Meet Jessie Bullock: Tango Dancer, Portuguese Speaker, and Pundit Of the Week


What do foreign policy, samba dancing, and ping pong all have in common? They're a few eclectic things that Jessie Bullock happens to know a lot about.  Our pundit of the week (and unofficial Renaissance woman) discusses her thoughts on strengthening PolicyMic's community, her interest in politics, and why she's so crazy about Brazil.

As part of the "pundit of the week" blog, we spotlight one exceptional PolicyMic-er to share personal experiences with our community, and pose one never-been-asked question to a staff member. This week's question is for gender and politics editor, Sam Meier.

About Jessie: She's an American girl with a penchant for South America, learning languages, and anything having to do with the beach. After graduating from college in Nashville, Tennessee, Jessie moved to Rio de Janeiro to research the US-Brazil trade relationship, and knew she never wanted to leave. Jessie still talks about samba dancing, Praia de Pipa (her favorite beach in Brazil), and sings Aguas de Março in the shower.

Caira Conner (CC): You joined PolicyMic during our April 50 Under 30 recruiting challenge. Tell me about why you decided to get involved when you did.

Jessie Bullock (JB): I already knew of PolicyMic before the 50 under 30 challenge; I received the daily newsletter, and liked how interactive the community was with the commenting policy. When I heard about the 50 Under 30 Challenge, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get involved beyond just the 250-character responses. It happened at a great time, because I was already writing more op-eds and blogging, so PolicyMic was a platform to help me hone my writing skills even more.

CC: You're passionate about Latin American politics and policy. What drives that interest? What are the advantages (or disadvantages) to using PolicyMic as your platform to discuss those issues?

JB: I became interested in Latin America for truly personal reasons, for fun! What's not to love about countries with great beaches, friendly, non-pretentious people, and delicious seafood? After traveling there a few times and learning more about the countries' internal dynamics, I became more interested in the politics and policy. I've been captivated ever since. PolicyMic is a great platform to talk about the issues that are heavily in the news (the Venezuela election, for example) and that are related to the United States. I'm hoping to write more articles in the future for PolicyMic about Latin American news topics that might not be getting as much coverage in the U.S. media, so we'll see how that goes!

CC: If you could change one thing about your user experience with PolicyMic, what would it be?

JB: I think it'd be useful to have circles or groups of writers that talk about the same thing. I know some of the other pundits that write about immigration, for instance, but it's only from reading their articles and searching on my own. I think it would strengthen the intellectual rigor and responsibility of the community if the writers knew who else was in their circle, what their views were, and so on. Maybe there would be less duplication and more building off of each others' topics if there were these type of "policy circles."

CC: Any advice to like-minded peers about the best way to engage with PolicyMic? What's one ideal outcome that could result from your having used PolicyMic as a platform?

JB: I think the best way to engage is to keep it short and simple. If you feel like you're just trying to type something "for the hell of it," you'll end up rambling and your contribution might not mean very much. Pay attention to the reactions you get and keep commenting and returning back to the issues that you have something to say about. I used this process to play to my strengths when deciding what to write about. One ideal outcome from writing at PolicyMic would be to get really good at defending my opinions and engaging my peers in respectful debate. Since the commenting community is so vibrant at PolicyMic, it's a great arena to practice backing up your opinions and refuting beliefs in an effective one or two sentences. 

CC: Let's go offline. What do you like to do when you're not PolicyMic-in'? (Besides dominate at ping pong?)

JB: I'm moving to Palo Alto, California next month to start my Master's Degree in international policy, so I've been reading non-stop about California and everything I need to see and do while I'm there! I love to travel and I love nature, so my list is already quite long. I'm also a dancer in my free time. My two favorite styles are ballet and tango. My other quirky pastime is my love of languages. I speak Spanish and Portuguese, and just started learning some Chinese. It's an ambitious goal — Chinese is much harder than any romance language. To unwind, I love Breaking Bad and any type of gangster movie. 

CC: OK, your turn. What's one question you have for a member of the PolicyMic staff?

JB: My question is for Sam Meier. Of all the editorial sections at PolicyMic, yours is by far the most specific. Why do you think its important for a millennial publication to have a gender editor, and why do you think millennials like to write about gender so much?

Sam Meier: Firstly, I'd note that while my official title is 'gender editor,' the writers that I work with cover a broad range of issues relating to gender, sexuality, race, class, and so on. A better title might be 'identity editor,' but either way it's a bit of a branding problem.

I think millennials are interested in approaching their lives subjectively as well as objectively. We grew up in a post-Gonzo, post-New Journalism world, where the author's personal experiences were brought to bear in their writing, where 'truth' was never fully achieved. Your gender identity is just one part of who you are, but it affects your experiences with the world; so, too, does your race, your sexual orientation, your upbringing, your geographic location, and so on. Millennials do not shy away from confronting ourselves in our writing.

PolicyMic is not alone in having a specific vertical focusing on gender issues; take the Atlantic's The Sexes, or Slate's XX Factor, or HuffPo Women. What I try to do to distinguish our section from their sections is broaden the scope of issues and identities represented.

CC: Thank you, Jessie! You're an outstanding member of the PolicyMic community, and we're looking forward to seeing what you do next.

For more news on Jessie, follow her on Twitter: @jessiebullock