“I work because I love life and I love people”.
After hearing Anita’s story I could say that her path has been one of continuous change and evolution in order to find her call and raise her voice. Challenging her family values and building her own was part of her progression. In this interview she tells us more about it and her work for equality, reproductive justice and the role of science and technology in her life.
Anita grew up in a conservative fundamentalist family environment and in her community men were expected to be the leaders of the household, spiritually and financially and the women held a “helper” type of role. She did not understood why the rules where different for girls than boys,
“I remember being taught that boys tend to be good at math and science and girls tend to be good at art and literature and I was encouraged not to fight that. I remember not being allowed to take martial arts”.
Even though her intelligence was encouraged it was only in certain contexts and she was encouraged to be “lady-like”. Her dad was the dominant figure in her household and would frequently act in an insulting, condescending way toward her mother, sisters, and her. She would find herself in similar situations in both school and church.
“By high school, I remember feeling like my intelligence or abilities were not real and were useless because I was a woman. I was very lost and felt a lot of resentment toward my femaleness. My femaleness was also blamed for my emotions during this time”.
Even though she felt that growing up she had more responsibility when it came to her own desires, she also felt she had less responsibility when it came to things important to independence. During her preteen years, Anita was heavily invested in church, going every day to read and ask questions about the Bible. She wanted to be a leader in her church, but she was blown away when her minister told her that God does not give women the gift of leadership.
“As an adult, I have worked through many of these things and set healthy boundaries with those who would be directly discriminatory toward my sex. I have found resistance acknowledging the reality that such prejudicial behavior and stigma still exists in the world”.
Figuring out the path
Later on she started looking for justice in many fields. In her high school, she took a stance voting in favor of the rights of gay couples. She felt she used her vote to help a group that was discriminated against and was in an unjust situation and she wasn’t having it anymore. Even though this also meant contradicting her family values.
“My desire to help others was there, I saw a lot of disparity that I did not understand but I knew I wanted to help, make the world a little bit better”.
After a trip to Ecuador to work on sustainable agriculture, she saw that there was severe discrimination and subjugation of women in one of the regions she worked and she made a striking discovery,
“If 50% of the population of any given community are being repressed and not permitted to use their skills to their full potential, how would we ever solve bigger, more obvious issues like those affecting our planet?”
So, she went back to the United States and began volunteering for Planned Parenthood, eight months later, it became her career.
“When it comes to social justice, there are a lot of factors that play a role in the bigger picture and I see myself getting involved in many of them throughout my life, but right now women issues are really important to me.”
Planned Parenthood Keystone
Today she is the Grassroots Organizer for Planned Parenthood Keystone, which covers 37 counties in Pennsylvania. Planned Parenthood works to provide access to essential health care and reproductive justice for both women and men. Over the past several months they have been campaigning to reach multiple communities, informing them about access to health services and health insurance via the Affordable Care Act.
“I am charged with organizing outreach efforts, coordinating volunteers and interns, ensuring our message is heard and understood by the constituents living in my region, and empowering those constituents to use their resources and advocate for their rights”.
She stated that they want to help people who do not typically have access either for economic reasons, access reasons or language barriers, ensuring that every person has access to reproductive healthcare. They work with communities that deal with discrimination and have a lack of access, immigrants, and other minority groups. She also said that even though Pennsylvania is not the easiest state to work in, she believes Planned Parenthood is a big voice on this subject.
“When it comes to actually being in a community it really is a beautiful thing. When somebody comes up to your table or when you go to someone’s door and you show these people, that didn’t know they had access to health and tests, that you can help them directly or show them where to go; it is really cool”.
Anita is also part of a world-wide movement of people who wish to use science and technology to take growth into their own hands. They look to nutrition, biology, chemistry, neurology, physics, and technology to do a number of things (specific to the individual) such as enhance quality of life, elongate life, or augment the body for increased access to knowledge or pleasure in many forms.
“As a woman who believes my body is my own and that my mind has equal capability in the sciences as that of a man, the biohacking community speaks strongly to me”.
Her current projects are “expanding the ability to feel electromagnetic fields through magnetic implants” and “a study with a majority restricted diet to see to see if humans can see in infrared that gives them the feeling of being free to explore the sciences and push the boundaries of the human experience.”
She believes that her involvement in this community is it’s own form of activism. By being a woman in technology, which is a field where women are underrepresented, she wants to find a way for people to take their lives into their own hands and not submit to subjugation or discriminatory norms.
“My goal currently is to play my part in increasing knowledge and access for women, encouraging and advocating for bodily autonomy, acting in a humanistic manner, and just be myself and not let stigma or misconceptions stop me”.
To keep reading about Anita’s vision please check the Subversive Women Dictionary with terms asked to all the interviewees.