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Emily Guy Birken – Author and Plutus Award Winner – #finanicalfeminist

Ms ZiYou Lets meet financial feministsIt’s Friday, so time for Let’s meet Financial Feminists. This week I have the pleasure of introducing Emily Guy Birken.

Emily will be well known to lots of you in the personal finance world as a frequent contributor to many money sites. In addition, she has written four books. Due to the quality of her contributions, she was recognised this year and won the highly competitive Plutus award for the best freelancer. Congratulations on your well-deserved win.

Handing over to Emily Guy Birken

Please introduce yourself and your work

My name is Emily Guy Birken, and I am a freelance writer and author of four books, including The Five Years Before You Retire and my most recent title, End Financial Stress Now.

I blog for many sites all over the personal finance blogosphere, and you can find links to all of my writing at

What sort of finance blog do you write?

I am kind of a jill-of-all-trades financial writer, but my main interest is behavioral economics and the psychology of money.

How would you describe your current stage of life?

I am a married mom of two small boys, aged 8 and 5, so I am very much in the midst of family life chaos.

What are your personal values?

It’s very important to me to raise my sons to be mensches.

I want them to know that it’s our responsibility to understand context; amplify the voices of marginalized people; to know when to listen;  recognize the ways in which we are privileged; to freely give what we can; commit to lifelong learning; to embrace discomfort; and to practice daily gratitude.

What are your dreams and plans for the future?

I love being a freelance writer and I want to write professionally for the rest of my life. I hope to have the time and money to be able to work on writing my fiction. In addition, I also plan to out-earn my husband sooner rather than later.

Feminism & Society

What is your brand of feminism?

I was raised feminist by my mother, but there were definitely some holes in that education. My mom subscribed to a kind of “rah-rah, we can do it!” feminism—that still sought male validation for “not being like the other girls.”

For me, feminism has been a process of recognizing how much we are culturally programmed to perform femininity and masculinity (not to mention race, and other cultural signifiers), and learning to determine what we truly want to be and do.

Is the patriarchy real?


The damage the patriarchy does to women and girls is clear and painful—but the narrow roles proscribed by the system hurts everyone. My 5-year old said he wanted to be a “boy dancer”, because dancing has already been coded as feminine in his very short life. (I showed him some Baryshnikov on YouTube and he and his brother pirouetted around the house the rest of the day).

Please recommend us some good feminist books

Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny by Kate Manne. Manne talks about how sexism is the cultural expectation, while misogyny is the policing arm of the culture that enforces those expectations. Asking For It by Kate Harding explores rape culture in America.

Some of my favorite romance novelists write feminist books that don’t make your rage vein pop: Deanna Raybourn, author of the Veronica Speedwell series, Alyssa Cole, author of both historical and contemporary romances, and Courtney Milan, former attorney and author of historical romances.

The importance of intersectionality – discuss

Not recognizing how misgynoir and other types of race-specific or other marginalized-identity- specific misogyny plays out is one of the biggest and most shameful failings of the feminism of my youth—and the earlier feminist movements from which my mother’s education came. Even the current movement by white feminists often ignores intersectionality, to our detriment. Feminists need to center those who are most hurt by multiple structural inequalities, rather than dismiss their concerns because they are different from those of white feminists.

What is the role of men in feminism?

Men can be part of feminism; just as white allies can help with anti-racism work. The trick is counteracting the consistent negative press feminism gets and help men see how the world treats women.

It’s my goal to raise my sons to be feminists, and I’ve leaned on something I learned in the book NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman to do so. Bronson and Merryman discuss how well-meaning white parents often unintentionally reinforce racism with their kids when they avoid talking about race. We have to talk openly with our children about anything that is not made explicit in our culture—because they will pick up the implicit messages (i.e., “boy dancer”) no matter what.

Being explicit in this way is not easy, but it’s important for my sons to understand context and recognize that the messages they receive from our culture are not necessarily true.

Do you consider yourself an activist?

I strive to be an activist, but I struggle with anxiety, depression, and an aversion to confrontation. For years, I believed that activists have more natural aptitude for putting themselves out there. Then I learned that Rosa Parks had been coached on what to do prior to refusing to give up her seat. She was an activist, but she still needed to practice what she would say and do ahead of time. That helped me realize even anxious and depressed folks can be activists and that it’s a matter of embracing one’s discomfort and figuring out ahead of time what to do.



What are your thoughts on the mainstream media?

The MSM has been accused of liberal bias for as long as I can remember. And I’ve come to understand that accusation is a control tactic. If you accuse someone of being something they fear they are, they will bend over backwards to prove they’re not. We’ve seen the MSM contort themselves into pretzels to show they are “balanced,” which is part of how we got where we are today.

What feminist resources do you use?

I follow a number of feminists on Twitter, and I especially try to follow Black feminists, LGBTQ activists, and other activists who have different experiences than I do. I follow:

Is talking about money feminist?

Indeed! Women (and other marginalized groups) have traditionally been kept out of finance, with the possible exception of frugality/coupon-clipping. So talking money is feminist just in the fact that it is empowering those who have been traditionally disenfranchised from the world of finance.

Talking about money also reduces information asymmetry (where one party knows more than another in a negotiation). It took the Sony hack for Jennifer Lawrence to learn that she was paid less than her American Hustle co-stars. She didn’t push for more money because she was afraid of being labeled “difficult.” If talking about money is considered taboo, and asking for what you are worth makes women seem difficult, then women accept far less than they should. Talking about money helps women take control of their lives and careers.

Parting Words

What is one awesome thing in your life now

Emily Guy Birken - Drawing About four years ago, I started drawing every evening. I can see how much I’ve improved over the past four years, and I’ve been taking art classes to learn more.

At nearly 40 years old, I’ve finally realized that I don’t have to pretend to not love rainbows and unicorns (and unicorns wielding rainbow chainsaws, as I recently drew) in order to be taken seriously. I’m not taken seriously anyway, so I might as well be who I am and indulge my love of cuteness, good pens, and coloring.

Who else should I interview for this series?
  • Paulette Perhach
  • Mindy Crary
  • Brynne Conroy
  • Rebecca Greene Neale
How can people connect with you?

Twitter: @emilyguybirken

Ms ZiYou Back here

In conclusion,  I hope you’ll agree it has been fascinating to hear from Emily. I particularly love how almost effortless she makes a freelance writing career look. In addition, I agree with Emily that intersectional feminism is key to truly achieve an equal society.


Finally, if you identify as a feminist – female or male – and would like to be featured on Let’s meet Financial Feminists – please get in contact.

Thank you for reading – please leave a comment below and join in the conversation. You can also connect on Twitter or contact me privately.


2 comments on “Emily Guy Birken – Author and Plutus Award Winner – #finanicalfeminist

  1. Great interview. Very interesting to hear from someone with a background in behavioural economics; seems quite unique amongst the bloggers I’ve followed so far. Would love to hear more about how one even begins freelance writing in that area! Will definitely check out your website and some of your other work.

What do you think?