Meet a member: Yen Eriksen

12 February 2016

This article is part of our member profile series. Our members tell us that one of the things they really love about being part of our community is getting to know like-minded women. So, each month, we’ll feature an interview with a member, so you can get to know each other a little better. Today, meet Yen Eriksen.

You in a nutshell?Yen holding Pixie the cat

My name is Yen Eriksen, bonus points if you guessed that my first and last name don’t really match! So I’ll explain, my mother is from China, and Yen is part of my Chinese name, and my old man is from Denmark, thus the very Danish name Eriksen. I love the way that my name gives that away about me, as being a second generation migrant is something that I am very proud of. It has defined the nitty gritty of my life growing up with a big Chinese family and a strong sense of the rest of the world being not so far away.

I grew up in Melbourne and I came to Canberra many years ago to do my undergrad in Arts and Asian Studies at ANU. I ended up graduating with a Major in Gender Studies and Chinese (even though my mandarin is shocking). I then went on to work in community media specifically in community radio where I got to do lots of fun community development work and tell lots of interesting stories.

Now-a-days I work for YWCA Australia as the Projects and Communications Coordinator, and I love working for a feminist not-for-profit. I am also working through piece by piece a Masters of Public Administration in the Crawford School of Economics. Between work and study, I’m always getting involved with other queer and feminist community projects.  So you know I’m keeping busy.

What’s an achievement you’re proud of?

I mean I am not known for being humble, but something that really flattered me last year was when YWCA Canberra nominated me for the Young Persons Human Rights Medal. AND beyond my own beliefs I won. So that was pretty epic, getting to meet Gillian Triggs and rub shoulders will all kinds of human rights activists and extrodinaires. Overall I am really proud to be able to get the platform to stand up and shout out for feminists and queers, and it was great to win the award for doing that and getting to hold the national stage for intersectional feminist politics.

Why did you join the Y?

I joined YWCA Canberra because I think that sisterhood rocks, its powerful and important. I think YWCA’s get their strength through local engagement and as a staff member of the national association it was important for me to live my principles.

Who inspires you?

Everyday hard working feminists. I am surrounded by them: my colleagues, my partner, my grandmother, my friends and my sisters who are speaking out online and in the media. People who live, work and play by their feminist ideals. I think we often don’t take time to celebrate how hard it is to live by your principles and how hard it is to put up with all the crap that comes flying at you when you do. So yes it inspires me to see women and queers around me everyday doing just that!

What’s the change you want to see in the world?

I want to see more people talking about intersectionality. If human rights organisations, the government and everyday people engage with the concept of oppression as intersecting and multilayered; the scope for effective progressive action is vast. Intersectionality is a concept that is used to think about how oppressions are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another. For example thinking about how the experience of being a woman intersects with the experiences of not being white, or the experiences or being a queer woman, or living with disability.

When we engage with questions of intersectionality, debates about identity politics for me become more meaningful. It also kickstarts us to think and see structural oppression as definitive in the lives of individuals – it stops us seeing the individuals as the centre of oppressive acts. I think feminism is at its core about having an framework from which we can better understand and challenge power structures, I think intersectionality is the lens on feminism that helps us do it in a way that embraces complexity and lived experience.

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