Jack Monroe is a British cookbook author, anti-poverty campaigner, specifically anti-food poverty campaigner, journalist, blogger, mother and self-taught chef. Jack is able whip up some of the most scrumptious recipes at budget rates using fresh whole ingredients. After being on the unforgiving breadline and was subjected to harsh benefit sanctions rolled out by Prime Minister David Cameron’s government, Jack learned how to cook on a budget and shares those recipes on their blog Cooking on a Bootstrap by Jack Monroe. Besides posting their recipes, they also post the various columns they write for British newspapers and their own blog posts about the musings of their life.
I am not usually in the business of defending public figures or celebrities. If they choose a public life, they must also accept the consequences which come with it. But in the case of Jack Monroe, I must speak up in their defense. First, let me explain the pronouns in this piece. In Coming Out Day on October 11, 2015, they announced via Twitter they is transgender, but non-binary, which means they do not identify as either just male or female, it’s somewhere in between. They have publicly advised everyone to refer to them as Mx. Jack Monroe and the correct pronouns are they, them, their and they assured their readers though it’s seems awkward because we associate those pronouns as plural, they assured the readers that it is indeed grammatically correct,
Pronouns: Pronouns are how you refer to a person when not using their name. Please use ‘they/them/their’ in place of ‘she/her’ etc. They/them pronouns are grammatically correct when used to denote a single person, although common usage is plural. It might look odd at first but it’s definitely okay.
So, throughout this entry, I will try my hardest at using the proper pronoun and I apologize to Jack in advance if I get it wrong.
They started this journey of blogging and writing after reading a nasty article in their local newspaper criticizing and denigrating single mothers on benefits, of which they were one at time. Jack fired off a strongly worded response to the editor of the newspaper and their activism and writing career got started. Jack can tell their own story better by popping over to her blog but they ended up on benefits because they were unable to work at their job due to lack of flexible hours. They previously worked at the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, as a phone operator calming and directing residents who are amidst a fire and in distress, their job is to calm down the callers and calmly guide them to safety until firefighters get there. Jack had a baby and was unable to arrange flex time and so had to resign from their job. Jack tried to look for another job but with a small child to care for, it proved difficult. They ended up on benefits and it came at a time where the Cameron government slashed welfare benefits to balance the budget. Jack’s column Hunger Hurts is heartbreaking read on the reality of food poverty in wealthy countries. They are the hidden invisible people going hungry in middle class towns and metropolis.
Poverty isn’t just having no heating, or not quite enough food, or unplugging your fridge and turning your hot water off. It’s not a tourism trade, it’s not cool, and it’s not something that MPs on a salary of £65k a year plus expenses can understand, let alone our PM who states that we’re all in this together.
Poverty is the sinking feeling when your small boy finishes his one weetabix and says ‘more mummy, bread and jam please mummy’ as you’re wondering whether to take the TV or the guitar to the pawn shop first, and how to tell him that there is no bread or jam.
In the UK, their benefits system do not separate food stamps (vouchers) from the cash aid. Everything is in cash aid and your food budget comes from the benefit payments. If there isn’t enough money leftover to buy food, you can be referred to a food pantry by social services and you can receive parcels of food and basic necessities. Unlike the US, you may not just show up to the food pantry without a referral slip. They will not give you food unless you are referred by social services or other approved authorities. As a result, the actual amount of people in the UK who actually go hungry is more than what’s reported.
Jack started the blog, originally called ‘A Girl Call Jack’ on an old Nokia cell phone as they sold their computer to raise money. Jack taught themselves to cook with fresh simple ingredients where a toddler will eat it. This is how I became a fan, if Jack’s five year old will eat it, so will mine. And my two children at time can be picky eaters.
As Jack’s fame grew within the UK and as Jack came to represent the face of modern food poverty in Britain, the country’s conservatives came out in droves to get them. The worst offenders are the Daily Mail and their affiliated newspapers. Prior to Jack coming out as non-binary transgender, she was an out and proud lesbian with a lot of tattoos. Jack is articulate, well-written and has a propensity for swearing, which I adore. Jack is the nightmare of conservative white middle class Britain. Jack is a member of the working class who can clearly articulate the needs of the British working poor in a way no politician can and so they tried to discredit Jack at every turn.
Jack was blamed for their own poverty as it was they who resigned their job without a backup job in place. Jack was blamed for having a baby when they couldn’t afford it. The baby’s father is a good friend of Jack’s and he is unable to provide any form of child support. Jack was criticized for the tattoos and it’s because of those tattoos Jack can’t find a job (no one will hire someone looking like that). The most absurd is the criticism of Jack’s kale pesto recipe. The fact that Jack used an ingredient like kale in her recipe proves she’s really not poor, she’s just pretending to be, because what poor person would know to use kale in their food?! Lastly, Jack’s greatest crime is being a Guardianista, as Jack writes columns for The Guardian. What the Daily Mail really wants to say is ‘we can’t stand Jack Monroe because they is telling the truth and she’s a left wing, tattooed lesbian who hates Britain and what she stands for’. To the Daily Mail collective, Jack represents the left wing luvvie who wants to let in all the immigrants, give benefits to them all and ruin Britain. Or what we call a bleeding heart liberal in America.
The Daily Mail continually print lies (not a shock there) about Jack without fact checking. Some of these lies can have serious ramifications, such as she’s been let go from certain jobs or her contracts have not been renewed. And unlike most public figures and celebrities who learn to ignore this sort of stuff, Jack doesn’t ignore it. In fact, she does the opposite, she parses the whole article sentence for sentence and then write a rebuttal on her blog on how their facts are wrong and then shares the blog with all her readers and Twitter followers. She also names and shames the reporter who prints lies about her. I don’t think to date, the Daily Mail has retracted its false reports or printed an apology. Keep in mind the Daily Mail printed a groveling apology to George Clooney when they printed some lies about his in-laws not liking him. They’ve no such courtesy for Jack.
(I refuse to provide link backs to the trash a publication like the Daily Mail, any google search one can find these scathing articles)
Next are the Twitter trolls, you’ve got to love Twitter where anyone with two thumbs and half a brain and shoot off their infinite wisdom on how others ought to conduct their lives. It doesn’t have to even be coherent. Any Tweet which Jack reveals their vulnerabilities gets attacked by trolls.
Melissa was Jack’s given at birth, a name Jack no longer uses. This was another lie the Daily Mail printed, and that is Jack’s real name is Melissa, Jack was just a made up name to make themselves seem unique. No, Jack is the real name. Since Jack left their job at the Fire Rescue service, their name was officially changed by deed poll. So, Jack is their real name. This Alan McKenzie person is trolling Jack by using her birth name. But he wasn’t done:
Besides attacking Jack’s parenting skills, he decided to weigh in on whether Jack is an alcoholic or not.
These are only two short snippets, this Alan fellow went on and on, his profile page says he’s a “Tory Bastard”, so that explains it all. This was my choice response to him:
He responded and didn’t see how he was transphobic, and why I didn’t call Jack out for their “sexist” comments. So, besides being a Tory Bastard, he’s also thick.
And then there’s this:
I am not a LGBTQ activist, I don’t know enough about the issues to be an activist. I am an activist insofar as I believe everyone should have equal rights and express themselves as they wish. Since Jack Monroe has come into the spotlight, Jack has tried to make food poverty and how to go about alleviating that poverty their top priority. Jack dispenses excellent cooking and meal preparation tips which are useful for anyone, not just people who are on a budget. Jack raises money for various food pantries in the UK and brings awareness of the hungry who live amongst us. And Jack not gotten rich doing this work, even though they got two published cookbooks and working on a third, Jack still very much uses the budget tips they provide their readers. I follow their blog and Twitter and while a majority of their followers are supporters and fans but I also see the ugly side of social media, the trolls who attack her every weakness. This is wrong and I call it out.