Break the Rules Like ... Anna and Briana

Not all Wonder Women wear capes, and not all Unladylike role models need to sit in the C-suite to spark change. Each week, we're introducing y'all to rad women and nonbinary folks we admire. They'll offer up pointers on how we all can #breaktheruleslike they do and help them make the world a better place. If you have a role model to shout out, send hot tips to 

Briana (left) and Anna met as two Hillary Rodham Clinton Research Fellows at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.

Briana (left) and Anna met as two Hillary Rodham Clinton Research Fellows at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.

1. Introduce yourself: Who are you, where are you from and what do you do?

We’re Anna and Briana. We’re two researchers (and friends!) who focus on women’s roles in peace and security contexts. We met while working at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and keep finding excuses to work together. In our work, we seek to highlight the voices of women who build peace and create change in conflict-affected communities. We interview women leaders — from entrepreneurs to government officials to grassroots organizers — to inform policy-oriented research that rethinks how we view and try to solve conflict. Women’s experiences and knowledge are key to addressing the root causes of war, violent extremism and authoritarianism. Currently, Anna is pursuing a JD at NYU Law School to further her work on these issues, and Briana serves as a consultant on gender and environmental issues for the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

2. When did you first realize this was the right path for you? 

It’s true: We love what these women do.

It’s true: We love what these women do.

Actually, we took very different paths! Briana has known for a long time that she wants to support conflict-affected communities, and she studied international affairs and conflict resolution before settling into the women, peace and security field. She has long been a staunch feminist, and this work is the perfect way to combine those two passions. Anna was drawn to these topics after working for international organizations that focused on elevating women’s rights globally. She began to realize that conflict-affected areas offered particular challenges but also opportunities for women’s rights activism, she and wanted to help shine a light on the stories of women in those contexts.

3. What’s unladylike about you and what you do?

When we think of war, we think of men fighting each other, but women have long been involved, both as fighters and as peacemakers. And given the patriarchal constraints placed on women in so many places, the women we talk to are always rulebreakers and troublemakers.

As for us, the conversations around peace and security processes in the U.S. remain largely dominated by men. We need more women helping to drive research and policy on both peace and security issues!

4. Which of your heroes or role models would you immortalized in bronze?

There are so many! But Sojourner Truth would be a great choice — a foundational leader who fought for both women’s rights and rights for African-Americans. She was an orator, a negotiator, a fighter and an organizer, a feminist and abolitionist who committed her life to being an outspoken advocate for human rights. She was truly unladylike.  

5. What was your feminist aha moment?

It’s hard to say. We both became increasingly aware, over time, of the many different ways in which gender impacts people’s lives. We were both active in politics, public service and volunteering from a fairly young age, and doing those things, you start to see unequal and unfair treatment for women just because they’re women. And this disparity is especially significant for women of color.

Also, huge shout-out to our respective favorite childhood books on unladylike women! Briana will always vouch for Girls Who Rocked the World and Anna reread Outrageous Women of Ancient Times many, many times.

6. What’s bringing you joy right now — or at least keeping you sane?

Janelle Monáe. And we’re both lucky to have friends who keep us laughing.

7. Aside from keys/wallet/phone, what do you never leave home without?

Briana is always prepared. Her bag contains band-aids, hand sanitizer, ibuprofen, an umbrella, a book to read and mints. Anna flies more by the seat of her pants (and sometimes borrows Briana’s umbrella).

8. How can unladies help you and/or your mission?

Pay attention to the news you consume. Who is given an opportunity to speak about major current events? Whose experience is by default considered ‘normal’?

If you are in a position where you need to recruit speakers or experts, intentionally seek out diverse points of view, representing people of different backgrounds, genders and communities.

Follow Briana + Anna

Briana: Twitter

Anna: Twitter