After All, I Am A Girl

Stella is a junior at Duke who will be interning at Sanctuary for Families.

Hi! My name is Stella Zhang and I’m a rising junior double majoring in Economics and Philosophy. I was born and raised in Dalian, a city on the east coast of China. What is my most important tag currently? Self-identified feminist. giphy (1)

Two questions you may want to ask at this point: How did you start identifying as a feminist? Is feminism even a thing in China?

To start my story by answering the second question, the answer is NO. At least not where I grew up. Most people have never heard of this concept; and among the very few who have, most register feminism as a sort of heresy aiming to give women more rights over men. Before college, I had heard this word mentioned only a few times, and naturally, considered the concept to be unnecessary, if not ridiculous, in this perfectly “gender-equal” world.

In my own defense, it was hard for me, as a teenager, to associate my immediate environment with gender inequality. My mother has a successful career, manages all family income, and her judgments are always highly valued whenever it comes to making important family decisions; at school, girls and boys are treated equally, and girls occupy around half the Dean’s list; almost all my friends have both parents working. My parents have always told me to “work hard” because they have high expectations for my achievements, but have also casually suggested me not to “work too hard” because “after all, you are a girl.” I always nodded to their advice, for the reason they gave was self-explanatory. Yes, I am a girl, why bother climbing to the very top of a field when I could be the daughter, wife, or mother of someone like that instead?

My cultural anthropology class in the second semester of my freshman year turned my world upside down, when I finally realized how many things I used to consider perfectly normal are actually siding with patriarchy. The overwhelming amount of male leaders, clearly defined gender roles, and the frequent interruption of female voices all started to bother me. What startled me the most was the realization that “a girl,” “a woman,” “a female” bear the connotation of a “lesser” being. “After all, you are a girl” could become the reason for not taking one’s academic or career goal as seriously as one’s male counterparts; for lowering one’s voice so that people could hear the voice of men; for accepting the role of women as sexual objects for men. And I can go on and on. Why should my gender have anything to do with what people expect of me? How many women are affected by the idea “after all, I am a girl” when it comes to their academic, career, and personal choices without realizing the problem of gender inequality? How many girls like me will be influenced by “kind” suggestions that ended with the sentence “after all, you are a girl”? These questions started popping out randomly, leaving me curious and frustrated.


I gradually realized that I have become a feminist.

Ever since I started identifying myself as a feminist, I have been eagerly in search of an opportunity where I could put my enthusiasm into use. I applied for the Moxie Project hoping to gain a better understanding of feminism by working with female-empowering organizations. I specifically chose to work with Sanctuary for Families, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the safety, healing, and self-determination of victims of gender violence. In order to gain better insight on feminism, it is important to learn more about women suffering from activities that lead to extreme gender inequality. As their Communications Intern, I will be in charge of social media account management. I am excited to use the power of Internet to fight against gender violence and help victims continue their lives as strong, brave, and independent individuals.

So here is an official declaration: I am passionate about feminism. I am not afraid to be identified as a feminist. I am ready to fight against gender inequality.

If anyone asks for a reason, the answer would be: AFTER ALL, I AM A GIRL.

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Passing on the Power

Sai is a junior working at Girls for Gender Equity this summer with their Community Organizing programs.

Hello, people of the inter-webs! I’m Sai, a rising junior majoring in public policy and history, with a minor in economics – so basically, I love learning about the ways in which our past shapes our present, and how societal norms both influence and are affected by policy. Much to my parents’ chagrin, I have basically no idea what I want to do with those degrees, but I’ve got plenty of time to figure it out (I think) and I know that the Moxie Project is a great place to start.

Parvati Devi riding a tiger. She literally radiates power. So. Freaking. Cool.

The bad reputation of sati, an barbaric ritual in which women were burned alive on their husband’s funeral pyres, or the antiquated concept of dowries, are not representative of India. Some aspects of Indian culture continue to be oppressive to women, but these don’t overshadow the ways in which women are valued as the center of life in a family-oriented culture. In fact, in Hinduism, power is embodied by the goddess Parvati and her incarnations. My parents always point out that shakti is a feminine concept – talk about girl power!




The seeds of my feminism were planted by my strong, intelligent, mother, who raised me in a foreign country while my dad had to work out-of-state for weeks at a time. Although my mother was a housewife and my father the sole breadwinner, they act as equals in every part of life, making decisions together and treating each other with the utmost respect, always. They taught me to channel my natural stubbornness and competitiveness into determination. Teachers throughout my years in public school rewarded my boldness encouraged my curiosity. As an only child, this translated into a fierce independent streak and a sense of empowerment – if I set my mind to something, nothing was going to stop me.

Then, I came to Duke, and for the first time, discovered the concept of “privilege.” Add layers to it, and you get intersectionality – and my world was basically shattered. #YesAllWomen presented the ways in which all women in every society are suppressed by virtue of their gender, and I realized that it was privilege which had allowed me to escape the pitfalls that so many other women face as a result of this oppression. Sure, I’d been disgusted by cat-callers before, but I’d never had to change a route or quit a job because of it. I’d seen teachers favor male classmates over myself, but I’d never been denied opportunities because of my gender. I’d felt frustrated that I couldn’t go out and travel as freely as my male friends, but I’d never felt unsafe in my own community. My tolerance of these “innocuous” transgressions were facilitating the injustices that torment so many women less fortunate than myself. That’s when I realized I couldn’t just sit back and accept the patriarchy that abuses us all.

The Moxie Project drew me in with its spotlight on feminism and empowerment, and Girls for Gender Equity specifically attracted me because of its focus on minorities. As a “racially ambiguous” non-white immigrant, the discrimination I face as a woman in this country is compounded by the color of my skin, and I am passionate about helping girls who deal with the same issue. Not every girl gets to have the supportive upbringing that I did, but every girl deserves to feel powerful and capable of dealing with whatever the world throws at us. We’re the ones who have to change our world, and I’m so excited to work with an organization that wants to teach young girls how to take charge of their own lives and communities. The way I see it, GGE is a chance to help me exercise my shakti and help a group of girls embrace their own – and I can’t wait.


3 Patriarchy, 2 Oppression, 1 Woman

Carina is a junior at Duke studying Women’s Studies and Global Health; she will be interning with the Brooklyn Movement Center this summer.


While I was contemplating how to start this blog post, all I could come up with were phrases about tearing down the patriarchy and what I do besides that. At this point in my educational career, I have been pointing out patriarchy, oppression, racism, ableism, etc. to every one of my close friends and family members. It has gotten to the point that people will come to me with stories starting off, “you would have loved this,” or “you would have loved him,” and then proceed to tell me a story in which they pointed out something in the language or attitude that represented or fought against oppression. I distinctly remember one of my friends relaying a date in which the male asked if she wanted to split the bill even though he wanted to pay for her, but he gave her the option. She told me in a joking manner, but every time someonfry-can-t-tell-meme-generator-unsure-if-friends-actually-listened-or-if-they-pretended-to-listen-fa387ae tells me a story like that I feel a type of satisfaction. I have talked about societal problems so often and with so many people that they are now able to point out things that don’t feel right or where they can finally see something that is not okay. In other words, people closest to me have become much more aware of their surroundings and what happens because I never shut up about it or stop pointing it out.


Starting at Duke, I was planning on being a pre-med Neuroscience major and to dabble in Women’s Studies. Little did I know that my Women’s Studies class would be the class I told every person that would listen to me about it. Every class since has made me think differently about my daily interactions and about my place in the world. I always ask myself how I can change the culture that I see hurting so many marginalized voices. I chose this program because women’s justice advocacy is something that has always been a part of my life. I grew up in a house of women with two older sisters and discussing the problems facing women, especially women of color. This summer, I am interning with the Brooklyn Movement Center and it will be my first experience doing local community organizing. I am extremely nervous about entering a community as an outsider and being someone that is handling the actual organization of bike patrols. I want the community to know that I understand I am there as an extra set of hands and want to do whatever I can while respecting the establishment and flow of the organization. I am excited to be working with a community that is tight knit and that understands the concept of learning from one another while being held accountable. *tries to insert culturally competent meme but can’t find any that aren’t offensive*

I want to learn the inner workings of a local community organization that is aimed at changing a culture that pervades every part of society. I want to strengthen my faith in being able to change one comment that will lead to one action and then having it spread from there. I want to be someone that brings a fresh perspective on what will work while also respecting that they people I’m working with know the community much better. I will learn how to manage a blog and post substantial and interesting pieces. I will also learn the best way to train community members while understanding that every person learns differently and will teach the material differently.resized_creepy-willy-wonka-meme-generator-yes-yes-put-all-your-life-in-your-fight-against-patriarchy-you-ll-totally-destroy-it-some-day-860632

All in all, I’m beyond excited to arrive and start working in Brooklyn. Fighting the patriarchy one step at a time, because not fighting is not an option.

How to Oppress Women and Outrage Feminists

Female Indonesian Soldiers perform martial arts to commemorate Raden Ajeng Kartini, a national heroine and leader in Indonesia’s Women’s Rights movement

Indonesia’s top military commander, General Moeldoko, recently defended the practice of performing virginity tests on female recruits. Although Moeldoko admitted to the Jakarta Globe that women’s sexual status does not affect their performance as soldiers, he claimed that it measures morality—a requirement for armed service members. He says, “There is no other way” to gauge a woman’s character “So what’s the problem? It’s a good thing, so why criticize it?”

General Moeldoko

Female officers interviewed by the Human Rights Watch describe the test as traumatic both psychologically and physically. Doctors require women to remove their clothes and submit to an invasive “two-finger” test that violates international human rights law, and according to the World Health Organization has “no scientific validity.”

Men are not even asked about their virginity.

I spent much of my childhood living in Indonesia. Born the U.S., I moved to Jakarta, Indonesia at the age of 10, and lived there for four years. It saddens me to know that such a discriminatory, harmful practice occurs in a place where I made my childhood memories.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Now that I have described a shining example of gender-based violence, I should tell you who I am. My name is Abby Clark. I am a Biology Major and Women’s Studies Minor from Anchorage, Alaska. Learning about social injustices like Indonesia’s virginity tests is one of the reasons I applied to the Moxie Project. My interest in feminism and social justice developed after I began taking Women’s Studies courses in college. Once I could see how the patriarchal structure of American society influences everyday life—from the gender wage gap to street harassment—I could not remain passive. I had to engage in conversation and action addressing systemic sexism.

This summer I have the chance to do just that. As a Communications intern for the National Domestic Worker’s Alliance, I will help work for the dignity and inclusion of domestic workers in labor protections.

During my time in New York, I hope to do two things. Firstly, I want to listen and learn as much as I can from my peers, supervisors, and other people I meet.

Secondly, I want to be bold.

Only a couple years ago, I would never have dared to start my first blog post with such an abhorrent topic as virginity tests. It seemed too shocking—too likely to make others (and myself) feel uncomfortable. But when I read General Moeldoko’s statements on Sunday, I knew I could not let the subject go unmentioned. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.”

So, here’s a promise: this summer I will step out of my comfort zone and address issues that matter.

The Feminist Lens

Lauren is a junior at Duke who will be working with Legal Momentum’s National Judicial Education Program.

Hi, my name is Lauren Katz and ever since I decided to take a women’s studies class, I have never stopped thinking about how the patriarchy is so pervasive and how women need to take over the world.  Ok, I’m slightly over exaggerating of course, but in all seriousness, deciding tomen's studies add a women’s studies minor (and hopefully a major) to my already crowded academic schedule at Duke has been both a blessing and a curse because it has caused me to look at the world through my newly acquired “feminist lens” that I hope to further develop over the summer as a Moxie.

What is this “feminist lens” you may ask? Let me give you some examples. Since I’ve been at home in Chapel Hell (I mean Hill hehe), I’ve spent a lot of time with my little sister Helena who is 10 (and the cutest kid in the entire world). Anyways, the other day, while we were acting out scenes with Barbie dolls using our “valley girl” impersonations, I couldn’t help but to be reminded of several articles I had read about how Barbie ingrains stereotypes of femininity into young girls.

Then, as I am dribeyving her to a play-date,  the first song to come on the radio is Beyonce’s Partition.  But wait… as I listen closely to the lyrics, I am disappointed. How can Beyonce, hailed world wide as a “feminist,” have a song with explicit lyrics that maintain that a woman’s sole purpose is to “please her man.”  Yes. I apologize America, I did just criticize the Queen B herself.   Of course Beyonce has songs that encourage female empowerment such as Flawless and Run the World, but some of her other music seems to completely go against her feminist agenda.

Alright, the next song is Robin Thicke’s thickeBlurred Lines.  Song? More like rape anthem.  Thicke basically advocates for men to take advantage of intoxicated women. Extremely popular songs like these that are constantly played on the radio help to objectify and sexualize women as “lesser”. Perhaps one in five college aged women is sexually assaulted because society encourages men to be sexually aggressive. Ugh. These are songs I use to like too, blessing and a curse, I told you.

Even though feminism, at its core, is the belief that women should be treated equal to men, there are SO MANY DIFFERENT TYPES of feminism and I don’t know which one is right and which one I want to identify with.  I mean, there’s liberal feminism, radical feminism, sex-radical feminism, the list goes on and on.  Of course I believe that men shouldn’t control the choices that women make.  But I also love fashion and putting on make-up! Does this somehow make me a lesser feminist?  And yes, I want to be treated as an equal, but if he doesn’t pay on the first date, no way am I calling him again.  Do I only like dressing up and believe that the man should “treat” because I personally think that is proper behavior or because society tells me that it is? I am pulling-hair-out-of-my head conflicted and I hope that this summer helps to clarify all of the questions I have about the society that I live in.

In order to create equality between men and women, it begins with changing the laws that govern our society.  That is why I wanted to intern at Legal Momentum, the oldest non-profit legal defense fund for women.  Legal Momentum has been at the forefront of many legal and policy changes that have greatly advanced female equality, such as the Violence Against Women Act, which was a landmark piece of legislation that brought crimes of domestic violence and sexual assault into the national spotlight.  Over the summer,  I will be drafting materials to educate judges about sexual assault, teen dating violence, and intimate partner violence, all extremely pertinent and tragically prevalent issues that I care deeply about.  This summer I hope to better articulate my definition of feminism, learn more about gender issues, and gain experience working at a law firm…it’s going to be a challenge and I can’t wait!


Friendly but Frustrated Feminist Over Here

April is a junior at Duke who will be working with Hollaback this summer.

Let me start with a little story:

My legs are flying down a steep Seattle hill. “Wahooooo” I think to myself. I am killing it today. Give this a girl an Olympic medal because she has earned it.

Honk. Hoooonnnkkk.

As an enduring optimist, I wave uncontrollably believing that it is a neighbor or a friend who is saying hello.


Oh. Creepy man in the car you got me again.


My brain never registers that a honk could be anything more than a friendly hello. I quickly go from happiness to annoyance, to anger, and then finally to acceptance. This “acceptance” makes me so frustrated with the world I live in. It is this frustration that inspired me to apply to the Moxie Project, and I am very excited to work at Hollaback! this summer.

As little girls growing up, we are promised equal treatment wherever we go because gender equality has been achieved and is a problem of the past!

But how are the genders equal if one faces a commonly accepted daily harassment and the other does not?

Street harassment and other gendered problems are accepted to the point that women don’t mention it or bring it up in conversation. When I mentioned how annoyed I was at the street harassment that occurs in Durham, a male friend looked surprised and seriously asked,

“Oh, that happens?”

Yes, it happens. Yes, it happens to all women and often to many LGBTQ community members.  Hollaback! works to end this kind of acceptance and unawareness. Hollaback targets street harassment through online forums and aims to bring awareness to the normalization of this subject. The misconception of gender equality within our society is another reason why I applied to the Moxie Project. There still is a lot of work to be done to advocate, support, and help those who are discriminated against because of their gender.

Now that I have voiced my issues with our society, let me introduce myself. My name is April, a rising junior from Seattle, WA. I am majoring in Economics, and minoring in Women Studies. I enjoy a good run, yoga, puzzles, and breakfast foods. My beliefs have simultaneously been shaped by my Nepalese father, my large Irish Midwestern family, and my Catholic school education. While many of my friends had their feminist births in college, my all-girls high school allowed me to see the light earlier than most. This was both a blessing and a curse. During high school I was sheltered from domineering male opinions and I wasn’t subject to a lot of social scrutiny or pressure. However, I was not prepared for what was coming.

I wasn’t prepared for both females and males to say, “ I know him; she is definitely making it up for attention.”

I wasn’t prepared to hear my guy friends measure each other by the hotness of the girls they had hooked up with that weekend.

I wasn’t prepared for the interrupting male voices in my freshman seminar.

I have sadly grown accustomed to the male-dominated world at Duke, and while I have tried my best to interject when I hear something sexist or gendered, I admit it is exhausting bearing the burden of gender equality on my back.  When I first met my fellow Moxies, I thought finally people who actually want to talk about one of the most pressing issues facing Duke and our society.

In this moment of reflection, I will also admit that I am nervous. I have never been to the city that never sleeps (hopefully I will), and I have never had to face the difficult and thought provoking questions that are coming my way. However my nerves are mostly overshadowed by my excitement for exploring a new city, learning from other Moxies, and working for a passionate organization.


Confessions of a Secret Feminist:

Andrea is a sophomore at Duke who will be working with the National Domestic Workers Alliance this summer.

Hey! Hello!

My name is Andrea Lin and I am a rising sophomore studying Biology and Music Performance, and as you can probably tell, my interests are all over the place. Born and raised in Arizona, I didn’t really understand why so many of the people around me didn’t consider themselves feminists. But, I didn’t want to be that one weird kid, so I never brought up feminism until I came to Duke where so many of my peers openly discussed racial, gender, religious, or political issues.

As I prepare for New York with the Moxie Project this summer, I look back on the mind-opening experiences of my freshman year and confront my old hesitations of openly admitting my support for feminism.

Aristotle once claimed that there is only one way to be “good,” but many ways to embody evil. Plot twist: I don’t agree with Aristotle. #sorrynotsorry

Despite movies depicting the flawless superhero and the corrupted super-villain, television shows about the mean girl and saintly underdog, tales marking the hellish monsters that plague our planet and worlds unknown, we know that “IRL” good versus evil is a cloud of “un”absolutes, no black and white line discerning the most good and most evil. I’m sure some of us would say: Murder itself is bad, but we consider the scenarios (self defense?) and even then, the greatest evils are even called into question—in which we can go into philosophical debate about sometime later.

It took me some self-contemplation to realize that even if we are different–just as I felt different calling myself a feminist amongst my peers–it doesn’t make us “bad people.” We often associate people who are different as people who are wrong, and by extension, people who are bad. Naturally I paired my anomalies with being “bad.” But now, my exposure to such open conversation, I consider my hesitation “bad.”

My mission this summer with the Moxie Project can be traced back to this internal conundrum: I’m not a bad person just because I am unaware. When I, along with so many, grow up in a culture that allows and encourages men to treat women the way they do, how are you supposed to know that it’s wrong? We trivialize so many of these actions that we don’t even recognize it as a problem.

I don’t want to become a cynical, man-hating, party-pooper feminist. The kind of extreme feminist that both certain women and men alike don’t want to be associated with. But I do want to become a feminist that is aware of the inequalities and equalities between the sexes. I want to become aware of the demand, the push of so many people fighting for their rights over the course of time…the uncomfortableness of reform, I want to understand.

I am afraid of this change that may come during my summer with National Domestic Workers Alliance and with the nine other Moxie girls–to admit that there’s so much that I don’t understand and to still want to be part of.

Bigger plot twist: I guess there is one thing that I can agree on with Aristotle: “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”

Waiting For The Month To Change…

Raissa is a sophomore at Duke who will be working at Girls for Gender Equity with their Urban Leaders Academy.

Hello friends of the internet!

My name is Raissa Yang (pronounced Hi-eesa Young). I’m a rising sophomore majoring in International Comparative Studies, which basically means that I love cultures, languages, and food… Always the food. I am from a tiny town in Florida where racial, sexual, and religious diversity are practically non-existent and NEVER the topic of discussion. If you brought anything other than a Lunchable to school as a kid, you might as well say a goodbye to your social life. Luckily, I always packed authentic Asian or Brazilian food for lunch. I was very popular…


I experienced a bit of a culture shock upon coming to Duke. All of a sudden I was having conversations about previously taboo topics and learning about cultures from all over the world. However, the most influential part of my first year experience was coming to the realization that I am a feminist. Before college I first became acquainted with gender issues after watching Sheryl Sandberg’s TED Talk. Her talk sparked my interest and led me to read her book and begin looking online for more information.

I applied for the DukeEngage in New York City Program because it combined all of my interests into one summer. I get to explore a new, wild city, learn more about gender issues, and push myself out of my comfort zone. I want to come out of this summer better able to live as a woman and deal with the different forms of oppression and discrimination that I will face throughout my life in work and school.

This summer I am working with Girls for Gender Equity. GGE is an organization that supports women and girls through programs that push them to reach their full potential academically, physically, and emotionally. I will be working specifically with the Urban Leaders Academy. The Urban Leaders Academy works with youth of color to empower and teach them skills geared towards leadership and social justice principles and values.

I am super excited to be partnered with GGE, because when I was in junior high I was struggling with my ethnic identity and having a hard time finding my place in school. A program like the Urban Leaders Academy would have been invaluable to me, and now I get the opportunity to help support a program that I wish I had when I was little.


I am ready for this program to start. The little taste I was given at the DukeEngage Academy left me dying for more. So as I wait these next three weeks for June 7th to come I will be busying myself with learning how to cook, learning how to read a paper map, and figuring out how in the world I am going to fit my entire life into two suitcases. Next time I post I will be in my tiny NY apartment with my fellow Moxies!


Until next time,



Here I Am

Julia is a rising junior at Duke who will be interning at Hollaback! this summer.

I never considered myself a feminist. Feminism was not a topic that was regularly talked about amongst my family and friends from my suburb of Philadelphia. I remember listening to a conversation my peers were having about feminism in high school where one asked the other if he was a feminist. He replied, “I’m not a feminist, I’m an equal rights activist.” I was content with his answer, and I decided to deem myself an “equal rights activist” as well. After all, the made-up term seemed to encompass more than just equal rights for women, which I appreciated.

During the first week of class in my first year at Duke, I remember attending Women’s Collective, an all-women discussion group that meets at the Women’s Center once a week to discuss gender inequities on campus. I decided to go to the meeting because two of my friends from my pre-orientation program were also going. Well before I was subjected to my first round of midterms, I was exposed to the gender inequities that permeate every aspect of campus life. I admittedly became pretty nervous about Duke after listening to the stories these women told about feeling uncomfortable in the classroom, social scene and beyond. However, I decided to remain positive and told myself I would have to experience Duke for myself before I formed any opinions on these gender-related issues.

Two years later, I’m a rising junior majoring in psychology and minoring in global health, and I’m participating in the Moxie project this summer in New York City. I’ll be working for Hollaback!, an organization whose mission is to end street harassment. While it may seem trivial to some, street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that affects millions of women and LGBTQ people.

As a Philadelphia native, I’ve made the two-hour drive up to NYC dozens of times. Most of these were day trips, and I don’t think I’ve ever stayed for more than 48 hours. The noise, the pollution, the people, the cars, the lights – I’ve always liked to take them in small doses. This summer, I’ll be putting my love of the serene Duke Forest behind me and embracing the concrete jungle for two months. I’m eager to finally get to know the city that never sleeps and navigate the grid. And I’ll be sure to learn the quickest route to my workplace and to Central Park!

How did I get here?

As a pre-health student, I always desire the opportunity to take a break from the chemistry textbooks. After spending two years in college, I have become enraged that Duke students are not surprised when they hear the story of the latest sexual harassment or assault victim. When I am in a room full of my 90 sorority sisters, I am terrified by the prospect that about 22 of these women will experience gender violence before they graduate. As women’s issues are becoming more and more present in my life, my determination to take action increases exponentially. I am ready to truly understand complex feminist issues by learning from experts in the field and partaking in social activism.

My name is Julia Carp and I think I’m a feminist.