An Amazing Career on the Feminist Frontlines
How Jill Filipovic ended up as the Senior Political Writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
Filipovic is the former Senior Political Writer for Cosmopolitan.com, and also has weekly columns at The Guardian, Al Jazeera America, the Huffington Post, and the blog, Feministe. Although she received a law degree from New York University, Filipovic’s first love is writing, and has been since before she could walk. “I always wanted to be a writer. From the time I was a very small child, before I could write, I would dictate stories to my parents and to my aunt, these long narratives.”
Filipovic started college at New York University in August of 2001, studying journalism. Not even a month later, the most devastating terrorist attack to happen on American soil occurred; the plane hijackings and destruction of the World Trade Center. Filipovic’s campus was less than three miles away.
The media’s handling of 9/11 and the Iraq war left a terrible taste her mouth. She was disenchanted from the world of journalism, an industry that the world relies on for the truth. “The media took Bush administration statements at face value without doing any kind of individual corroboration and sold this narrative to the American public. It ended up years later being obvious that the line was totally false.”
She shifted her gears more towards law and politics, focusing on international women’s rights, and put her dream of a career in writing on the backburner. Filipovic’s goal was to help evolve the legal frameworks around legal rights and access to abortion and contraception in countries like Brazil, where abortion is against the law.
Almost immediately into law school, she realized this path of advocacy wasn’t for her. “I think my brain just kind of works in the way they teach you, this sort of hyper rational, hyper logical way of thinking. It made a lot of sense to me,” Filipovic smirks, black painted nails drumming against her paper cup, “But I didn’t find it that exciting.”
To her, lawyers were polishing up a painting that activists had nearly completed, giving the final stamp of legality before the completed project saw gallery time. There was no frontline battle, no turpentine soaked skin to vouch for a job well earned. “I never felt as inspired by legal work as I did by writing.” While she longed for more of an activist position, Filipovic made the best of what she could, helping whomever she could. She received her law degree while doing freelance work and activity blogging.
Two hundred thousand dollars in debt, Filipovic took a job at a large law firm, doing pro bono and asylum work. She was also writing for The Guardian on the side. “Freelance is a constant hustle”, she remembers, as the hum of Hearst grows.
In a room full of powerful people eating kale and mango salads, discussing budgeting issues and human capital through their teeth, Filipovic takes her importance casually. She speaks with a breezy tone, like your best friend from high school that you’re reuniting with over coffee some years later. She looks to connect with you on any level; With something as monumental as abortion policies, or as seemingly trivial as how cute her nose piercing is and how you don’t know if your face could pull that off. Her air is of an author, a dedicated listener of stories, eager to retell them with the justice they deserve. And that’s precisely the road she took after hitting the mental Great Wall of China that stretched through her career of practicing law.