Meet Jessamyn from Museum Hack

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Happy Feminist Wednesday! This week we chatted with Jessamyn from Museum Hack about her background in theater for social justice, why poetry is her favorite form of self-care, and how feminism helps her battle imposture syndrome. 

Introduce yourself to our Betty's- tell us who you are and what you do?

I'm Jessamyn Fitzpatrick - Renegade Tour Guide for Museum Hack in Chicago, (also an artist, performer, teaching artist, sex educator & sexual assault prevention educator)  

Tell us how you got started in your craft?

I started theatre when I was a little kid in the Chicago and I just fell in love with performing and creating in collaborative art environments. High School was when I really delved into feminism and gender studies - around that time I was writing and performing a lot, and I was lucky enough to have parents who were both creative and really encouraged me towards that kind of expression. So when I got to college, I was interested in pursuing all things related to gender and performance, which is what put me down the path of theater for social justice.

Since graduation, I've worked almost exclusively in those kinds of contexts - looking for ways to activate community spaces in conversation around sexual health and reproductive justice through artistic expression.

Museum Hack I discovered when I was looking for a new, curiosity driven work environment, and I was really inspired by the organization's commitment to creating interactive artistic experiences, and taking new, fresh and forward thinking perspectives on art - a field which is often riddled with stuffy elitism. I was really excited to work with a company that is young, passionate, and committed to reclaiming a populist perspective on art and artists.  

Tell us why feminism is important to you and how it influences your work?

I think it's human nature to seek to know yourself and share it as authentically as possible with others. For me, feminism is about taking a hard long look at the ways we've structured our society to impede on certain folks' ability to stand in their truths - to have agency over their own narrative. And once you've taken that long hard look, it's about correcting those structures. Breaking them down and building the world we want to see.

I don't think injustice is ever hard to see, but it can sometimes feel terrifyingly impossible to eradicate, and for me feminism is about stepping into that uncertainty and fear with optimism and hope.

Feminism is about seeking equality and fighting against the systems that promote injustice. And for me that is about all aspects of someone's identity - gender, race, sexual orientation, class - true feminism can't exist without taking those identities into consideration also.

I think that as far as my work, most concretely, I'm always interested in looking at who is telling the narrative and who is audience? Is this a story where a woman has become a prop or a mouthpiece for someone else's ideology? Is this art expansive in its conception of gender? Is this falling into the trap of painting womanhood or femaleness as one rigid thing, rather than a myriad of things? Those are questions I go in with now as a viewer and a creator of work. Whose narrative do we hear and whose is being silenced, and how can we close that gap?  

What do you do to avoid feminist burnout? Whats your favorite self care practice?

Poetry is almost always a guaranteed soul soother for me. Anything by Rupi Kaur or ee cummings generally leaves me hopeful and more relaxed.

And as far as struggling with burnout specific to feminism, I think it is always 100% ok to give yourself permission to turn down the political part of your brain for 30 minutes to go watch that trashy reality show you love, even the one that doesn't square with your feminism.

We need to be patient with our own contradictions. And then recently I've found it both humbling and calming to delve into the personal life of feminist icons of mine. Just to humanize them a bit and remind myself that even badasses like Frida Kahlo suffered from heartbreak, or Sylvia Plath dealt with doubt. That's part of what I loved about developing the content for Museum Hack's "Badass Bitches of the Art Institute" tour - I got to learn about some incredible women, to celebrate their epic achievements but also relate on certain levels to their struggles, and how they lived in their own contradictions also.

I think we really become our own worst enemies sometimes when we criticize ourselves as "bad feminists" (Huge shoutout to Roxane Gay for that book!) because it just shuts down our humanity. So I really love listening to interviews with other women, especially funny women, or podcasts hosted by women, just to feel a larger sense of connectedness with people who are fighting the feminist fight but also down to earth about their own personal foibles and quirks. Drinking some good wine also works wonders.  

Do you have any advice for anyone starting out in your field?

I think that especially in work like I do with Museum Hack, or any of my other public engagement type work, the biggest thing I've had to contend with is my own imposter syndrome. I've struggled with a  desire to only do something if I think I can do it "right" (which is really code for "perfect", especially as a woman).

I listened to this great TED talk once about the struggles that are created by teaching boys to be brave and girls to be perfect in school, and it really changed my perspective on how I approached work in general. Perfect is boring, (beyond being unattainable). And I would rather be relatable than perfect, or simply "nice". Even if that means being messy sometimes.

I think that biggest gift you can give yourself is faith in your own knowledge, and permission to fail epically if it means you will learn something new. The people that inspire me the most are people who are willing to put their hat in the ring for something they've never done before, willing to fail in order to grow and still able to maintain a sense of humor about their own process getting there.  

How can our Betty's support you?

If you want to come nerd out on some badass feminist art with our Museum Hack teams, check out our Badass Bitches tours now running in NYC, Chicago, DC, LA & San Francisco! Check us out at: https://museumhack.com