Doubtlessly, Virginia Walters’ (relatively) new haircut has sparked many a passerby’s speculation about her interests: art, feminism, perhaps a rock ’n’ roll revolt against patriarchy and democratic ideals. Short hair, however, is not always a form of anarchy, and this week’s That Girl defies labels. With a warm laugh, soft-spoken intelligence and the grace of even-handedness, Virginia possesses a quiet power, fed by commitment to strongly held beliefs that manages to undercuts all superficial stereotypes. Here, That Girl talks about bio-diesel, communes and the importance of creature comforts.
p. **What is VOX? What do you do on campus?**
I am the acting president of VOX, which is Latin for ‘voice.’ VOX is Voices for Planned Parenthood. We’re the College chapter of Planned Parenthood, so we do a lot of the education for them here and general education campaigns about HPV (human papilloma virus) and the HPV vaccine (Gardasil). We have an emergency contraception distribution event coming up on April 19. This semester we co-sponsored The Vagina Monologues and the Sex Workers’ Art Show.
p. **Are you a member of Student Environmental Action Coalition?**
No, but I do a lot of work with them. My plans for next year are with the president of SEAC, senior Gina Sobel, and we’re planning a project that would be about nine months traveling through the American South in a bio-diesel bus doing community organizing around climate change and sustainable living.
p. **So how does one go about converting a bus to bio-diesel?**
It’s apparently pretty easy. Our plan is to get a bus that runs on diesel, but you can actually just convert one of the tanks and use the hoses differently to run the diesel engine on waste vegetable oil. A lot of people who run their vehicles on waste vegetable oil — one of the most efficient ways to do it — have a contract with a local Chinese restaurant or something to pick up their oil once a week. They just keep it in a barrel for you. Otherwise they have to pay to get it taken away. So you can actually get paid for your fuel. You just have to strain all the bits out of it.
p. **What are you going to do when you get to these communities?**
We have a rough proposal written up. Basically the idea is that a lot of mainstream environmental organizations have not really focused on the South before, and specifically haven’t focused on the smaller towns in the South as far as large-scale campaigns go. So Gina and I really wanted to use social networking in the South to try to organize around it. We’re thinking specifically of churches — for example, if we’re working with a congregation we’ll work with the pastor. If we work with the Chamber of Commerce maybe we’ll work with the mayor, and if we were talking to a Parent Teacher Association, we’d talk to the president of the PTA.
p. We want to engage with the idea of social networking and social pressure in the South to affect change. Our goal is to get larger groups of people in contact with local environmental groups, to foster a demand for it, for that kind of policy-making. We want to get the ball rolling, I guess. It’s really ambitious and really idealistic, and I know it’s going to be hard, but I’m excited about it. It think it has the potential to be really effective.
p. **Along the lines of conservation, I was told you’re working on a commune this summer.**
Well technically it’s not a commune, it calls itself an “intentional community.” I feel like there’s all this talk about anti-capitalism and green living and communal living and all that stuff. There’s all this chatter about the general idea of “going green” and eating locally and organically. Then there’s an intentional community just outside of Blacksburg that kind of is a lot of those things, and I kind of want to go just to see what that is like in reality.
p. **So you would consider yourself an activist? Then again, you might not want to label yourself.**
Oh please, no. It helps to be aware of what you are and especially how other people perceive you. I think yes, I am an activist. I don’t know how good at it I am, but I like it. I think that everyone who is an activist acts against injustices, whatever they think those are. I feel really close to reproductive justice issues. I think that it’s an injustice that anyone’s choices are seen as being invalid, especially when those choices are so personal as to be involving your sexuality and your body. At the same time, because I see that as an injustice I completely see where anti-choice activists are coming from. They see it differently; they see it in their eyes as these beings’ lives are not being respected. I think in this way we’re on the same page. We identify injustices and we act against them, and I respect that a lot. Reproductive justice is just an example because it’s something that feels close to me, and I think it’s something that needs a lot of work, especially where we are: on this campus, in this state.