminist, but I think it could be applied to her own work as well: “Roxane deftly aligns her personal reminiscences alongside observations on culture so that the resonances expose a deeper truth.” Yes, like that.
Zimmerman has taken the best things from academia (the logic, the methodology that allows you to take apart a problem and understand it) and left the garbageshit politics and impenetrable jargon behind. Using her own experience, her own life and emotions, and that same careful methodology she creates a map of our own selves, our own problems and paths in the world. She’s the smart friend who knows your shit better than you do. And she knows other people’s shit too. She takes apart the structural racism, homophobia, and sexism that is difficult for even the most intersectionally sensitive among us to see.
So much of academic and journalistic writing is clinical, detached and presents the world in terms of ‘truths’ and ‘facts’ that are mostly someone’s (or some corporation’s) opinion about things. No one writes about how they feel about a thing unless those feelings are anger (usually manifested as outrage, snark, derision). Jess Zimmerman takes apart these things we think of as truths, but she’s right there with us through it all with her emotions as one of the tools she uses to deconstruct. There’s never a clinical moment, even when Zimmerman is telling us the history of things, the facts, she is present and with us. There is always more than one story, more than one level in her writing, because the world isn’t two-dimensional and she reminds us that emotion is one of those dimensions and it too can be a guide.
Essays and non-fiction in the hands of a skilled writer like Zimmerman become essential guides, maps. Women like Zimmerman risk their lives to save ours, to show us our world as it is or could be. Jess Zimmerman is risking it all so that the rest of us can see the map and the shape of the world and travel through it with a little more confidence, even change it for the better.
Where to Read Her and Find Her Work
“Where’s My Cut?”: On Unpaid Emotional Labor at The Toast.
A Midlife Crisis, By Any Other Name also at Hazlitt: “Everyone wants to turn back time, but those who try risk becoming monsters. I thought if I cast off adulthood, I could go back and find my lost identity and bring her forward into the future. I meant well. We all mean well. But people get hurt.”
Why do men need to watch their girlfriends get catcalled to wake up? at The Daily Dot.
A Warrior Woman’s Work at Hazlitt: “Because what she knows is what Furiosa knows, and what it took me decades to learn: that both “feminine” and “macho” are consensual fictions, designed to keep both women and men in their place. Designed, in fact, to cover up the fact that women’s place is everywhere.”
Why Are All the Female Characters in the Mad Max Comics So Desperately Half-Assed? at Vulture. “Women characters are “harder” because they offer fewer paths for the lazy writer; they feel harder because women-driven stories haven’t had a chance to rise to the pantheon of cliché.”
“FEELING: The pinch in your chest and gut the day after a disappointment you’d convinced yourself you didn’t care about; the feeling that something has slit you bloodlessly like a scalpel and you are now clamped open, peeled and pithed as a frog, all your sensitive organs fully on display.
HOW TO EAT IT: Jello shots” (from A Guide to Eating Very Particular Feelings, Part II)
How a “Bad Feminist” Inspired Me to Become a Better One at Dame Magazine.
When your asshole boyfriend is a philosopher of neuroscience (explicit) podcast at The Story Collider.
Roxane Gay is the editor of The Butter.