The Liberal Jane
To be liberal in this world means a lot of things, but the most important thing it can mean it is to stand up for what you believe in and to help others whenever you can. This is exactly why Liberal Jane is the perfect liberal. Caitlin Blunnie, otherwise known as Liberal Jane, is a kick butt illustrator with a lot to say! Her art speaks volumes about the current issues, especially women’s rights and being pro-choice. In addition to making colorfully powerful pieces of art, Caitlin is a clinic escort. Please read further to learn more about this inspiring liberal in Jejune’s exclusive interview below.
Jejune loves the name Liberal Jane, did that come from the idea of being any liberal woman? If not, what inspired it?
There is actually a story behind the name Liberal Jane! I grew up pretty conservatively, and my dad, who is pretty far right, was upset when I went off to college and was exposed to progressive ideas. We would often talk (read: yell) over the phone about politics, and one day he just responded to my argument with, “Okay Liberal Jane.”
The name stuck, especially when I got deeper into my activist work. I decided to keep what became a family nickname and use it online as an alias. While I’m no longer anonymous online, the name is very sentimental to me!
What is the medium you use to create your art?
I create my illustrations digitally! I do have a sketchbook that I use for concept sketches before moving over to my drawing tablet.
You seem to be passionate about many issues, but abortion seems to really stand out for you. Why is abortion such a hot issue for you?
Having access to abortion is an essential part of achieving social justice. There is such stigma surrounding abortion that it can be difficult to have real conversations about it. In my work, I aim to create positive abortion messaging that breaks stigma and helps inspire real discourse.
The reality is that abortion is a fact of life for so many women and people (1 in 4 women in the US will have one before 45). We should have inclusive positive messaging to highlight those experiences and talk about abortion for what it is: basic healthcare. Frankly, I think this is some of the most important work I do, especially at a time when the ‘pro-life’ movement is using rhetoric that is dehumanizing and working to criminalize people who have and provide abortion care.
You have worked as a clinic escort. Can you please tell our readers a little bit about your experiences being a clinic escort?
I started clinic escorting about a year ago at a local clinic in Virginia. Escorting means a lot of early and cold Saturday mornings that consist of standing outside in a bright orange vest and escorting patients in. The clinic I escort at has a large anti-choice presence, and on any given Saturday there can be 10-100+ protestors.
How did you get involved in that?
I wanted to learn more about clinic and abortion access in my area, and met someone who ran a clinic defense task force. I actually went to the training hoping to learn about non-engagement, but saw how important the work was and began escorting shortly after.
How would you recommend others get involved in it?
I would recommend doing a search for local clinic escorts in your area. Some places in the United States have clinic escort groups, while other places have escorts directly through the clinic. Please be sure to go through an established program or reach out to your local clinic. It is never okay to just to ‘show up’ to try to help patients.
If your local clinic does not have or allow escorts, don’t fret! There are a ton of other ways to have a direct impact on abortion access in your area. Check out the National Network of Abortion Funds to see if there is an abortion fund in your area. Funds often need help with case management, volunteer recruitment, and more!
What got you started in making socially aware art?
I started making illustrations after I started working in nonprofit to air out my frustrations and grievances. I became committed to making this type of art after an incident where a co-worker publicly spoke out against trans folks on behalf of the organization. In response the nonprofit I worked at didn’t take any measures to correct her statement, and when I spoke out, I was promptly put back in my place because I was in an entry level position.
If you look at some of the early art, pieces like “Sisters not Cisters” were created directly in response to that incident.
I’m lucky to now work at a nonprofit that is very supportive of my artwork and opinions.
What are some other issues that you are passionate about?
I’m especially passionate about migrant justice, and abolishing ICE. Income inequality and criminal justice reform are also issues that are close to my heart.
Where would you like to see women’s reproductive rights to be?
In an ideal world, everyone would have access to the resources they need to exercise reproductive freedom. The actualizing the reproductive justice framework, which is defined as the right to not have children, the right to have children, and the right to live and raise children in safe and healthy communities, is key in overcoming reproductive oppression. We need a world where women and people are trusted to make informed decisions about their bodies. That means not only expanding access to abortion, but addressing issues like the maternal mortality crisis among Black women.
What do you think it means to be feminist nowadays?
Feminism has always been about gender equality. However, today’s feminism is also about understanding that oppression is intersectional, and needs to be addressed as such. Feminism for me is about seeking to achieve social justice, and standing in solidarity with others fighting oppression.
One quote that inspires my feminism is, “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together” from Aboriginal Activists in Queensland.
Do you feel that women’s rights have gotten better or worse over the years in America?
Being able to have and exercise bodily autonomy is an essential part of gender equality. With the increased attacks on our reproductive rights and access to abortion becoming increasingly more limited, things have undoubtedly gotten worse.
What is your motto in life?
As an activist, I am often inspired by this quote from Assata Shakur:
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
I’m also a huge fan of Lizzo, and the lyric “Let ‘em say what they’re gonna say, They gonna feel how they gonna feel, And I love it, I love it and baby, Hey, you should too”
To learn more about Liberal Jane, please follow her via the following platforms:
Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/liberaljane/
Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/liberaljane/
Tumblr at http://liberaljane.tumblr.com/