Feminist Fridays

Feminist Fridays: Abbi Jacobson on women in the workplace, anxiety, and personal identity


I read Abbi Jacobson’s memoir I Might Regret This without knowing anything more about her other than what was in the biographical blurb on the back cover. One of my best friends read this book and then immediately recommended it to me and actually gave me her physical copy, which is how I knew she meant business. People recommend books to me all the time because they know I like to read, and I try to remember to write them all down or add them to my Goodreads list. But if one of my friends hands me a physical book and says, “Read this,” I absolutely will.

What I learned in the process of reading this memoir (and in reading her Wikipedia page after the fact) is that Abbi Jacobson is a comedian, writer, and actress best known for the Comedy Central series Broad City that she co-created and wrote with Ilana Glazer. I’ve never seen Broad City before, but watching it definitely isn’t a prerequisite for reading her memoir. I Might Regret This: Essays, Drawings, Vulnerabilities, and Other Stuff is a collection of personal essays structured around a road trip she takes across the country by herself. However, throughout these essays Jacobson weaves in and out of her past, discussing her most recent relationship that ended, her childhood, her experiences breaking into comedy and television, and exploring her sexuality as a woman.

Today I’d like to highlight some parts of I Might Regret This that really stood out to me in terms of a feminist perspective.

Women in the workplace

One of the most powerful parts of this memoir is when Abbi talks about how women are often treated in the workplace. This quote in particular stood out to me:

“I’m done being polite about this bullshit. My list of professional insecurities entirely stems from being a young woman. Big plot twist there! As much as I like to execute equality instead of discussing the blaring inequality, the latter is still necessary. Everything, everywhere, is still necessary. The more women who take on leadership positions, the more representation of women in power will affect and shift the deep-rooted misogyny of our culture—perhaps erasing a lot of these inherent and inward concerns. But whether a woman is a boss or not isn’t even what I’m talking about—I’m talking about when she is, because even when she manages to climb up to the top, there’s much more to do, much more to change. When a woman is in charge, there are still unspoken ideas, presumptions, and judgments being thrown up into the invisible, terribly lit air in any office or workplace. And I’m a white woman in a leadership position—I can only speak from my point of view. The challenges that women of color face in the workforce are even greater, the hurdles even higher, the pay gap even wider. The ingrained, unconscious bias is even stronger against them. It’s overwhelming to think about the amount of restructuring and realigning we have to do, mentally and physically, to create equality, but it starts with acknowledging the difference, the problem, over and over.”

Jacobson isn’t afraid to point out what we sometimes like to ignore: the fact that although we are making great strides in the workplace as women, there are still biases against us that we face every single day. And the most frustrating part about this kind of inequality is that it is deeply entrenched in individual actions, responses, and prejudices. This kind of inequality requires more than promoting a woman to a higher position; it means treating her justly when she is working in that position. How do we make this change effectively, culturally, and systemically? These are the sorts of questions Jacobson raises through talking about her own experiences as the co-creator of a Comedy Central series.

Why yes, I did take all of these photos in my car one day before work.

Anxiety

Jacobson captures the feeling of an anxious mind so perceptively in her long, seemingly random ramblings about mundane things, such as in this quote:

“This fucking top sheet. How do people sleep when this top sheet is tucked in so tightly? I can’t even fit my feet under here. Why do they always make it so tight? I guess the bed is supposed to look nice and made when you come in, and then it just gets ruined on a daily basis. What a stupid thing to be annoyed about, the top sheet. People are suffering in the world, everywhere, in terrible ways, and I’m in a hotel bed, annoyed at my fucking top sheet. What an asshole.”

As a comedian, Jacobson often portrays her anxiety in a humorous light in this book. However, anxiety isn’t always funny, or sexy, or easy to convey to others, and she emphasizes those aspects of it as well. Anxiety is a difficult subject to discuss, and I give Jacobson a lot of credit for how she handles it in this memoir. It made me feel as though I’m not alone in my struggles with anxiety: even Abbi Jacobson, a successful writer and actress and comedian, struggles with anxiety, too.

Identity

Jacobson explores numerous different aspects of identity in this book, from mental health and sexuality to religion, socioeconomic status, and even relationship status. As someone reading I Might Regret This in the aftermath of a breakup, I greatly appreciated the way Jacobson talked about her journey to feeling empowered in single life:

“I shook my own hand and started the rest of my life with myself anew: I’ll go where I want to go, buy what I want with the money I’ve earned, order whatever takeout I want with disproportionate sodas, do and see what I yearn to experience in the world, even if it means I go alone. If I made those plans for myself without setting any expectation of there being someone beside me, then I could never be disappointed because I was making that choice!”

I read this quote at a time when I really needed to, and it really resonated with me. And perhaps that’s what I liked the most about I Might Regret This in general: Jacobson discusses her life experiences in a way that makes they easy to relate to.

Voice

Is this memoir perfect? No. It’s a bit repetitive at times and includes a lot of tiny, mundane details that we don’t really need to know. But there’s something to be said for the way every bit of this book screams Abbi Jacobson: the lists, the drawings, the essay titles, the writing itself. And I just love how she addresses different audiences throughout the essays:

“Mediocrity isn’t a part of the successful women’s handbook, but I’m sorry, boys, for you it is. Women have to push harder, jump farther, stay later, think better, shit faster, all while trying their best to maintain whatever society says today their body should look like, how they should parent, what they should wear, when they should find love, what’s inappropriate for them to do, say, be, feel, or fuck. The outward pressures are constant, but the inward congestion of doubts and insecurities are sometimes louder—women really can have it all!”

All in all, I am so glad that I followed my friend’s glowing recommendation and gave I Might Regret This a try. I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in memoir, feminism, comedy, road trips across the United States, or in reading something that will help them get through a break up.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Feminist Friday discussion! As always, you can check out my other Feminist Fridays posts here. I’d love to hear of any topics you would like me to discuss in future posts!

Have you read I Might Regret This? Are you a fan of Broad City? Have any memoirs written by women that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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