During last week’s episode of Being Mary Jane (which is one of my favorite shows on television right now) Gabrielle Union’s character Mary Jane Paul, the cable news anchor who is the protagonist of the show, was accused of selling out.
Mary Jane was once at the helm of the show Talk Back with Mary Jane Paul, on which she covered minority issues and other topics often ignored by mainstream media. Recently, however, she was promoted to a highly coveted prime-time position with her station SNC, a move that meant more money and more celebrity, but less opportunities to cover issues of social justice. We’ve seen Mary Jane scoff at having to do stories on heroic puppies, but we’ve also seen her relishing in her new salary and spending allowance — buying a new wardrobe, a $30,000 handbag and even a new Tesla!
On last week’s episode Mary Jane spoke to a journalism class at a local HBCU and one student boldly said to her “You sold out!” and accused her of being more concerned with fame and fortune than reporting the news. Mary Jane quickly replied that she didn’t sell out, she “bought in.” The student’s words, however, haunted her long after she left campus.
They haunted me, too.
Am I a sellout?
When I regularly posted on my personal blog WriteousBabe.com, I built a decent reputation for myself as a feminist writer. I regularly posted about women’s issues from the perspective of southern black feminist on my blog and social media channels. I wasn’t making any money directly from my blog, but I was happy with my rapidly growing number of pageviews and the recognition and writing opportunities I was getting from major women’s publications.
But then See Jane Write — which began as a little networking group for women who write and blog — started getting really, really popular in my hometown. And in the summer of 2014 I met a business coach who convinced me that I could turn See Jane Write into a business. And I did.
Soon all of my blogging efforts turned to the See Jane Write website and away from WriteousBabe.com as I began launching e-courses and offering writing, blogging, and business coaching and consulting. (Obviously, I’m not pulling in enough cash to buy a new Tesla, but I am trending to soon be earning a full-time income from See Jane Write.)
And I’ve been so busy building See Jane Write, there has been hardly any time to see Javacia write! I have no time to work on my own writing goals or on my craft.
Even my social media life has morphed. My feeds, once filled with the musings of feminist activists, is now full of blogging and business tips from my favorite female online entrepreneurs.
I’ll be honest. A part of me is happy to have an online life that’s filled with positivity and professional enrichment especially since nowadays so many people use social media for public shaming, a modern-day virtual pillory, in the name of social justice.
But I can’t help but wonder if I’m burying my head in the sand. I can’t help but ask myself if I sold out.
Like Mary Jane, I want to say I didn’t sell out, I bought in. I want to say that this is just what my feminism looks like now — empowering women to empower themselves through blogging, writing and entrepreneurship; encouraging women to write and live a life worth writing about; equipping women to be the authors of their own lives.
But like MJ, part of me wonders if that’s just a cop-out.
After talking things over with a few folks, Mary Jane considered giving up her prime-time spot and returning to Talk Back. Ironically, it was the woman who has been blackmailing her all season (long story) who gave her the best advice.
“You can’t tear down to build,” she told Mary Jane.
CeCe the extortionist stressed to Mary Jane that young African Americans need to see her face on prime time but reminded her that they also needed to see her reporting more meaningful stories.
By the episode’s conclusion, Mary Jane decided she would attempt to do both Talk Back and her prime-time position. We’ll see on this week’s episode how that works out.
But this is where the life lesson I’m supposed to take from this begins to get muddled.
Am I supposed to figure out a way to build both my personal platform as a feminist writer and See Jane Write. I’ve tried before, but juggling two brands and two blogs is tough, perhaps too tough. In October I attempted to revive WriteousBabe.com, complete with a redesign and brief social media campaign, but See Jane Write quickly took my time and attention again.
Mary Jane may be able to handle two news shows, but this isn’t TV. This is real life. And in my real life I also have a full-time job and a husband who’d like to see me sometimes. I’m not convinced building a personal platform and business simultaneously is feasible for me.
But perhaps it is.
Or perhaps the answer is to cover feminist issues and share carefully crafted personal essays on the See Jane Write website, in addition to the posts on blogging, business, and Birmingham.
I have a rule about not blogging about a problem until I have found a solution, but I’m breaking that rule with this post.
I have no idea what I’m going to do. But somehow I feel that writing this post is getting me one step closer to clarity.
Have you ever felt like a sellout? If so, what did you do?