The Feministing Five: Eryn Mathewson

Eryn Mathewson is a producer for the Women’s Magazine program on the listener-sponsored KPFA 94.1 radio station in Berkeley, CA. Women’s Magazine is a weekly hour of programming devoted to womanist and feminist perspectives on news and culture. Some of their recent episodes discuss the state of the Syrian uprising and women’s role in the revolution, the feminist merits of Occupy, and the prosecution of Pussy Riot.

Women’s Magazine plays a vital role in the dissemination of feminist news and information.  They go beyond sound bytes and provide much-needed feminist analyses to the issues of the day. Not to mention, it’s a completely volunteer-led radio program, which goes to show you how much time, dedication and passion goes into making the kind of media analysis we need (and also how feminist journalists have to struggle that much harder to get their voices heard!). I strongly encourage you to tune in and support, which you can do on their website if you’re not local to the Bay Area.

And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Eryn Mathewson.

Anna Sterling: How did you become involved with radio journalism? What’s the most challenging thing about doing radio and what’s your favorite part?

Eryn Mathewson: Truly, I became involved with radio journalism when I first fell in love with NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Years later, I happened to share my love for radio with a coworker and friend, who had connections to Pacifica Radio in Berkeley. She introduced me to the world of community radio, the KPFA Pacifica radio program, Women’s Magazine, and its producers. After going through several radio training programs, and volunteering on the show, I was able to take advantage of an amazing opportunity to actually co-produce Women’s Magazine.

The most challenging part about radio for me has been training my ear to differentiate between good and bad audio. Sometimes I’m so wrapped up in the content, I fail to hear sound that should be edited differently.

My favorite part is vibing with a guest and her subject matter, and then being able to have a personal, introspective and informative conversation. I also feel like doing radio makes me smarter.

AS: Tell me about your road to feminism. Was there a specific event that politicized you or was there always a feminist thread throughout your life?

EM: I think my road to feminism has been a very convoluted one. I grew up in a feminist household, though we never labeled it that. My mother and father were committed to allowing me access to any opportunity I wanted, regardless of gender norms. They practiced that with each other too. When I was actually introduced to the concept of feminism, I was told it was a relic movement of the 1970s for White, bra-burning, man-hating lesbians. I was not interested at all until I realized that I sometimes treated men differently than women, and that I was often angry with and scared of women. In seeking to understand those issues within myself, and just wanting to value and build better relationships with women, I inadvertently found feminism. Thank goodness!

AS: What are your favorite topics to cover on Women’s Magazine?

EM: This is a hard question. I love covering issues that involve black women, pop culture, TV, film and sex. I have so much fun, learn so much, and meet interesting people through these topics.

AS: What, in your opinion, is the greatest obstacle facing feminism today?

EM: There are so many. Lately, I feel like feminism’s biggest obstacle is its PR. So many people have different ideas about what feminism means, and by extension, how being a feminist (or not) would impact their lives. Feminism sometimes feels exclusive, White, and elite. We need to be able to make its connection and value to all issues, more clear and sexy.

AS: Who is your favorite fictional heroine, and who are your heroines in real life?

EM: Awesome and hard question! Today, I would have to go with Janie Crawford from Zora Neale Hurston’s, “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” I love that she had the courage to make hard, unpopular (for the time period) choices that made her life better, and all the while, kept her belief in love intact.

My real life heroines are my mom, Cynthia McKinney, Oprah Winfrey, my closest girlfriends, Alice Walker, Paula Radcliffe (Olympic marathon runner), Eder Williams (favorite English teacher), my Auntie Pat and my cousin Monique. This list could go on!

AS: You’re going to a desert island and get to take one food, one drink and one feminist. What do you pick?

EM: My food would be kale, quinoa, and chicken salad. The drink would be Moscato dessert wine and water. In terms of the feminist, it’s a toss up between Oprah Winfrey and Women’s Magazine co-producer, Kate Raphael. I have so many questions for Oprah, but I know I could listen to and hang out with Kate Raphael all day long.

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