On blogging, intersectionality, and challenge

I consider myself a strong writer in academic spaces. Traditional academic writing, with a thesis and transitions and a few buzzwords like “hegemony,” “dichotomy,” or “postmodern” is something I can handle. I love writing essays—so much so that I am, perhaps somewhat insanely, choosing to pursue a senior thesis. But when it comes to the narrative style of blogging, I am both less experienced and less confident. Attempting to blog for the first time, I sat cross-legged in bed, repeatedly typing and deleting single words and phrases as I struggled to articulate my thoughts.

Thankfully, I found guidance and inspiration in my fellow women (for about the millionth time). I scrolled through the writing of past Moxie cohorts, and was struck by a post from this time last year. In her post “Who Am I?”, Kelly Atherton wrote about her natural science background and consuming Pre-Med identity. She explained that she had never identified as a feminist, coming from a largely Christian community and rarely discussing issues of sex or reproduction. She (bravely) shared comments from close friends that dismissed her budding feminist beliefs and her need to conceal the work she would be doing.

At first glance, Kelly and I could not be more different. My name is Anna Katz, and I am a rising senior who has spent three years avoiding hard science classes like the plague. I am pursuing a double major in African and African American Studies and Global Health, with a somewhat accidental but altogether fascinating minor in History. Even outside of my specific areas of study, my courses are firmly rooted in the social sciences and humanities: Sociology, Public Policy, Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies, Literature. I strongly and proudly claim Feminist as an identity, an assertion made easier by my upbringing in a diverse and very liberal suburb of Cleveland, and I was eager to tell anyone and everyone about my upcoming summer of reproductive health work.

But in reality, Kelly and I have much in common. Like Kelly, I will be working at Choices Women’s Medical Center, where I’m sure she left big shoes to fill. Though I don’t plan to pursue medicine, I too believe in health as a human right and am committed to working toward equity of health and care. I am specifically interested in sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as the ways in which the various facets of our identity—gender, race, employment, class, citizenship, sexuality, ability—shape our health and access. I hope to build a career in the realm of women’s health and reproductive justice, and I am eager to learn through my work at Choices.

I can also relate to Kelly’s hope to deepen her understanding of feminism and its importance through Moxie. Despite my robust feminist identity, I want to challenge myself to become more intersectional in my feminism, rejecting the exclusivity of white feminism and intentionally taking a more nuanced approach to equality. In the words of Flavia Dzodan, “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit!” I aim to critically analyze my own behavior and complicity in systems of subjugation, and to embrace the discomfort that can come with such confrontations of privilege and oppression.

I have also recently been thinking about the fluidity of sexuality and gender, and how my feminism can recognize and include these spectrums. By summer’s end I hope to have expanded my understanding of womanhood, reaching beyond mere bodies and genitalia for a more comprehensive definition of the power that is woman. I want to learn more about how the feminist movement has been exclusive of trans and non-binary folk, and blend my feminist values with a larger understanding of gender fluidity.

As I begin this adventure of a summer and embrace the challenges that come with it (blogging included), I am grateful for my wonderful support systems and strong communities of women. And I am especially lucky to be adding my Moxie cohort and the generations of budding leaders before us. A special thanks to Kelly for her blog inspiration—I’m sure you crushed the MCAT.


My Very First Step

My life story is probably the reserve story of most Chinese immigrant children. Instead of moving to the United States to pursue greater opportunities, my family moved to Beijing from Ann Arbor, Michigan when I was five. I went to local school, celebrated Chinese festivals, and most importantly grew up in an abundance of Chinese culture.

I never recognized sexism in certain Chinese values until I was confused by the inverse relationship between personal success and social acceptance for women in high school. It all started when I experienced social backlash after I identified myself as a feminist. The jealousy, animosity, and cold treatment I experienced when I ran for Student Council President traumatized me. When I argued that China’s One Child Policy unfairly prosecutes women and leads to dangerous abortions and forced sterilizations, my friends called me crazy and said that women have to make sacrifices for the necessary policy. When I brought up the gender wage gap in my history class, my teacher said it is reasonable given how different men’s and women’s occupations have always been throughout Chinese history. People called my opinions too “aggressive” and accused me of exaggerating or complicating issues by bringing women into the discussion.

However, gender inequality does not only exist in China. It is everywhere. It is manifested by the wage gap, the objectification of women in the media, gender violence, and the lack of women’s political representation and participation.

I am so excited to work with Girls for Gender Equality this summer to provide girls of color the self-confidence and support I never had during crucial developmental periods. By helping them recognize systemic oppression and educating them on the importance of activism, I hope to give them the support to reach their full potentials and become leaders. I understand the short duration of my stay in New York will not change the world, but I am ready to offer my enthusiasm and determination to help GEE and learn from these driven, ambitious girls.

Finding My Way

Hi! My name is Taylor Miller and I’m a rising senior majoring in Public Policy with a minor in Environmental Science and Policy and a certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. I decided to apply to the Moxie program for many reasons, but my summer 2016 internship really solidified my desire in becoming involved in women’s activism.

I have never been one to speak my mind and I would describe myself as a wallflower. Growing up with this type of personality challenged me to find ways to make a difference. In my opinion, nothing is wrong with having this introverted personality. I usually get criticized for it, but I have accepted that it’s okay. Now, this doesn’t mean that I am completely silent everywhere I go, I speak my mind when and where I please, but growing up with this sort of pensive approach, think first, talk second, has really helped me hone in on what I want to do in life.

I must admit that I had very little knowledge of social justice and women’s activism so I applied to Moxie optimistic, but worried because I felt my lack of experience in the field would be detrimental. Along with my introverted personality I thought that it would be nearly impossible for me to be an activist or social justice warrior. However, I knew that the goals of Moxie, such as observing and practicing feminist social change, would be beneficial to me. Going back to my summer 2015 internship I realized that I wanted to become involved in women’s activism because of the lack of support and knowledge that that Native American had access to concerning issues like assault and violence against women and children. During my 2016 internship I attended brownbag lunches at various law firms and there was one woman who attended and brought up the Violence against Women act and the Indian Child Welfare Act. I had no prior knowledge of the two, but I began to do my own research and discovered that Native American women suffer domestic violence and sexual assault at higher rates than other racial groups. This did not surprise me, I began to wonder why, and concluded that, as I mentioned earlier, the lack of knowledge and resources available to Native American women was also detrimental to me because I did not know of these two important legal acts.

So, as I was searching for internships and thinking about what I wanted to do for my crucial junior summer, I stumbled across the DukeEngage NYC program and decided that I needed to put aside my insecurities of being an introvert and put my passion first, advocating for Native American people in any capacity and environment. I know I made the right decision by applying to this program and I’m excited to work with an amazing organization like Legal Momentum.

Claiming Feminism

Hello, everyone! My name is Norma De Jesus, and I am a rising senior at Duke University double majoring in Public Policy and Cultural Anthropology with a certificate in Latinx Studies in the Global South. I am pursuing these academic interests because of my desire to better understand the world around me and to explore further how our identities are expressed, policed, governed and ultimately, socially constructed. These are also reasons for why I decided to apply to DukeEngage NYC and participate in an 8-weeklong learning adventure where I will have the opportunity to further explore feminism and social justice while interning at the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

I was born and raised in Edinburg, TX a predominantly Latinx small town where I wasn’t introduced to feminism until my senior year of high school when my literature teacher mentioned how our society was patriarchal. At that time, I reduced feminism to a label that described our society and not so much as a label that I could claim as my own. Feminism to me was this very basic literary term which I registered as a lens through which we can view and understand our society. It wasn’t until I got to college and explored this term in its all-encompassing glory that I finally understood the importance of claiming it and applying it to our everyday lives.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk We Should All Be Feminists was the impetus that fueled my desire to better understand feminism. In her Ted Talk, Adichie offers a compelling rendition of the female gender and of the importance of feminism. She also offered one very specific description of the socialization of girls that resonated with my upbringing. She stated that in our society, “We teach girls shame… We make them feel as though by being born female they’re already guilty of something. And so, girls grow up to be women who cannot see they have desire. They grow up to be women who silence themselves.” This silence is then encouraged and praised, especially when society labels unspoken and unapologetic women as too loud, too ambitious, and just too much. Adichie was the very first woman who gave me the courage to claim the word feminism, and she was the one who fueled my desire to help dismantle prescribed norms that this patriarchal society imposes upon our bodies.

Additionally, as I began to delve deeper into feminist frameworks and explore the waves of feminism that helped shape our United States society, I later learned of intersectional feminism. Intersectional feminism acknowledges the overlapping identities that women possess. It helps individuals understand how race, class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation shape women’s experiences. As a Latina, I personally feel more inclined to claim intersectional feminism because it helps me adopt a wider view on social issues and it allows me to see how each specific identity is policed in our society.

Thankfully, I will have the opportunity to continue exploring intersectional feminism as I engage in social justice work during my 8 weeks in New York City. At National Domestic Workers Alliance, an organization that works to advocate for better working conditions and labor rights for domestic workers, the topics of race, class and gender are some of the many intersections that I hope to explore during my time there as an intern. I am excited to be able to learn more about NDWA’s role and impact in advocating alongside domestic workers.

Welcome to: Adulting 101

I’m officially an adult! You’re probably thinking, did Alexandra just turn 18? Well, the answer is no. As a 20-year-old rising Junior at Duke, I’ve been a government certified adult a short while now. But now, with just a few more days until starting the Moxie Project in NYC, I’m starting to feel like a real adult, real fast… and boy, is it scary. 

But Alexandra, you’re pretty independent.” Sure, I’ve been cooking for myself for a few years now, and yes, I’ve dealt with government offices, and yeah, I call to make doctor’s appointments… by myself, thank you. I’d say this is quite the achievement as adult-level status. And yet, the thought of having an actual internship in New York City, managing a strict budget, and applying all that I’ve learned in my Women’s Studies and Psychology courses to hands-on, real life, situations, makes me realize I’m not as much of an adult as I think I am.

During my time at Duke, I’ve held two work-study jobs, jobs tailored to be as accomodating as possible to students and their schedules. Soon, however, I’ll be working with Queens Family Justice Center, assisting with children of survivors of intimate partner violence. Now, I’ll be working a real job, an hour away 9AM-5PM, where the well-being of children of survivors is in my hands. Nothing seems more real than this, and I’m both incredibly excited and incredibly terrified of the experience. What if I have no idea what I’m doing? What if my supervisors don’t like me? What if I do something wrong? Without the Duke bubble safety net to keep me comfortable, I’m having some serious doubts.

On top of that, having a budget and working an hour away from home means I’ll have to do weekly meal-planning and prepping! I’ve always seen meal-planning when it comes to diets. Now, I actually have to know what I want, and make it, in advance. No food points to save me, no skipping meals, and no last minute Chipotle…unless I want to kiss my wallet goodbye.

Regardless of how new this all is, being able to work with my Moxies, developing life-long professional and personal skills, and genuinely practicing all that I’ve learned in class, is an opportunity I’m really lucky to have, and I’m ready for it. I’m ready to take on these challenges and face my doubts. No matter how old, or young, we are, being an adult is a process that takes time, and a lot of discomfort. This summer, I can’t wait to keep learning how to be the adult I want and need to be. I’m ready.

Excitement and Discomfort

“I am uncomfortable being comfortable.” – Steve Nash

I came across this quote in an old notebook, written by a younger me during a summer at Point Guard College in 2011. Six years later I find myself continuing to push my bounds of comfort in an effort to achieve what I often refer to as “personal growth”. This summer I am expecting a lot of discomfort but looking forward to being challenged by Ada and Shannan, emboldened through my work with Girls for Gender Equity, and inspired by the brilliant minds of the 6 other Moxies as I venture into the realm of feminism.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Devon. I am a rising senior / biology major / chemistry minor / pre-med / freedom fighter. My first 18 years of life were spent in Frisco, Texas (a northern suburb of Dallas) before I took flight to Durham, NC. At Duke, I have learned to question everything and this has brought me to a deeper understanding of who I am as well as led me to further questions. This summer I hope to address my role as a feminist and how it can be incorporated into my everyday life while staying true to my identity as a black woman and aspiring physician.

During an activity at DukeEngage Academy we were instructed to ask our partners repeatedly “who are you?” followed by “how might you be perceived?” for one minute each. As Shannan asked me the first question with a patient smile, I responded “Black. A woman. A friend. A daughter. A sister. A Christian.” When she moved on to the second question, I was forced to confront my own discomfort with the idea of perception.

Perception is a concept that has recently plagued my thoughts. On an impulse last semester, I deleted all my social media profiles to get away from my doubts and fears concerning how I was being perceived through social media. In a recent conversation with a stranger, I realized that perceptions are inescapable. In my ideal world, we would all be seen for who we are; but the reality of life is that from another person’s perspective what you are can only be encompassed by what they perceive of you. Perception. So, as I work to understand who I am, I am also working towards living a life that reflects the person that I wish to be perceived as.

As I journey to the concrete jungle next week, I am filled with excitement. Excited to explore my responsibility as a woman to dismantle the patriarchy and address the inherent oppression of our society. Excited to work with GGE to evaluate systems that are affecting our girls and empower a new generation of leaders. Excited to grow and learn and connect with the Moxies. I don’t exactly know where this summer is going to take me but I know that I am excited to find out!

Well…here we go!

Let’s start with the basics: I’m Gracie Meisel, and I’m a rising junior majoring in Public Policy. I live on the border or Maryland and Washington, D.C. in a town called Chevy Chase. No, it’s not named after the actor. And no, my parents aren’t politicians (which I’m pretty thankful for right now).

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I was thrilled when I was accepted into the Moxie program because how else would I want to spend my summer if not fighting sexism and all other “isms” that intersect? Besides of course sitting on my butt watching TV, sitting by the pool, and sleeping until noon…Kidding, kidding, kidding.

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But in all seriousness, I am honored to have the opportunity to work for Sanctuary for Families this summer. At Duke, I spend a lot of my time helping implement initiatives to work towards ending sexual assault on campus, and I am so interested to learn about the tactics that Sanctuary for Families implements to help prevent gender violence. I am also excited to learn about the ways in which non-profits function: their strengths, what their inefficiencies are, etc.

I am a little nervous about the whole food situation living on my own though. You mean to tell me there are no food points? No flex? No monopoly money? Guess I’ll have to learn how to boil water…again, kidding! I know how to boil water. No promises that the food coming from the boiling water will be edible though.

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I can’t wait to get to know the other Moxies and start my summer in NYC in just a few weeks.

The awakening

Well it only took 15 hours in transit, but I finally made it back to the West Coast. No more subway, no more concrete jungle, and no more extreme heat—but I have found that the Moxie remains.

REVELATION: Racism does exist in the state of Washington!

Oh really?

So does homophobia, sexism, classism,and all the other –isms and –phobias that plague the rest of the world. I say this, not because I believed otherwise prior to our program, but rather, I didn’t have the instruments to recognize them or I wasn’t concerned enough to call them out.

“Ignorance is bliss” has never held more true for me than after this summer in New York. While Washington you could say is a lot more “forward-thinking,” it is in no way perfect.

This transition back home has not been easy. Conversations with people seem to ignore key issues and to be missing real substance. I can’t talk about everything because I either don’t feel comfortable speaking my mind or I don’t think they have the competency nor any personal interest in holding the conversation in the first place.

Do you really care?

I’m stuck—between wanting my Moxies back and having context for these discussions surrounding gender, race, and sexuality, and wanting to enjoy the company of my friends and family without acknowledging that anything is wrong.
But I can’t ignore them, no matter how nuanced and “micro” the aggressions are. Now it not only rubs me the wrong way, but I am forced to think about it. I analyze it because it’s an instinct. I want to do something about it because otherwise, it eats at me.

I am officially woke y’all, but it has its ups and downs. It’s tiring to cope with, but powerful to have in my possession. Being home at home is a struggle, but only a sliver of that which will be encountered back at Duke.

Nonetheless, I am anxious to go back. I am intrigued to see how I conquer the rest of my Duke years (really life in general) and I want to thank Moxie for giving me the tools to do so.

Once a Moxie, Always a Moxie

It has officially been one week since leaving New York and the Moxie project and somehow this week has felt like a century. It is amazing how much I had gotten used to the lifestyle of the city: constantly busy, always exhausted, very little downtime. My body had finally adjusted. But now that it’s over and I’m no longer working everyday, I find myself counting down the days until I will be back in classes and work and just having something to do at all times. I think being a Moxie made me forget how to relax.

Upon leaving New York City, I went straight back to Durham and immediately reentered the Duke bubble. What I’ve really noticed though through talking to my Duke friends this past week is just how unique the Moxie project really is. When I try to explain the program and its many components people just don’t quite get it. None of their internships or research projects also involved reading academic texts, taking part in seminars, and going to reflection dinners. Many of their summers consisted of going into work each day, putting in the hours, then going home to put it all behind them for awhile until starting again the next day. It’s hard to explain what it was like to have the themes of our readings and the context of our work follow us throughout everything we did, whether at work or with other Moxies or neither. The Moxie project is truly one of a kind and I’m now realizing just how lucky I am to have been a part of this program.

And unlike many other internships I could have done this summer, I don’t feel as though being a Moxie ended when I left New York City. I can actually feel how much those 8 weeks have affected me. The most noticeable impact I’ve felt since finishing the program is that I think I have officially found my voice.

When someone makes a racist, sexist, homophobic or just offensive comment I physically can’t just brush it away anymore. I find myself with an intense urge to call them out and explain why what they said was wrong. I am more confident in my political beliefs and my passions and have found myself actively participating in discussion on political and social issues, something I once would shy away from. The Moxie project gave me the language necessary to express my opinions and convictions and for that I am forever grateful.

The only real regret I feel at the moment is that I didn’t participate in this program earlier in my Duke career. I am realizing how much more attuned I am to the everyday oppression and microaggressions that exist even just within our Duke bubble. I plan to spend my senior year using this new voice and the strategies I’ve learned to help make (or at least start to make) some actual change to the systemic issues in our school’s community. And then after I graduate in less than a year (yikes) I feel confident that the skills and perspectives I’ve gained this summer will carry with me into everything I do.

Once a Moxie, always a Moxie.

Never Really Over

I’ve avoided writing the dreaded “Moxie has come to an end” blog for as long as possible, but overdue would be an understatement. Last Saturday, when I woke up and saw everyone packed and our rooms nearly empty, it felt so unreal. The eight weeks spent in NYC had been so incredible and it was sad to see that the amazing people, brilliant conversations and beautiful city were going to be behind me.

In all honesty, I did not know how or to what extent this experience was going to impact me or shape me as a young woman, a student, and an activist. My friend had mentioned that I was going to see things differently and that  how I experience college, see the world and approach situations was going to change, and she was very right.  Within the one week I’ve been back home, I’ve noticed that I did see things a bit differently; I was very keen of my surroundings and the situations I was in.  I was hyperaware  of the interactions I had and how I saw my friends and my sisters handle everyday situations.

But this is a very, very small part of what I have learned.

I learned that as much of a bliss ignorance is, it does not compare to the value and power of knowledge, and that we can learn not only from our professors and teachers with abbreviations before their names, but also from community members and leaders who know too well, the struggles as well as the solutions.

I learned that like most things, social justice and activism are processes rather than destinations (I know, cheesy). Some may not find their power through their voices, but maybe through their words or their art that speak louder than any voice.

I learned that if you want to solve an issue pertaining to a specific community, you need to speak to the members of the community. Especially if the issues at hand are involving young folks, we should encourage these young activists instead of discrediting them. We need to ensure that they are at the center of the conversations we’re having.

But most of all, I learned that every great thing takes time, so patience was going to be something I needed to remind myself of very often.  When it all feels like it’s for nothing, or that there’s no progress being made, it was important to remind myself that the ‘small’ steps we find tedious are the ones that become the building blocks of great movements.

So, as much as I see that Moxie is over, it never really is. I’m so incredibly thankful for these eight weeks because I have learned so much from every reading, every seminar discussion and weekly reflection. And as scary as adult life seems, and as unsure as I am about what exactly to expect from my three more years of college, I know I’m going through these things with confidence,  and perseverance. From the early days and the late nights, from the long commutes and 90 degree days, I could not be more thankful for this experience.