Erin Weed founded Girls Fight Back after her close friend was murdered in 2001. Since then, GFB has taught women from the U.S. to Pakistan how to defend themselves. Check out GirlsFightBack.com for more info.
Q. Why do you do what you do?
A. Shannon was murdered in June. I was temping near the World Trade Center when it was attacked. So I saw violence in my personal life and outside of it. I am blessed that I have a husband who is an absolute partner. He said, “You do this and I’ll take care of everything else.” I think if you have the ability, the opportunity, and the support, it’s a middle finger to the universe to say no. [On filling the void in female self-defense education:] What happens to our bodies and minds when we are under attack is very different from sports-related adrenaline, like in martial arts. Unfortunately, a lot of the self-defense out there doesn’t take being terrified into consideration.
Q. How has being female influenced you or your experience getting to where you are now?
A. The violence prevention world is heavily run by very strong male figures. I was a complete shock to their system—a 23-year-old sorority girl. But I embraced that.
Q. What is a typical weekday like for you?
A. That doesn’t exist! I am a writer and speaker—that is my passion. I also do a lot of coaching for social entrepreneurs. I love talking to the media because we need to get the message out. I am also the mom of a toddler and another on the way.
Q. Has anyone ever tried to prevent you from doing what you wanted to do career-wise or regarding a major life choice?
A. I don’t think anyone I keep around would dare do that.
Q. What is the worst advice you ever got?
A. Early on, people told me that I should become more “legitimate” in my field by becoming a black belt or getting an advanced degree. That was a real struggle for me. But we need to give ourselves permission to say, “Yes, I am an expert.” You don’t need to go the traditional route.
Q. What advice do you follow and pass on to others?
A. I follow my intuition incredibly closely even when it doesn’t make sense. It ties back to giving ourselves permission to be the rock stars that we are.
Q. What were you like as a girl?
A. I have many pictures of myself wearing Wonder Woman underwear. I would rap over the intercom at school about some upcoming dance. I would get made fun of—I just didn’t get it. But my ignorance was a gift.
Q. What did you think you wanted to be when you grew up?
A. Veterinarian. But I was always volunteering. I credit my mom for that.
Q. Who are your inspirations—real or fictional?
A. Interestingly enough, every single one of my teachers and mentors are men. These dudes took me under their wings. They’ve absolutely inspired me.
Q. What was your favorite book as a young child?
A. I was so into The Babysitters Club series. I think it’s because they were entrepreneurs!
Q. What is your favorite book now?
A. The Power of Now. I’m a huge Eckhart Tolle fan.
Q. Would your girl-self be surprised by how her life is turning out? What would you tell her now if you could talk to her?
A. I think she would be surprised that I live so far [Colorado] from where I grew up. I would tell her, “Enjoy the ride.” The times I’ve been so frustrated in my life, looking back it all makes sense.
Q. What is a typical weekend day like for you?
A. Me and my man and my kiddo. Laptop off. Phone away. We make pancakes, go hiking, swim.
Q. Favorite place to eat where you live and why.
A. Ras Kassa, an Ethiopian place. Best food ever. And there’s nothing my toddler can do to upset them.
Q. Describe your perfect day.
A. All my weekends are perfect. When you got the people you love who love you, that’s good.
Q. Please give us insight on why you think being female is awesome.
A. This is the greatest time ever to be a woman. The women before us got us to a place where now all we have to do is spread our wings. It’s not as easy as that, but we have opportunities. My mother-in-law wore a man suit to work and refused to learn to type. That’s just badass.
Q. What do you have yet to do?
A. I have many friends around the world I’d love to visit. Professionally, I’m writing a book I’m so excited about I’m bursting at the seams, about the new way we do business. It’ll be out in 2013.
This interview was originally published at Rebellious Magazine for Women.