Dialogue with: Lauren Redding, Fearless Feminist
how one recent umd graduate turned her passion into her career
By Courtney Guth, University of Maryland
Mention the “f word” and an obvious choice comes to mind, but for some people, the phrase carries a different connotation: feminist. For a while during my youth, I thought feminists were a bunch of bra burning man haters…I couldn’t have been further from the truth. If I could sum up feminism in one word for you, it would be “equality.” In recent years, the feminist movement has gained more popularity and traction as it reaches a new generation of women entering the work force. Some people have made it their mission to make sure we no longer consider it a dirty word. Meet Lauren Redding, one of those women.
I had the pleasure of getting to know Lauren through the UMD Feminists club, and we took a class together called “Women in the Media” last spring. From the very first time I met her at a UMD Feminist sponsored event called “Slut Walk,” it was clear that feminism was Lauren’s passion. She courageously addressed crowd and spoke out against the idea of victim blaming in addition to championing efforts for reform of sexual assault prevention at the University of Maryland.
As a Journalism major, Lauren was able to combine her love of media with her passion for feminism. While most people are lucky enough to simply find a job after they graduate, Lauren has the great opportunity to work with the Feminist Majority Foundation, one of the key players in the feminist movement based in Washington, D.C. Shortly after graduating in May, she landed the position of Online Communications Associate with the organization, and she’s been enjoying her job ever since.
I had a chance to chat with Lauren about her career, and she offered some great insights on both feminism and chasing your passions.
What does your typical day look like?
I get to work by 9:30 am and the first thing I do is read the news. I check my Twitter and Feedly to see if there’s anything coming up that day that FMF should write about online. I help write the daily Feminist News Wire, so I try to get a sense of what we’ll be covering that day. And if something big happens, like the Wendy Davis Texas abortion filibuster or something like that, I’ll meet with my supervisors to discuss some kind of online campaign. My job right now is a lot like working in journalism, because you have to know what’s going on and respond quickly if there’s something news-worthy. If there’s nothing big that day, I work on updating one of FMF’s seven websites, writing fundraising/promotional emails, writing blogs and doing IT support for people around the office.
What was the best project you have ever worked on?
I got to play a big role in planning our annual Women, Money, Power Summit, which is actually happening this week. It’s this huge day-long series of panels and a big luncheon where we honor feminist leaders. This year, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi will be speaking. I got to learn a lot about event planning and I was astounded at how much planning and details actually going into bringing such a major function to life. I led the development of FMF’s first-ever campus sexual violence prevention program, basically teaching campuses across the nation how to mandate sexual assault prevention for incoming students like I did at Maryland. That’s been especially rewarding, since I’m a survivor of sexual assault, and I got to feel like I was helping prevent other assaults from happening.
How do you bring your ideas to life?
I pay close attention to what’s going on in the news and try to find a way to put a feminist lens on it. There’s so much that you can do online – whether it’s an advocacy campaign, a fundraising campaign, a social media campaign, etc. – and we can reach so many people now. When the Texas abortion debates were going on, I came up with #PissedAtPerry on Twitter and it went viral. That was really great to see it take off – it was basically a good example of jumping on something that was getting national attention, putting a creative spin on it and letting it loose online.
What’s one current trend that really excites you?
I’m really excited to see how so many young women and girls are learning about feminism online. There are so many online platforms that we can reach people – Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. So a big part of FMF’s job is making sure that we have a presence on all of those platforms and we’re reaching this young generation of feminists. And guess what – it’s working! We have a really great, vibrant community of young people identifying as feminists, which just makes my heart really happy.
In your profession, what’s one thing you do and recommend for others to do?
Non-profits are tricky because they are usually very short-staffed and FMF is no exception. So I would recommend always being flexible and being ready to go above and beyond, as needed. For example, I just found out that my supervisor, the IT Director, is leaving this month, so I’ve been training to fix any IT issues once she leaves. I know VERY little about IT infrastructure, but I have the ability to learn and FMF needs someone to make sure the ship doesn’t sink while we’re searching for her replacement, so I just jumped on the opportunity.
What is one failure you experienced and how did you overcome it?
Hmm…I just started my job in June, so I haven’t really experienced any failures yet (knock on wood).
Who are three people to follow on Twitter?
1. Me! (@laurred)
2. Carmen Rios (@c_rios), she’s my colleague at FMF and she’s amazing/hilarious/so smart about feminism
3. Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) because DUH
Tell us a secret…
Find something that you love to do and it will never feel like work. I worked 12 hours Saturday, but I have no complaints, because I love my job.
So there you have it! Chase your passions and combine your career with what you love. Perhaps you’ll be just as lucky as Lauren!