more than ranting and raging

Grace is a rising senior interning at Legal Momentum this summer.

The first thing I did today was retweet a New York Times article titled, “Women as the Family Breadwinner on the Rise, Study Says.”  “YES. GREAT TO SEE. LET ME SHARE THAT,” I thought.  Dig a little deeper and you are reminded why 4 out of 10 households with underage children depend on the mother’s income for survival… there is no father within the household to provide.  The women in nearly two-thirds of these households are single parents.  This study reflects the extreme difference in family dynamics from 50 years ago when the number of breadwinning women was just a fourth of what it is today.  On a more empowering note, the article also shows the immense growth in the percentage of women who make more money than their husbands…almost 25% compared to just 6% in 1960!  Even if the woman has no choice but to be the main financial supporter for her family, the statistics are there… women can do it!

I love seeing evidence that women are capable of filling traditionally male roles.  For me, it does so much more than prove that women deserve ample education and work opportunities.  It helps me justify my feminism.  I have no fear sharing my views on women’s rights knowing that women REALLY ARE as good as men.  I almost can’t believe that that concept isn’t understood and still needs defense, but even though it’s the 21st century, there are bounteous demonstrations of the notion that men are better than women.  Rape and domestic violence are just two obvious examples.

I hope that working with Legal Momentum in the Equality Works program will help me structure my feminism.  It seems everyday I boil over misogynistic things I notice on the news, in social media, or from friends and family, but there’s no release.  I end my internal rants over how outrageous this world and men are with no satisfaction.  And if I do vocalize my feelings, the reception from those I trust with my rage is unsatisfactory.  I couldn’t be more excited to work with other feminists in a professional setting.

woMenWorkingLargeSo far I’ve gathered that Equality Works mainly supports female construction workers to stay in the field.   Working with this cause will be refreshing.  I have never worked with policy.  I’ve never looked into sexism within the construction industry.  I’ve never even met a female construction worker.  Getting familiar with these three things probably won’t take long.  While stereotypical intern tasks like filing and excel spreadsheets might make it hard to see the effect of Equality Work’s mission in this very real, very patriarchal world, I can clearly see how helping women move forward in their career affects the women’s movement.  Statistics, like the one that I chose to pass along to all my Twitter followers this morning, require tedious work to change.



In my backyard

Ngozi is a rising junior working at National Domestic Workers Alliance this summer.

Friend: Oh my gosh! You’re doing Duke Engage!? Where are you going? Wait- don’t tell me. Um…Kenya

Me: Nope

Friend: D.C.

Me: Guess again

Friend: Cape Town?

Me: Keep on trying

Friend: Ok, I give up. No, hold on, somewhere in China?

Me: New York City

Friend: But you live so close, why would you choose NYC?


This is the typical reaction I receive from friends and family when I share my summer plans. The people in my life have a difficult time digesting why I would ever want to spend my one and only Duke Engage experience at a location only 15 minutes from my home in New Jersey. To that I say, some things are best learnt close to home (especially if close to home means NYC), and I have lots to learn.

But before I elaborate on what it is that I intend/hope to learn during the summer, I’ll tell you a bit about me.

My name is Ngozi, I’m a sophomore studying History and Ethics at Duke. I’m a first generation Nigerian-American, I love museums, musicals, doo-wop, and baking. This summer I’ll be interning at the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA). NDWA is a powerful non-profit committed to providing housekeepers and nannies with a political and economic voice.

I first heard about the organization on a Youtube commercial featuring Amy Poehler. She urges viewers to support the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in California because as a workingwoman and mother, she is highly dependent on caretakers to keep her home running smoothly. Honestly, after 5 seasons of Parks and Recreation, I’ll support anything this woman says!

No, but seriously, domestic workers are an invaluable resource to families where one or both parents work outside the home. Yet, many state governments fail to recognize domestic work as legitimate occupations. NDWA is working to change that.

This summer I want to explore the various methods that NDWA will use to legitimize domestic work. What works? What doesn’t? And where better to learn the tricks of the trade than in New York City? The city is a center of social activism and political activity; how many protests, marches, etc. have been staged in this city in the last 5 years alone? Beyond the bustling political scene,  the city has some delicious food, great music, and Broadway. I’m ready to go!

Everything Else

Kristie is a rising junior interning at Legal Momentum this summer.

It’s been a while since I have left home and slept in my bed for more than two meager weeks at a time. I have spent the last six years in a dormitory, four of which have been with all girls during my time at a New Hampshire boarding school. All of this time spent with girls have prompted many questions about the importance of womanhood, the feminist movement and has brought to light the still patriarchal system we live in. A couple days ago in Seoul, during a night out with some of my close girlfriends, I explained my upcoming summer opportunity at the nonprofit Legal Momentum. I got some raised eyebrows and with a slight smirk, two girls next to me noted how uncomfortable it is going against the patriarchal system (in many ways, its much more blatant in Korea). This inevitably raised some thoughts: the role of women in holding back their own progress, my own views in light of my background as a Korean and an American and whether the question of “having it all” is invalid.

ques cityWith such thoughts, I can’t help but wonder that I couldn’t have chosen a better city to battle these ideas. I am fascinated by the city: its glamor and skyscrapers never fail to amaze me. I have a new sense of fascination, however, as my flight to New York approaches. This summer in the city will hopefully expose some answers to questions I have been dealing with during my time at Duke as well as unearth some new questions, many of which are personal.

I identified some of the obstacles I’ll have to face as I begin working at Legal Momentum (it’s my first 9-5 gig). But I’m sure there will be many that will be unexpected as I begin to explore the city, hang out with the other girls in the Moxie Project, interact with my co-workers and confront some uncomfortable situations. I’m excited to write about many of these upcoming conflicts and piece through them in the Moxie blog.

As I glimpsed through my Instagram feed the other day (yes, I’m an utter Instagram junkie), one little saying has keep running through my mind: “It only ends once. Everything else is just progress.” I’m not sure I’ll solidify my own thoughts and stance on the current feminist movement or even if I’ll accomplish my humble goals I’ve set for the summer. However, I am excited to begin this progress. Keep tuned.

A is for Amber

Amber is a rising sophomore interning at the Bronx Family Justice Center.

flashcard“What is this letter?”


“Chipaw, this letter right here, which one is it?”


“Is it A? It’s A right?”

She looked away.

“Can you say A? A. Ayyy. A.” I tapped the card and tucked it behind Z.

She turned to me, her eyes hard and glassy. It was as though her expression mocked the flashcards, challenging, “How can these letters have any significance in the face of the pain I have endured?”

She was a refugee. Emaciated—no teeth, no voice, and a steely glare.

This time I was silent.  What could I do but gaze back?


My name is Amber Black and I’m from Olmsted Falls, OH.  I’m a nineteen-year-old rising sophomore, and my academic interests include English, Spanish, Psychology, and gender and racial disparities. In my first semester at Duke, I worked to educate newly resettled refugees.  This exchange last September was the first time I felt the weight of what it meant to be a woman.  Although the two of us were not communicating with language, I felt the pain and despair of her oppression.  As I gripped the flashcards, I realized I really wanted to help her and others in similar circumstances. I could only hope that I would someday be able to do so.

Of course, I leaped at the chance to advocate for women with DukeEngage. This summer, I’ll be working with the Bronx Family Justice Center, where I’ll interact with both women and children who have been directly affected by domestic violence.  The BXFJC is a haven that not only provides services to battered women and their families, but also works closely with its legal contacts to prevent such crime from occurring so regularly.  While I’m elated that the Moxie Project has provided me such an extraordinary opportunity, I wonder about a few things:

  • Is there such a thing as a conservative feminist? I wonder how conservative views fit into such a liberal movement.  Is there a place for super traditional or conservative individuals to work for the betterment of women without abandoning their stance?
  • Am I even a feminist? I don’t know much about the modern movement, and I am unsure whether or not my recent urge to help women classifies me as a feminist.
  • How will this experience change my academic ventures in the future? I am completely open to anything.  If I see something that convinces me to change courses, I’ll go with it.  I wonder if that will happen this summer.

All in all, I’d say my prevailing emotion is nervousness.  I’m so excited to participate, but I just want to do a good job.  I want to learn, I want to help, and I want to enjoy the experience. I look forward to an ambitious and remarkable summer.


Girl Power

Melanie is a rising senior interning at Girls for Gender Equity this summer. 

sexting-590x460“Hmm.. Josh just texted me that he wants me to send him a naked picture of myself. I don’t know that I am totally comfortable with that- but then again, he said he wouldn’t show anyone. Plus, it would definitely make him like me more- I should be flattered that he asked me, especially because Josh is in high school!”

What will this 7th grade girl do? Will her choice even matter? I have seen, first hand, many girls who make the choice to send the nude photo, and I have also seen what it can lead to… an infatuation with sexualization that diverts them from schoolwork, and a viral photo leads to embarrassment and shame causing the girl’s self-esteem to spiral downwards. It is unfortunate that these girls have insecurities about themselves that leads them to stoop to the level of sending a naked photo of in order to get (what they assume would be) positive attention, when in reality the true outcome of this action is negative. But what is this 7th grade girl really great at? Is she an insightful writer? Is she an athlete? Could she be a great artist or engineer? Why is she not thinking about that? Why is she not tapping into her talents as opposed to an over obsession with her body. The issue is not with an over obsession with her body- the issue lies with the fact that she has such a lack of self concept and self esteem that she feels the need to use her body as a tool for any attention. It is vital to help girls  to understand that they have the power and control in their lives, and that they can be anything they want to be.

My name is Melanie Sperling and I am an upcoming senior at Duke. I am a psychology major with a Children in Contemporary Society Certificate. This summer I am excited to be working with Girls for Gender Equity. Specifically I will be doing work with their Urban Leaders Academy (ULA) in planning for their upcoming program year. My major focuses will be in partnership development and logistical program planning and projection. ULA is a holistic program designed to advance leadership skills, social justice principals and values, and self-determination in junior high school students – just what the girl in my example could use.

Have you ever sat and talked with middle school girls? I worked extensively with this age group my past three years at Duke through tutoring programs and The Girls’ Club in Durham. Additionally, many of my friends have middle school aged sisters, and I was a middle schooler myself not too long ago. One thing that many middle school students have in common is that they are sensitive, and are working to develop their own identity. They often fly through romantic relationships on a weekly basis, socialize in cliques, and are highly critical of one another. Middle school girls are also strong, creative, intelligent and fun loving. Unfortunately, many of the conflicts that occur for girls in middle school cause unnecessary worry and angst and can lead a girl on a negative path if they are not given the skills to develop confidence and leadership, and the perspective to understand the benefits that education can have for their future.

These girls are the people that are eventually going to go out in the world and build their own communities, and they are either going to realize their talents and perpetuate a cycle of education, engagement and leadership, or they are going to submit to a plummeting self concept and likely have negative life outcomes. I am incredibly passionate about working with GGE because their main goal is to promote physical, psychological, social and economic well being for girls, women and ultimately the entire community. GGE acts as a catalyst for change to improve gender and race relations and socio-economic conditions for the most vulnerable youth and communities of color.

I got involved in the Moxie Project  through a course I took this past spring called Women in the Public Sphere. I learned about the history and current state of feminism. My sophomore year I created a research portfolio on the early sexualization of girls in the US. While I have an interest in focusing on the psychological well being of all people, from infants to the elderly, I have a special place in my heart for youth and young adults, and especially for young women. I believe that women can be the backbone of strong organizations and a strong society, and that circumstances that perpetuate negative outcomes for women must be uprooted in order to create communities and societies that can blossom.

Why am I on this planet?

Lorena is a rising sophomore interning at Legal Momentum this summer.

Hey there! My name is Lorena Garcia and I am a sophomore at Duke University. When I heard about he Duke Engage Project, I thought to myself, “Woah! Who wouldn’t apply to this amazing, FREE, community service program?” Right, wouldn’t you? So early on, I began to look at the different programs and I thought about applying to an international program. With time, I decided that I was not ready to go abroad and do community service in an impoverished country. I felt that I was not ready for that type of experience. Most importantly,  if I could not prepare myself mentally, then I would not be able to help others effectively. I decided to look at the domestic programs…and THAT’S when I saw the New York City Duke Engage program. The feminist in me felt thrilled and invited to apply to this program. This program is perfect for ME!

So, this summer I will be participating in the Moxie Project with Ada Gregory. I will be working with the National Judicial Education Program of Legal Momentum,  a program that strives to end domestic violence and sexual abuse. The work  may be similar to  my work-study job in Durham where I work with a non-profit called Durham Connects and help mothers all over Durham County—many of those mothers live in poor conditions and my team and I assist them to Medicaid and Food Stamps. To be honest with you, I have never worked with anyone dealing with domestic violence or sexual abuse (at least, not that I know of). However, I am soooo excited to immerse myself in this type of atmosphere this summer. It will definitely be a life-changing experience.

planetAt Duke, I am a sociology and global health double major and on the premed route,  aspiring to be a pediatrician. Another side of me would like to help others through legal work, service or even beginning my own non-profit. This program could help me mold my goals and dreams and maybe even transform my entire aspirations. I often reflect on what I want to do for the rest of my life:

Why am I on this planet?

My entire life I have dreamed of being a doctor… but never have I given any other career any thought, until this spring when I took a Women Studies class at Duke. I realized that there are many issues out there that I would like to address. Maybe I can help others, in another manner outside of the medical field. THIS EXACT thought is what led me to the Moxie Project–to spend eight weeks giving all I can to hopefully make a change.



Claire from Canada

Claire is a rising junior interning with Sanctuary for Families.leaves

My name is Claire, quickly remembered by the alliteration “Claire from Canada.” A rising junior at Duke, I came to the USA as a rowing recruit and discovered a wealth of other passions and experiences for me to throw my energy into. I’m thrilled to be a Moxie and intern with Sanctuary for Families. The NY based organization is committed to ending gender violence by supporting and advocating for women and their children. I will better understand my role at Sanctuary this coming Monday; I head South of the border Sunday afternoon and will face the bustle and subway system early Monday morning.

My upbringing was shaped by strong female leaders and “firsts”: my grandma was the first woman in her town to pursue post-secondary education, while my mother persevered through school and social barriers to become to first female emergency physician in our city. I was raised knowing nothing but equality and justice, witnessing the benefits of empowered women reaching their full potential. It wasn’t until I grew older that my naivety gave way to the reality of the disparity within social, gender and racial groups. I wanted to understand how people had been conditioned to look at a category with multiple variations and rank them from greater to lesser. Why was there an inferior sex or a lesser race? My curiosity led to a preferred genre of literature; I read books from A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini) to Room (Emma Donoghue) and my passion for advocacy and change grew.

I arrived at Duke full of ideas, hoping to find heated discussions and outlets for activism. What I discovered were judgmental peers about the female athlete in their engineering classes, and sexist professors who knew that girls were better suited for the ‘softer sciences’. I was full of passion, drive, and now frustration, but did not know what to do with it all, apart from aggressively correcting rude remarks and assumptions. But I wanted to change the whole mindset, buried in the inequity found within the different categories people fall into. And that brings us to the present: 1 week away from the Moxie Project. I hope to take all of my fuel, passion and attempted self-inspection to do work that makes an impact (however small), and understand and strongly define my feminist identity. There is so much to learn! Contributing to this blog will help both with reflection, and helping to track the change I see in myself throughout the summer. As this is the inaugural post, I will create a kind of ‘bucket list’ here of what I hope to both achieve and experience, and hopefully this will hold me accountable. Here’s to exciting beginnings!

  1. Learn the grid system both above and below ground
  2. Engage daily in conversations with others who express different beliefs from mine; appreciate the perspectives of someone else while improving the articulation of my ideas
  3. Do one thing each day that is unknown, intriguing and ‘scary’…and keep a log of what was done and how it felt to conquer a fear
  4. Run EVERYWHERE around the island, and repeat
  5. Find my independence in this new setting, both with navigation and preparing my food. My roommate Maya and I hope to be avid chefs this summer!
  6. Absorb as many aspects of New York culture as I can
  7. Take at minimum an hour daily to be alone and reflect, write/blog and summarize the physical and intangible outcomes of the day
  8. Read the New York Times and attempt as many crosswords as possible
  9. Walk in the PRIDE Parade on June 30
  10. Be open and ready for everything I will learn this summer—about myself, feminist theory, the operations of a non-profit, advocacy, and the city.

This is ME

Brianna is a rising senior interning at Sanctuary for Families working on Special Events and Development.

Visualize images, phrases, and memories zooming past you in a chaotic whirlwind. It is your childhood, your struggles, your aha moments.  It is that loss of innocence, that discovery of a new passion, the opening up of an undefended self.  When your mind finally stops you are left with a collage of pictures, experiences, people, and voices – what is this patchwork that you are observing?

It is you.

Just a few days ago I was working on recruiting students within the Duke Community to join me in a new organization called the Duke Culture Initiative.  In each email, I presented our mission with enthusiasm and excitement, I revealed goals that we were confident would be achieved, and a to-do list that emphasized our commitment and dedication.  I was so caught up in building up this organization that I was so passionate about until my friend Frank said to me:

“I just have one quick question for you: Why did you choose to become so involved with this?”

It stopped me dead in my tracks…

I did not respond for days, not because I didn’t have a reason, but because it was not as simple as he thought. Reading his question again I felt a rush in the pit of my stomach, I felt the chaotic whirlwind approach and then I witnessed all of the pieces coming together. This was the same anxious but enthralling feeling that I had when I asked myself why Moxie? Why have I become so passionate and excited about entering into a program focusing on women, leadership, and social change?

Navigating through my life experiences I tried to pinpoint one event, one revelation that I made throughout the years that explained everything about me, my values, my motivators, my passions. But this was not going to cut it.  I have had multiple light bulb moments where I think I have it all figured out, the point at which I understand everything. I think I have finally discovered all that there is to me and all that there is to know about changing the world!…But then I do some more digging, gain a little more knowledge and the moment repeats itself.  Why does this happen? — well we are continually developing and discovering new things about the world and ourselves. It is the most validating experiences that make you feel whole, but at the same time you still feel as if there is something missing, that the entire puzzle is not there.  So here it goes…here is what I have of my puzzle, here are my 21 years in a nut shell, my values, my passions, my motivators; me.

My mom reminds me to this day that from the time I was a year old I was stubborn and it always had to be my way.  I knew what I wanted and most likely if I put my mind to it I was going to achieve it.  From 7 years old on, running was my focus and it quickly became my passion.  Training in elementary school through high school many of those years on my own, I had to learn to be self-driven, and confident in the path I had chosen and this individuality grew on me.  I valued being independent, and I valued remaining true to yourself no matter what reaction or ridicule this evoked from others. Despite the consequence of being isolated and losing friends during my high school years because I had chosen not to follow the norm…I was extremely satisfied with who I was and what I was doing…because it was me.  I had not allowed outside opinions, jokes, or jealousy to break me down and I was lucky.  I was lucky to be brought up in a family with parents who never put a limit on what I was capable of, they were always supportive and enthusiastic explaining to me that nothing was impossible, and most of all they developed an environment where I felt comfortable and even proud of being unique.  In our household, pursuing you was valued.  I never really liked the “standard” or mediocre, it just didn’t align with who I was.

My American Culture Studies class my senior year of high school was the first “A-ha” moment; the summer after that class my big statement was “I am going to change the world, I am going to change values.” I had seen it ALL — destructive messages in the media, an understanding of a consumer culture that sexualized everything, commodifying women’s bodies to sell almost anything, and a superior corporate culture that bred self-interest.  I could not understand the world I was living in…but at this point I did not know how to change it.  Fast forward to freshmen year at Duke, plagued with injury, and having a difficult time understanding myself as anything other than a runner, led me to seek out new passions.  Through volunteering, my Leadership and Narrative course, the writing of a 40-page paper about myself, and personal experiences that taught me the meaning of empowerment and self-respect, I could now identify what my new passion was. I wanted to provide anyone and everyone I connected with to experience the same discovery of the self, an understanding of their personal belief system and most importantly to be equip with the internal courage and confidence to pursue their dreams and passions as well as the external community that could foster this behavior.

It was, and still is, a struggle to “be you”. When we live in a culture that has restrictive expectations that shape behavior; highly influenced by ingrained gender constructions and social norms, and intolerance towards differences. I see it in my own life, and it hurts me to witness this in my younger siblings’ lives. But the oppressive nature of these elements in our society is not set in stone, they are not fact, they are not truth.  I want to break this idea, and yes, I do want to change values.  Many people accept that it is human nature to express characteristics of aggression, violence and self-interest, BUT we are entirely capable, and in fact soft wired, for affection, companionship and empathy.  It may be some time until that day comes, when empathy is the norm and when differences are accepted; when you don’t feel insecure expressing the true you. But no matter when that day comes…

this is still me.

The Empathic Civilization

Hollaback at yo’ Girl

Maya is a rising junior working at Hollaback! this summer.

smoking mad menAlthough we’re half a century past the 1960s and the closest I’ve ever come to a Lucky Strike Cigarette are vague memories of my granddad, I can’t help but imagine my summer life in New York as a season of Mad Men. I’m not exactly sure why I’m equating them. Perhaps it’s my expectation of encountering challenges along the city streets (both personal and related to gender), or maybe it is something more superficial, like wanting to unapologetically run an office like Joan. There’s also a chance that the hours I’ve spent bored at home watching season after season have made me believe that I should be geared up for a summer working for the “man.”

But I am not Joan, I’m working in Brooklyn and not Manhattan, and the “man” that I’m interning with is quite the opposite: Emily May, Executive Director of Hollaback! In fact, Emily May and Hollaback! are arguablyEmily_holla as far from the “man” as it gets—Emily, an international leader in the anti-street harassment movement and Hollaback! an organization that gives women and members of the LGBTQ community an empowered response to street harassment. After its inception in 2005, Hollaback! has trained over 200 leaders internationally, engaged elected officials, won several awards, and received money and support from numerous foundations and corporations, including the New York Women’s Foundation and Ben and Jerry’s Foundation (the latter of which, I was disappointed to learn, has nothing to do with the ice cream).

I’m Maya, by the way. Feminist and Texan. Mango Lassi drinker and cat lover. I am excited and ready for my Moxie adventure—Mad Men peril aside. I’m looking for a challenge, I’m looking to learn, and I’m excited to step into the Brooklyn unknown!

Hollaback! at yo’ girl!

Another Moxie Summer – 2013

moxieOn June 2nd, ten new Moxies will arrive in NYC for 8 rigorous weeks of  social change work in non-profits working with women and girls, critical analysis of social movements, women’s history and contemporary challenges to equity, and lots of reflection on their place in all of that. They’ll be hosted in organizations all over New York City to witness women who work to end street harassment, domestic violence and sexual assault, who teach girls to make change in themselves and the world, and who work to give more women access to economic security. Follow along with them as they explore what it means to be a part of the women’s movement today!