Forms of activism Flexing your power - as a woman and an activist
"I believe that every time a woman tells her own story or tells her truth, it is a radical act. Simply being truthful about your life as a woman is activism." - Erin Matson
by Kathy Magnuson
A woman on the go. A woman who has been around the block and is going places. These are good ways to describe Erin Matson.
Matson grew up in Edina, went to Washington, D.C., for college, and came back and got herself elected at 23 years old as the youngest president of a state chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Four years ago she moved back to the D.C. area to serve as action vice president for national NOW. She recently changed jobs and became an editor-at-large for RH Reality Check, a reproductive and sexual health and justice online publication.
Why has her life been one of volunteer and professional activism?
"It is fun for me. I love helping push along practical change," Matson said. "On a deeper level, in high school I nearly died of anorexia. In the process of getting better I swore to myself that I would do everything I could to try to stop other people from having to go through what I went through. I made a broader connection that this is about society telling women and girls to take up as little space as possible. This is really personal to me.
"I realized fairly early on how easy it is to make change if you are determined and you are willing to be a pain in the ass," Matson said.
"We have incredible power. Believing in our power is a source of so much strength as activists and as human beings."
Matson continued: "Especially for women - and for women in Minnesota - there is a culture of downplaying ourselves and that is simply not true that we don't have power."
She believes that activism can take many forms.
"I believe that every time a woman tells her own story or tells her truth, it is a radical act," she said. "Simply being truthful about your life as a woman is activism."
Matson has advice for those who want to get involved and not give up their lives, whether it is finding more time for family or yourself, getting a promotion at work or saving the world.
Her suggestions: Repeat out loud: Taking care of myself and my needs is my first priority. "Martyring yourself for any cause, even a good one, is gross. You are not in control and you are unable to help advance any cause if you run yourself into the ground."
Say the magic word when you need to: No. And don't feel bad about saying it. "Just because someone asks you to do something cool doesn't mean you have to say yes. For that matter, just because you said yes once doesn't mean you have to say yes again."
Seek out volunteer opportunities that are defined-time events. "For example, if you care about abortion rights and feel like you don't have time to serve on a board or tend a website, seek out opportunities that are defined calendar events, such as volunteering for a regular phone shift with your local abortion fund or [doing] clinic escorting two Saturdays a month."
For ongoing leadership posts, come up with your three priority questions. "I actually got out a marker and put a sheet of paper on the wall where I would see it whenever my phone rang:
1. Does this raise money?
2. Does this get new members?
3. Does this raise the status of women and girls in Minnesota?
If I couldn't answer one of those three questions affirmatively, I wouldn't give it more than five minutes. Only you can define your own questions, but they're a great way to separate the essential work you signed up for from someone else's urgent."