Have you ever wondered how people use social media and technology to carve themselves out as an expert? Then, you may want to continue reading this article. Recently, SWH had the opportunity to catch up with Feminista Jones who used social media and blogging to craft a web presence that has led to a guest appearance on Dr. Oz, column for Ebony Magazine, and more. Ms. Jones discusses with SWH how she developed her web persona and crafted herself as an expert in love and relationships.
SWH: Tell us a bit about your background and how the Feminista Jones (Persona) was born?
I began blogging humorously about the connections between sex, feminism, kink, relationships, etc. about 2 1/2 years ago and took on the moniker “Feminista Jones” combining the label “Feminista” from the Erica Kennedy book of the same name and the Blaxploitation character “Cleopatra Jones”. Jones is also a common surname for African-Americans, so I took it on to represent my Black Feminism, which I think differs from standard definitions and understandings of “feminism”.
At first, I was rather tongue-in-cheek; it was me engaging readers in conversations about approaches to relationships and sex in humorous ways. I began to realize that I had an audience and people were truly listening to what I was saying and sharing it with others. I realized that I could use this audience to spread a more serious, relevant message and I began to make a transition. I decided to approach sex, sexuality, and discussions about relationships from a sex-positive feminist perspective. The rest is history.
SWH: How useful is your social work skill set when giving advice on sex and love?
I use my social work experience and knowledge in everything that I do. I’ve been in the field over ten years and it is fundamentally part of who I am and has greatly shaped and informed my world view. When giving advice on sex and love, I always take in what’s being said and focus on what’s not being said. Everyone has a story and while we don’t always get the intimate details during the first encounter, there are often context clues that allude to there being a larger issue. My work is person-centered and recovery-oriented, so when giving advice, I try to put myself in the person’s shoes and get a sense of how s/he arrived at this particular point in time and this place.
Sometimes, people are hesitant because they don’t know if they can trust me or if they can be safe with me. To date, I’ve never revealed an identity, never “outed” anyone. People who have been supporting me for a while know this, word spreads, and people feel safe. They also know that I’m going to give them my honest opinion. In my social work practice, I never feed people lies or sell them impossible hopes. I’m known for “keeping it real” with consumers and program participants. It’s how I connect with them. I meet people where they are and approach each person’s situation and story as though I know nothing at all. No judgments. No abuse of authority. Just someone who cares, is willing to listen, and wants to help.
SWH: How has blogging and social media affected your career and your ability to reach others?
Blogging and social media have helped me tremendously! On the social work end, I’ve been able to connect and network with others in the field who are doing amazing work in different cities, states, and even countries. On the media end, I’ve been able to secure three freelance positions that allow me to not only earn more money, but expand my reach in various media (print, video, radio, etc). I’ve been able to grow a strong and supportive base which is important to me. The more people connect to what I say, the more they share it with others, and the greater the chance that someone who is struggling can hear it or read it and feel encouraged and connected.
SWH: What advice would you give other social workers who want to carve themselves out as an expert?
I would say focus on something you are truly passionate about. As a sex-positive feminist, it is important that I’m able to get the message out that we, women especially, are free to do whatever it is that we choose to do with our bodies, our minds, our careers, etc. It is important for me to challenge the stereotypes, break down barriers, and challenge centuries-old archaic structures that imprison women, imprison us all. I don’t know if I would call myself an expert. I just know that I am very invested in learning everything I can about the things I care most about and helping those who might be in need of assistance.
I’ve become good as what I do because I continue to care about what I do. Once you stop caring, your work suffers. I’ve known since I was a young girl that I wanted to help people and now I’ve been given the opportunity to do, in several ways. People ought to follow their passion and hone the skills required to be successful in whatever direction their passions lead them.
SWH: What aspirations do you have for Feminista Jones? Politics, radio, or more print media?
I would love to have my own TV show where I get to help women across the country and the world who feel helpless or hopeless find ways to feel empowered. I also want to contribute my knowledge and expertise toward efforts that will bring social media to the center of social work practice. I’m currently working on that in graduate school and within my agency, by developing procedures related to using social media to both train staff and assist clients/consumers in becoming more socially, familial, and community-connected.
I just started a podcast and I’m enjoying radio as a medium. I love my newest position as a section editor with BlogHer.com. I’m a writer, first and foremost (passion-wise), so being able to write for an entity like Ebony.com has been amazing. I grew up reading Ebony! The editing is great because I get to help other women share their thoughts and have their voices heard. It feels good to support people as others have supported me. Right now, I’m simply enjoying the opportunities I’ve been given.