Village Voices

New York City contains an enormous variety of people. Some love it; some hate it. Some struggle to get by, and others live with few concerns for their everyday survival. We (Julia and Rachel) were inspired to connect with people in the community right outside our front door. Washington Square Park is an oasis for people to play street music, read books, play chess, sell food, admire the arch built in honor of George Washington, and listen to children squeal while running through a water fountain. People from all walks of life come here to enjoy the square that used to form the center stage for bohemian folk singers during the Beatnik Riot. We came away with a new connection to the city by interviewing and photographing seven individuals and groups, reflecting on life in New York, feminism, and the social movements.


Film editor from Canada

This man has lived in the city since 1964, and has witnessed many of the changes New York has seen. He used to live in Canada, working as a film editor for TV shows and movies. With the help of a caretaker, he gladly answered our questions and told us about his life.

What gives you hope?

“The day to day things, basically. You have no choice, basically – you keep the hope or you’re out.”

What would your ideal society look like?

“It would have to be a democracy. No religion at all. I wouldn’t force it, but I would hope it would fade away. Because to me, religion has been the great curse of mankind. Oceans of blood have been spilled by religious wars so it would have to be rational. As it continues, it will change.”


Admirer of the Sun

Enjoying her peaceful weekend off from work, this woman described her feelings of living in a hectic city.

What gives you hope?

“The sun.”

What do you think is the biggest problem that New York City faces?

“People work too much. They forget to live.”


First day at the food stand in Washington Square Park

This was his first day on the job at an ice cream cart in the park; previously, he had worked at one in Central Park. His boss owns all of the yellow carts you see around the city. Although humorous, he describes real fears he and his family face living in New York City.

What do you think is the biggest problem that New York City faces?

“It’s my concern, for the job or for the housing. I live with my wife and my baby, and I pay $1100 in rent. If I’m single, it doesn’t matter. But if you have a family, everything goes into housing. I applied for city housing. It’s been 3 years, and no response. Every time I call, nothing.”

What would your ideal society look like?

“There’s a little park, there’s a community board, a school, and housing project – cheaper than now. If you make $1200 a month, rent shouldn’t be more than $500 a month. If it’s $800, $900, how are you going to pay for your coat? Your food? Your baby’s Pampers? I have a baby now, and my wife is pregnant, and I’m terrified for when it comes. I applied for food stamps and filled out all the paperwork and they got back to me and asked, “You have another child on the way. How are you going to pay for that?” Like, you have this pen and paper. I don’t ask you how you got it. That’s insulting. You have it, it’s yours.”

An international group of friends: the British, the American, and the Italians.

An international group of friends: the British, the American, and the Italians.

We saw this group of four friends sitting on a sunny spot of ground. The two men were Italian, the woman on the far right was British, and the woman second from the left was from the U.S. Both women conduct research in physics, a male dominated field. They had an easy friendship, talking and laughing as they enjoyed a beautiful Sunday morning.

What gives you purpose?

After one of them replied with “Love,” they all agreed on this question.

What comes to mind when you hear the word feminism?

Woman towards the left: “Independence.”
Woman on the right: “Equality.”

Man toward the right: “I try to support feminism in my own world. I try to treat my girlfriend [left] even better than I treat myself. This world is hard for women, so I try to make her life easier in that regard. Not that she needs it – she’s very independent.”

Woman toward the left: “We both (refers to woman on the right) work in a male dominated area of research [physics], so I spend time with other female postdocs discussing these kinds of issues.

Woman on the right: “It gets worse as you get further along. In my masters, there were 250 of us – male and female – and 10 were female.”

If you could start any social movement, what would it be for?

Woman on the right: “The right for anyone to be who they want to be without discrimination.”

Woman toward the left: “Clean water and toilets – it would seriously reduce the amount of sexual violence towards women. It’s an especially big problem in India.”

Man toward the right: “I would increase the culture about food. Most health issues come from bad eating habits. And the rich people can afford to eat well because healthy food is more expensive than fast food. But then we’re punishing the poor.”


Chess Players of Washington Square Park

A chess player and a photographer reminisced about the former state of the park, when music filled the entire park, people could “get anything”, and the park was open all night for everyone. Both discussed problems in New York, rising college tuitions, and the inconsistencies in police punishments.

What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you?

Man (on the right): “I was shot at 13 going to get medicine for my grandma. From Lexington to Madison, I never made it. It was April 30th, 1969. My arm went real heavy. I was like, I think I’m shot! Everyone started going Ahhh, Ahhh. I was shot. My arm felt like someone yanked my arm, and then I saw blood. That was traumatic.”

Man (on the left): “I was running on the roof of a factory. We were playing tag. I was a kid, a teenager, about 13. Next thing I know, I woke up in the hospital. I fell through.”
Man (R): “God was looking out for you. He said, Imma give you give you another chance, fool!”

What is New York’s biggest problem?

Man (L): “Police. I mean if you’re wrong you’re wrong, but you’ve got cops picking people up for small things while murderers walk around the city like nothing’s wrong. And they don’t get investigated like people do for having an open beer.”

Man (R): “Profiling business. It’s like you’re guilty before anything else happens.”

Man (L): “I like change, but I believe that New York is now a police state.”

Man (R): “$30,000 turned into $70,000 in loans. Sold myself to student loans.”


Saxophone Player for Rasheed and the Jazz Collective

This saxophone player practices every Sunday with his jazz band Rasheed and the Jazz Collective in Washington Square Park. He also owns a jazz club in Queens, which is called the Jackson Room jazz club. For some street musicians this would form a means for survival, but for him it is a therapeutic way to practice in a pleasant environment.

If you could create your ideal society, what would it look like?

“I think a lot about what I would do if I were president. I would make it mandatory for people like you, a condition of you graduating, to travel somewhere outside of the U.S. As musicians, we’ve all seen the world. It broadens your horizons. If people checked other cultures, there would be a lot less problems in the world.”


Advocates for the FPA-Foundation

These two women (second and third from the left) founded an advocacy activist organization under the name of FPA Foundation in 2008. Both are former foster youth and currently foster and adoptive parents, and realized they wanted to “foster youths and organize parents around injustices” experienced with the child welfare system. (

“I had great adoptive parents. And we really filled a niche – there is a dire situation. We’ve made a name for ourselves in the past 6 years and had a positive effect. We’re grassroots, so we can shake things up.”

The women organize awareness protest rallies in all 5 boroughs to challenge foster care agencies, such as ACS and other family court. Along with raising awareness, they have put pressure on the mayor and hold agents accountable. In their path to equality they describe how women have to become involved in the movement in order to make change.

“As women, we have to fight for the children. We have a lot of power. More women need to get involved. I think women have a lot of talents that have just been swept under the rug.”


We live in a world where a select number of opinions are heard; many do not have the privilege for their voices to be acknowledged. We cannot forget that the inhabitants of cities and nations collectively can convey wisdom and knowledge about the practical application of laws and ideologies that politicians, non-profits, and other organizations often forget to take into account. Art forms such as street photography function as a way to hear the voices of Washington Square Park, a small dot on the map of New York City.

Is Watching the World Cup Anti-feminist?


This was the main question an article I read the other day asked, and while the article itself was all right, the writer did bring up the interesting (though oblivious) point that the Women’s World Cup next year would not get as much attention as this year’s tournament has.

Take a gander why.

It’s weird. Articles are coming out of the wood works that Americans are more invested in this world cup than in years past. While there was a rise in the popularity of soccer after the women’s victory in the 1999 World Cup, it hasn’t been as crazy as this. But why? The women’s team is constantly great, while the men have usually played on a scale from lack luster to average, but immediately when the men start playing well -great even- is the moment Americans start to root passionately for the American team?


But this disparity always seems to be the case. As part of the Duke University Pep Band, I have to attend an equal number of men’s and women’s basketball games throughout the year, and the difference between them is astounding. While students wait in line for hours on end to enter Cameron for a men’s game through rain and snow and midterms, the women are lucky if they have twenty students in the stands supporting them.

In my three years at Duke, the women have been constantly better. The men have this sort of cockiness ingrained to them from Duke basketball history they didn’t create and expect they’ll win games because of it along with talent that’s wasted if used for showboating or without follow through. Sometimes they won the games they were suppose to win, sometimes they didn’t. The women however, would always show up to the court, confident, ready to go and play a consistently good game as a team.

Now, there is a litany of reasons as to why this is, but those are just semantics right? We can argue all day about the biology and athleticism that favors men over women and makes for more exhilarating games, but the proof is that there is a huge potential for support for women’s sports that we ignore/don’t care because it’s women who are playing these games and therefor it’s inferior/sub-par to men’s games. There’s the World Cup, and then there’s the Women’s World Cup. We have to make a clear distinction to what it is because the default thought when it comes to sports is men.


There are few sports where women are give more visibility then men, and the most predominate one in my mind is gymnastics. Gymnastics is perhaps my favorite sport to watch, but the more I watch it, the more I think it’s a perfect metaphor for the experience of women in this society. Unlike most other games, in gymnastics you start off with a perfect score and then get deducted points as you perform your routine. So, you strive for perfection and you have a bunch of people critiquing you from very angle -posture, technique, abilities, the wow factor- and the judging itself is so arbitrary at times, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t quite reach perfection can you? You’ll have commentators, spectators, the world discussing your faults and strengths, examine every contortion your body makes to tell you through different mediums that you could have done better, that if you had focused, you should have done better.

Despite all this you still train seven, eight hours a day to make the most death defying routines with almost impossible flips and jumps look easy, graceful. Through all this, you can’t forget your appearance either; you’ll get deducted points-censured- if your ponytail isn’t in the right position or your leotard rides a tad bit too high, if you’re not the pristine image of what a gymnast should be. You do this for most of your life, and then once you hit twenty you’re pretty much past your prime because extreme youth always triumphs in this sport.


Even in other sports that aren’t set up like gymnastics, appearances often take precedence over these women’s actual talents and abilities. Serena William’s outfits make more headlines then her domination in the women’s tennis field. Britteny Griner, the biggest player in the WNBA, is said to have ‘mannish’ features. Danica Patrick is known more her sex appeal then her success out on the racetrack.

Why are we more obsessed with the appearance of female athletes than their actual skills in competition?


Sports are great for both genders. They foster sportsmanship, teamwork, perseverance, hard work, and teach children to not only win but also to lose. But when we as society tell young girls that their abilities and talents aren’t as important as their male counter parts out in the field and that the most important thing about them is their looks, we’re doing more harm than good.

While I don’t think watching the World Cup is anti-feminist, I do believe it’s time to start a revolution to give female athletes the credit, support, and attention they deserve. So, if you’re cheering loudly for the men’s soccer team this year like I am, make sure to cheer just as loudly if not louder for the women’s soccer team next year and the next and the next.

“Hookup Culture” And Other Lies

Duke and Sex. Sex and Duke. The two seem inextricably linked in the public consciousness. But I’m here to let you in on a little secret.  Are you ready?  Here goes:

Duke has been lying to us about sex.  

I know what you’re thinking: How can Duke lie to me about sex? I knew everything there was to know about sex by the time I was twelve.  I haven’t taken any Women’s Studies classes and I skipped the O-Week sex talk, so Duke hasn’t really taught me anything about sex.  Not true.

You see, Duke social life is filled with rules and expectations about sex.  And, because it seems that Duke can’t go two years without some sort of sex scandal popping up, the media plays a pretty significant role in how the average Duke student understands sex.  As a result, many of Duke’s dominant sexual narratives, scripts, and assumptions are flawed at best and catastrophic at worse.  I’d like to debunk three myths perpetuated by Duke culture.


A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Hookup Culture Only Exists Because We Let It

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 11.01.22 PMI had heard all about “hookup culture” before I ever set foot on a college campus.  Old people and conservatives love to point to hookup culture as a symbol of the promiscuity, sinfulness, and immorality of my generation (although, there’s increasing evidence that generational differences in sexual behavior aren’t substantial).  Young people love to use hookup culture as a scapegoat for their social concerns or an explanation for sexual behavior that may not align with their values.

Duke social culture, with its “work hard play hard” (another annoying social life cliché) atmosphere, is particularly susceptible to this designation.  Students, professors, and administrators all throw around the term “hookup culture” as though it is a phenomenon unique to Duke, and the term is rarely used in a positive context.  From the moment freshman arrive on campus, they are inundated with descriptions of the “hookup culture.”  Students feel that they have to be “hooking up” to be normal, and begin to wonder what’s wrong with them if they don’t immediately start engaging in casual sex.  In this way, hookup culture quickly becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as freshmen scramble to find “hookup buddies” during their first few months at school.

Our fixation on “hookup culture” annoys me.  First, there’s my annoyance with the word “hookup,” which is used so often to describe so many different situations that it is rendered meaningless.   Beyond that, I’m honestly just confused about why we’re all so obsessed with talking about “hookup culture.”  If we really do think casual sex is problematic or inhibits the type of social relationships we want, lets stop perpetuating this idea that “everyone is hooking up” (because they aren’t).  On the other hand, if we don’t think there’s anything shameful about casual sex, lets stop trying to mask it with this ambiguous “hookup culture” designation.  Either way, I propose we retire the term “hookup culture,” the sooner the better.


 Belle Knox May Be A Duke Woman, But She Does Not Speak For Me 

Belle KnoxOh, Belle. I was conflicted about whether or not to even address her in this post.  After that whole story unfolded, it seemed like every Duke slacktivist rushed to claim an opinion.  To be honest, I don’t really see it as my place to take a public stance on her decisions or her character.  What she’s doing is perfectly legal, and I generally see no real point in either condemning or lauding her.

That said, I will take a stance on how her use of the Duke brand in her upsettingly violent pornography affects other Duke women, myself included.  I worry that Ms. Knox, who often rushes to emphasize her identity as a feminist and a Duke woman, affects perceptions of the rest of us.  If the most prominent and recognizable female Duke undergraduate actively participates in scenes involving violence (choking, having her head smashed into a mirror, being spit on, etc.) and rape, what message might  that be sending other people, especially men, about how to treat Duke  women? If we don’t speak up and say something, this violent  behavior will very quickly become normalized.

So, Belle Knox can continue making her violent rape porn. I find it degrading and offensive, but I’m not stopping her. But let me make this very clear: Belle Knox does not speak for all feminists. She does not speak for all university students.  She does not speak for all Duke women. Belle Knox does not speak for me.


 2-8%: Why The Duke Lacrosse Case Is The Exception, Not The Rule

duke-lacross-rape-newsweek2I know, I know. I almost made it through an entire post about sex at Duke without talking about it.  Sorry, y’all.  Entire books have been written on this subject, and I’m not going to try to get into the many racial, socioeconomic, and political factors at play.  What I will say is that the Duke lacrosse case may have happened eight years ago, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not still affecting how Duke students understand rape.  If you Google “Duke rape,” you will find pages and pages of articles about the Duke lacrosse case.  No links to the Office of Student Conduct of the Women’s Center (I gave up searching after the 15th page of results).  It’s clear that this moment in our history still dominates the narrative of rape at Duke – and not in a good way.

The fact that the most notorious rape case in a college’s history turned out to be a false accusation very much affects how we talk about rape on campus (not just on our campus, but on campuses around the world).  This case was one of the only 2-8% of rape cases involving a false accusation (a rate comparable to crimes like grand theft auto), and yet we refuse to accept the rarity of false accusations of rape.  Instead, we blame and question the victim in ways that we never would with any other type of crime.

Our victim-blaming and victim-doubting tendencies have roots that go much deeper than any single rape case.  This “she must be lying!” attitude is a prime example of our culture’s distrust of women. It’s why we use terms like “forcible rape” or “legitimate rape,” implying that there are “illegitimate victims.” It’s why we ask, “what was she wearing?” instead of “why did he rape her?” It’s why 97% of rapists never spend a day in jail.

Crazy Little Thing Called Privilege

The word “privilege” is daunting and while it’s pretty easy to think about the aspects of my identity that have been oppressed (I am a black girl who spent 19 years living in Arizona after all), it’s important to acknowledge how certain aspects of my life have given me benefits over others. For example, I am able-bodied, cisgendered, which means I identify with the gender I was assigned at birth, and I have thin privilege. I’ve never been belittled by those obnoxious “take the stairs” ads on elevators, worry about being murdered by a stranger because I’m trans, or have someone question if I really need to order dessert. But the greatest privilege I have is class privilege. Privilege isn’t a guarantee for a life free of struggle, but it does give me certain benefits and make certain things more attainable.  Of course, I’ve always been aware of the benefit class has given me;  I’ve gone to rigorous schools all my life and didn’t stop wearing unflattering plaid skirts until I went to college. Don’t get me wrong, my parents are certainly not wealthy enough to pay college tuition without my brother and I doing the loan tango and them having their weekly “tuition dinner” of hot dogs and grilled cheese. But while the feds and Wells Fargo will certainly be the first to knock on my door with a congratulations balloon and an open hand after I graduate from college, I’m lucky enough that my pool of loans isn’t an ocean. The first time that I truly started to realize and think about how much privilege I have happened a few days ago while I was thinking about my experience participating in the White House Summit for Working Families and discussing policies to help working families, especially discussing education policy. 

Sorry Barbie, but you need to #checkyourprivilege.

Taking classes in the education department has been simultaneously the most infuriating and influential experience at Duke in my two years there. Influential because I now hope to have a career in education policy and infuriating because of how much I had to get over myself and my over-inflated ego as well as those of others in class. I can’t be too superior because I had also always bought the empty promise that my hard work got me ahead until I realized that’s what wealthy CEOs say to justify making eight figures and not providing health insurance to their employees that work two other jobs to pay the rent. Now I couldn’t get anywhere if I lacked any work ethic (my parents are Baby Boomers after all) but having the means to buy books and have access to a computer all my life played a big role in my academic success. I’ve come to realize that hard work is fine and dandy but doesn’t mean a thing when not going to school in the summer means there’s no stable source of food. Or when babysitting your siblings means you can’t study the SAT that is already biased against you. Conceptualizing this and actually living it are two entirely different experiences, which was especially obvious at the White House Summit. While I appreciate the amazing opportunity to have people realize that the #selfie generation isn’t filled with lazy, technology obsessed narcissists but people with actual ideas, I thought it was questionable that a group of kids from Duke and Cornell were figuring out policy recommendations for working class families.

It’s patently false to say that all top 25 university students came from the same socioeconomic class, but there is some amount of privilege in all of our lives that enabled us to end up at them. Whether it was the fact that we could afford to go to private schools, we had books readily available, or happened to be lucky enough to be in a school district that offered decent classes, there was no way most of us could relate to a number of the struggles that working class families face, especially in education. It was especially obvious how out of touch my group, which focused education reform that could accommodate working class families was when the the conversation pertained to the cost of higher education, especially elite universities. It was frustrating to have it dominate the conversation when most of the working families who we were supposed to be considering don’t even have the means to afford the application funds to apply to elite universities, let alone have the educational systems to support them before going to college. College affordability and the crushing burden of Ms. Sallie Mae is a discussion that needs to be had, but having access to a university education is a privileged experience.  Even when we finally moved on to discussion about issues working class families encountered in the K-12 system, including standardized testing and the lack of summer and after school programs, there were comments  made that seemed wildly out of touch with how most people experience the education system. As interesting as the discussion we had was, all I thought about after was why we were having our minds picked in rather than young adults and teenagers who would be affected by these policies. 

Though my group’s discussion was frustrating for a number of reasons (asking colleges to lower tuition as a policy recommendation makes no sense and merit pay for teachers is an awful suggestion), it was also enlightening. As much as I rail against the patriarchy and white supremacy, I need to acknowledge my own compliance in other systems and actively speak against them while recognizing what my privilege affords me and how I need to realize that my belonging to a dominant group allows my voice to be heard louder than those more affected than I am.

The Relic of My Religion

As I’ve gotten older and escaped the bubble that was my Catholic education, my relationship with Catholicism has been on the rocks. We don’t even go on Sunday dates like we used to, and we hardly ever agree anymore. I’d come to a point at which my morality was most certainly influenced by my religion, but in no way dictated by it. That is, except for one thing…you know…that dirty word…that “A” word…the one you definitely don’t talk about outside the context of the March for Life…

Yup. Abortion. Abortion was pretty much the one controversial social issue that the Church had me on. Abortion was the real remaining “relic of my religion,” if you will, the final cobwebbed antique that I had left on the shelf for later examination. I’m down with contraception, and I guess I would have been damned with the rest of Sodom and Gomorrah, but something about the Church’s rhetoric regarding abortion deeply affected me. Maybe it was the genocidal language, maybe it was the days of prayer for the souls of the aborted…who really knows. The demonization of abortion had been shoved down my throat since I was a kid, and I basically viewed the pro-choice movement as a bunch of heartless, irresponsible women killing their babies and refusing to face the consequences of their choices.

Reaction GIF: disgust, what the fuck?

I wasn’t really as bad as I sound.

Even just writing that, admitting that now feels so wrong. Only now can I see the blame, presumption, and judgment in those thoughts. The funny thing is that before Moxie I never even fully grasped that these ideas being fed to me somehow got away with completely removing WOMEN from the conversation. When people talk about the evils of abortion, you almost never hear any acknowledgement of the woman’s rights; she is invariably relegated to an incubator for the growing life, willingly or otherwise, it matters not. Denying women the right to abortion is a violation of a woman’s right to control her fertility as well as an insistence that this fertility is the only role of womanhood. Putting limits on abortions is an assumption that women aren’t rational enough to make a life or death decision.

Let’s pause for a moment…isn’t that interesting? Strange how many of these same people protesting abortion rights support our MALE presidents in sending hordes of American soldiers to fight and die in wars. It’s not “respect for life” guiding the pro-life movement…it’s a stifling of female sexuality, a rejection of the rationality of women, and an effort to control women’s bodies. And the strangest part is—I don’t even think a lot of them realize it. I certainly didn’t, and that may be because the language around pro-life distances itself from women entirely.

40 Things Only Internet Feminists Will Understand

Realizing this discord in dialogue between the two sanctions led to a real-deal feminist light-bulb moment: It’s an issue of defining women’s bodies solely as vessels for carrying babies. Abortion access means that society realizes a woman’s worth beyond her body and her agency over her body. Yes, child bearing can be a role of women’s bodies, but women, as autonomous beings, have the freedom to control if and when we want to accept that role; motherhood isn’t the sole purpose of the female being.

And here we have the whole point of feminism—empowering people to be masters of their own beings without outside judgment or control. This is why abortion rights are indispensable if we ever hope for gender equality, or really any equality. And this is why, after all these years, I couldn’t be prouder to say that I am pro-choice.

Who’s Your Mammy?

On Sunday, we went to the old Domino’s Sugar Factory where Kara Walker, a New York artist, created a five-story sphinx made completely out of sugar. The irony in the sparkling white sphinx matched that of in the entire process of refining sugar: sugar is brown when harvested and must go through a laborious process to be made into white sugar. This process is analogous to the overall commodity fetishism of the sugar industry in the 1800s: black and brown workers are exploited to make products for white consumers.


The most controversial part of the sculpture was the face. Meant to be representative of a slave woman, many decried it as a mammy, a negative stereotype of a desexualized black woman who usually acts as a caregiver of white children, who is sometimes, but not always, a slave. The mammy is usually older, very dark-skinned, has stereotypical “negroid” features” (big nose and lips), overweight, covered hair – basically the exact opposite of female beauty as defined by European standards.

While the artist herself never called the figure a “mammy” so to speak, many people took the sculpture’s big lips and big nose and tied hair to mean so even though this “mammy” was pretty sexualized in both her voluptuous body shape and exposed vulva.

While I agree that the features were purposefully used to represent a woman of African descent, I don’t really agree on the criticism that she’s supposed to be a mammy, this negative representation of what a black woman should be. I understand the history of this controlling image of black womanhood and how’s it’s been used negatively, but I don’t agree that every time a few physical characteristics come together – BAM!- you have a mammy and that’s always negative. Saying that having big lips and a big nose makes one a mammy and that’s always negative is like saying being a single mother makes one a welfare queen and that’s always negative. Attacking a historically “negative” representation by condemning it whenever and however it exists in actuality confirms the negativity associated with that image and further limits what black women are allowed to be and allowed to look like.

I found the sugar sphinx to be quite inspiring. She wasn’t “cute or built to fit a fashion model’s size.” She was representative of a real woman that existed, that was enslaved, exploited, and demeaned. But enshrined as a sphinx in pure white sugar, her face is stoic, regal, almost, as she looks forward in the distance. I am Nigerian and have very West African features. I have dark-skin, big lips, a broad nose, and coarse hair. When I first saw the sculpture, I couldn’t help but compare some of my features to hers. While some would say her face is a caricature, she looks like what some people look like to me. If she is a negative representation of black women, then what does that make me?

When we condemn this figure for even existing, we condemn all black women who resemble it in anyway, strengthening Eurocentric beauty standards and colorism within the black community. Instead, we should reject the controlling image itself. The mammy as an idea shouldn’t exist. A large, dark-skinned older woman should not be considered a mammy – by anyone.

We should question why the only “positive” representation of black women can only be found when black women conform to Eurocentric standards. Dark-skinned, full figured, older women are beautiful, too. We should also ask ourselves why we let superficial phenotypic variances define one’s overall worth and depiction in society.



Acting at Adults

These past two weeks have felt like a strange quasi-adulthood. I wake up at 7 most mornings, a thought that would make me laugh during the school year. After going for a run along the Hudson River, I return to my apartment with enough time to get ready and gulp down the cup of coffee that makes me fit for human company. I work from 10 to 6;  if we don’t have an evening activity planned for afterwards I make dinner and then read, write, or spend time with other Moxies. The transition from 11:00 Pitchforks to 11:00 bedtime feels jarringly mature, as does trading in a summertime wardrobe of shorts and cut-up t-shirts for one of dresses and flats. It can feel like we’re playing at adulthood, particularly when I know that a college campus awaits me when I return from my semester abroad in January.

images                         a.baa-a-cute-cat-sleep

The difference between midnight at Duke and midnight in New York, as told by kittens

This transition is all the stranger when I consider how I’ve spent the past 11 summers: at sleepaway camp, both as a camper and a counselor. Leaving was not an easy decision; the thought of leaving the campers I have watched grow pained me, as did the thought of a summer without my own lifelong friends. I chose to participate in Moxie knowing I would be giving up time at the place which I truly consider home, but sure that I would gain things from a summer in New York that would not be available to me at camp. I have constantly been reaffirmed in this decision; the past two weeks have taught me immense amounts, both academically and experientially. But even with this awareness, there is an even bigger and more frightening loss looming overhead – that of the person I am at camp.

I am my best self at camp: my least inhibited, most authentic, and kindest. Counselors are caretakers, but we are also professional role models – and that allows us to find within ourselves the qualities necessary to be one. I inevitably lose my sense of self during the year, overwhelmed by the constant Duke grind, and I have always relied on my summers to remind me of who I am and who I want to be. I am still searching for ways to connect with that self in a different space: as much as I tell myself that I can channel the energy I used to put into planning innovative camper activities into the work I do at NDWA, I have been struggling to align the two. I doubt that my silly and often downright weird camp self would be welcome in the workplace; and though I am sure there are ways to turn the lessons of camp into tools for the city, I have yet to discover them. This seems an enormous task: taking the things I like best about myself in an unique, informal setting and learning to bring them into the real world. I have always known that I would leave camp, but I have assumed that there would be pieces of myself that would always remain there. Perhaps this doesn’t have to be the case.

Radicalizing the Beauty Industry


This week made me especially reflect on the role of women of color in the women’s movement, the responsibility of individuals within the movement, and my personal role in the movement. From various feminist texts and discussions I have found that “women of color” is a dynamic term: in one discourse this term may include one type of woman and then in another discourse the term may exclude that same woman. I have been confused about where I stand in the women’s movement as an upper middle class black woman.

From an intersectional approach, I believe my personal brand of feminism should incorporate my race and class, in addition to my gender. The idea of tackling gender oppression, racism and the US class structure all at once has been rather daunting. Although I appreciate that intersectionality aims at respecting all perspectives at once, I don’t think that it is always practical for making real change. Respect is one thing, but focus is another. Intersectional awareness is necessary but I think specific discussions and specific activism is more effective for creating real change.

Our first session at the Summer School of Activism helped me better acknowledge my position as a “woman of color” in certain contexts and appreciate my position of privilege in others. This week I’ve also realized that being a woman of color while also having certain privileges is legitimate. Just because I can’t fully relate to the experiences of all women of color does not mean my perspective is any less valid.

I believe the Moxie Project is helping me determine what I want my role in the movement to look like. Our visit with Merle Hoffman of Choices Women’s Medical Center has inspired me to make social change outside of the traditional non-profit structure. I found Merle’s choice of entrepreneurship to incite change especially motivating.

When she asked us all what we saw our careers looking like in the future, I explained that I wanted a career in beauty advertising and/or product development. Upon voicing that vision, within the context of our discussion of the women’s movement, I was able to connect the dots between my social consciousness and my career-oriented brain. Advertising within the beauty industry is affected by both racism and gender oppression. I realized that by pursuing a career in this field I could simultaneously elicit social change. Having a say in what beauty advertisements say and whom they include, how beauty products are designed and how they are marketed – this can be a viable force within the greater women’s movement.


I want black and brown girls, teens and women to see themselves represented in a more inclusive media. As a black woman, I know how important issues of self-confidence and social inclusion are to all women – but particularly women of color. And although I recognize that an abundance of other, possibly more pressing issues negatively impact women of color across the globe, I still think that self-confidence is important. Each activist must start somewhere and can only efficiently make a difference in individual aspects of the movement. I believe that with my passion for beauty and women’s empowerment, in combination with my business-oriented career goals, I can help to make a concrete difference within the women’s movement.

I’m Sorry, Cersei



-Cersei-Lannister-cersei-lannister-30942505-1154-867The season finale for my favorite show in the entire world, Game of Thrones, was Sunday night.  Although it’s based in a fantasy world that is certainly patriarchal—for example, after being beaten by female knight Brienne of Tarth in a duel, the ruthless Hound uses his final, precious seconds to add an aside about how he was “killed by a woman”—Thrones features many a strong female character.  There’s Brienne, who, prior to crushing the Hound, recounted her resiliency in learning how to sword fight as a child to eventually battle with and, as we saw Sunday night, beat the boys.  There’s Arya Stark, growing more cold-hearted as each episode passes, one-by-one crossing those who have scorned her family off her infamous kill list—not letting her gender get in the way of her agenda.  Sansa Stark has been criticized before for passively sitting captive in King’s Landing, but season four has revealed how she has been sneakily plotting her escape from the Lannisters the whole time, using what she picked up from the devious Littlefinger to gain his trust and (hopefully) exact her revenge.  On the opposite side of the spectrum is Daenerys Targaryen, the overtly just Khaleesi, whose mission before returning to Westeros is break the chains off every slave in Essos, trying to keep control of her three “adolescent” dragons along the way.

And then there’s Cersei.

Although these female characters and a smattering of others—Catelyn, Ygritte, Margaery, Meera Reed, and even Gilly come to mind—have all been portrayed as powerful, determined, albeit human, women, Cersei has always been more difficult to interpret.  My natural instinct has always been to root against her—she is a Lannister, after all—but there were certainly moments across the first three seasons that allowed me to sympathize with her, like seeing her passionate love for her children, or her ability to stand up to her father.

Honestly, as twisted as it is, I’ve also always been able to look past Cersei and Jaime’s incestuous relationship.  It made me feel uncomfortable, sure, but Jaime’s absence over the past few seasons have made it an afterthought—even though it was arguably Bran seeing Jaime and Cersei “doing it” in the first episode, prompting Jaime to throw Bran off the roof, that arguably set off the entire Game.  But because Jaime and Brienne were wandering Westeros, and Cersei was slinking around King’s Landing pretending to have control over her and Jaime’s insane nut-job son Joffery, I didn’t think much about their more-than-just-siblings relationship.

That is, until it was brought center stage in the third episode of season four.  ***SPOILER SERIOUSLY DON’T READ THIS*** Let me set the scene: said insane nutjob son of Cersei and Jaime was just poisoned and killed.  Cersei is lingering at his funeral, unwilling to leave her beloved son’s dead body.  Enter Jaime—without a right hand, the one in which he drew his sword, with a gold casting in its place.  In Cersei’s eyes, he is is no longer what he once was: the Kingslayer, the feared warrior who ended Targaryen rule with one swift swing of his weapon.  As a result, Cersei is no longer interested in him as a lover.  She tells him to leave Joffrey’s funeral, that she doesn’t want him anymore.

And that’s when the most messed up part of the scene happens: Jaime rapes her.

Cersei said no.  Cersei said stop.  Cersei pushed him away.  Yet Jaime still forced himself on her.

Many people, including the showrunners of Game of Thrones, the director of that episode, the actor who played Jaime, and many fans, vehemently denied that Jaime raped Cersei.  Even George R.R. Martin was wishy-washy on the whole situation: he tried to relate that episode to what had happened in the books, in which the act is obviously consensual.  But no, they all said, Jaime was simply overcome by passion at being alone with Cersei for the first time since he returned to King’s Landing.


No, everyone: it was rape.

But, for some reason, everyone else did.Don’t worry, I tried to convince myself otherwise, too.  I liked Jaime.  I liked his banter with Brienne, his badass Kingslayer backstory, how his journey home from being a Stark POW made him vulnerable—and thus likeable.  But, despite how much I tried to employ every excuse in the world about why what Jaime did to Cersei wasn’t rape, it was.  And I couldn’t excuse one of my previously-favorite characters for what he did.

Including Cersei.  Or, at least, whoever was in charge of writing Cersei’s character.

I was expecting repercussions for Jaime, a heated discussion chastising Jaime for what he did, or at least for the incident to be brought up again.  But the world of Westeros ignored Jaime’s rape of Cersei, and never referred throughout the following episodes.  Maybe after two weeks at Legal Momentum, where we’re working hard to ensure that all women, including and especially victims and survivors of sexual assault, possess economic, social, and political freedom, I was expecting a type of response to Cersei’s rape that we are attempting to generate at work.

But not only did Westeros ignore Jaime’s rape, it was also an afterthought in the media by the time episode four rolled around.  And it wasn’t brought up either this week, when Cersei returned to Jaime in the season finale, kissed his replica hand, and passionately made love to him as though nothing had happened.

I really don’t want to place Cersei’s situation in the modern world—after all, this is Westeros, where White Walkers, dragons, and evil king-killing baby demons roam the land.  But Cersei’s declaration of love to Jaime only reaffirms the unease the mainstream media has with rape, and how it so often chooses to ignore it instead of face it head on.

Game of Thrones, my favorite show, explicitly did that.  The showrunners clearly made many mistakes: in the way they wrote Thrones, since Jaime’s rape of Cersei did nothing to further the plot of the show (especially since it WAS CONSENSUAL in the books), and in their reaction to the incident, since, after denying it was even rape to the media, they downright never referred to what had happened ever again.  The media should’ve been harder on them, followed up, and, even though there were some key character deaths this week, should’ve dedicated at least a portion of their coverage to the Cersei-Jaime situation.

The biggest shame, however, is how people may view Cersei now: for those who remember episode 3, as a powerless slut for going back to the guy who raped her—or, as “OMG CERSEI AND JAIME ARE HOOKING UP AGAIN I FEEL UNEASY EW INCEST BUT YAY LOVE!!!” for the majority of people who fail to recall Jaime’s rape.  Yes, rape.  Not passion, but rape.

And the writers could’ve changed that.

We’ve all been wishy-washy in our view of Cersei, what with her diabolical ways, but the writers had the opportunity to break the Westerosi mold: to affirm yet another strong female character in the queen, in confronting the issue of rape head on. I mean, the character of Cersei is an independent woman—but she’s not.  She’s written by other people, mostly men.  If she were a human being, the decision to go back to Jaime (who, I think, genuinely loves her) would’ve been hers.  But she’s a character, and the writers in charger of molding her fantasy persona completely shut the door on the fact that she was raped by allowing her to so effortlessly go back to Jaime.  She’s been fierce enough in the past to accuse her brother of a death he didn’t commit: where’s that fire now?

Moxies Hollaback! At Street Harassment…With Art

10296705_248524728666854_2462723854733363252_nLast Sunday, we joined Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo, Hollaback!, and Street Artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh for an event called GIRL POWER: Taking Back our Streets through Art.  None of us were really sure what the event would consist of before we arrived at Fort Greene Park, and when the event started, we were told we would be “wheat pasting.” Wheat-pasting?! (It turns out, wheat-paste is a fancy word for an adhesive made from flour and water).

We separated into groups for a pre-art discussion.  The ages of the attendees varied greatly – there were the adult leaders all the way down to preteen girls – as did their places of origin – there were Brooklyn natives as well as people from all around the country and world.  We discussed incidents of street harassment in our lives – times we were annoyed, times we felt scared, times we wanted to respond but couldn’t.  Then, we were each given a sheet of paper and instructed to “write a message to street harassers.” Challenge accepted.

We got to work!

We got to work!

Mina: "I'm ignoring you for a reason"

Mina: “I’m ignoring you for a reason!”

Rachel: "Don't tell me to smile" Dani: "You ruined MY day"

Rachel: “Don’t tell me to smile”
Dani: “You ruined MY day”

Candice: “Catcalling is NOT a compliment” Rebecca: “The Only person who owns my body is ME”

Jessica: "I'm not your Mamacita!"

Jessica: “I’m not your Mamacita!”




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Even before we had finished, passers-by stopped to ask about the piece.  Most were super supportive!

Rachel: "The only person who owns my body is ME" Julia: "Harassing only shows your greatest weakness"

Rachel: “The only person who owns my body is ME”
Julia: “Harassing only shows your greatest weakness”

The finished product:


Tatyana did the pictures on the bottom. We’re talented…but not THAT talented.



To read press coverage of this wonderful event, click here and here!

The credit for the majority of these photos goes to Julia Dunn.