People & Their Flaws

People. People are complicated. People value things differently. People feel responsibility in different areas. People have different priorities. People can be disappointing. Not only has my work challenged me as a community organizer, but in my everyday relationships with people. As a community organizer, I have recognized an inherent flakiness in people. We are conditioned to leave a little room for possibility in order to be polite, even if we know we can’t fully commit. We can agree to something and see its importance, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to do anything on an individual level for the cause. That’s okay because we can’t fight for every single cause we see as important. Stretching oneself too thin is all too real, especially at a university like Duke. giphy

Along with learning the importance of the type of work I want to do with my life to be more than just satisfied, I have been evaluating the types of people that I want to surround myself with. I am an extrovert and I tend to feed off the energy of other people. I am a very happy person in general and I am even more happy when the people around me are in a positive mood. My colleagues are so supportive and passionate that my workplace experience has been incredibly fun. I can work daily on street harassment and the beginnings of gendered violence while debriefing with the people in my organization and then discussing the pros and cons of the TV shows that we all watch. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel while at work because it’s about recognizing the obstacles but pushing them to the breaking points. A major thing that I have learned this summer is that I can’t force people to show up or follow through with things they aren’t fully committed to, and that’s okay. This type of work relies on the word of the community, and sometimes the values, responsibilities, and priorities do not match up. It’s a hard feeling to deal with because I don’t want to be a hypocrite considering there are countless events, programs, and meetings that I have RSVP’d to and not shown up and kept my word. A lot of the time, I would look at or listen to the description and think, “oh that sounds pretty cool,” but that’s where my attention ended. We live in a world of hierarchies and that applies to what we give our attention to.


People are flawed, depending on the lens you’re looking through. However, my summer hasn’t been just about recognizing their flaws, but about recognizing their passions. Everyday I go to work with people who are so dedicated to what they are doing. And they all want to work themselves out of a job, an interesting concept that a lot of people may not understand. I’m starting to learn what is it is to make a commitment when you have a real life, a profession, a family. You have to have an abundant amount of passion and energy to work in this field and you have to have a fraction of that to participate in the campaigns. I appreciate the exposure to reality and at the same time to people who whole heartedly dedicate their lives to making a change at the community level. This recognition is helping me figure out how I want to be my best self and what that will entail in the future, because it won’t be without its own flaws.


Across the Pond: Moxie Style.

“Hello my name is April and I am a student at Duke University.”

I have lived my life thus far as nothing but a student. My flirtation with jobs in the summer did not warrant me to identify with a certain restaurant or store. I have been shaped and formed by academic and educational pursuits. Growing up, education ruled over my family, it was king and everything else in my life was pretty much irrelevant. My dad always would say to us, “Health first, education second, and everything else.”.

Being a good student is part of who I am. I pride myself on my ability to study, ask questions and turn in work on time.

As I slowly transition from student to worker, I have been reflecting a lot on my different educational experiences: high school, college, and Moxie.

In addition to my pondering,  the Moxies visited GGE on Friday and we discussed factors of school push out for the girls that they work with and represent.  Much of this school push out comes from the missed work that occurs when girls are unfairly suspended from their schools.

One of these girls was suspended for two weeks because she refused to take bobby pins out of her hair.

Another was suspended for a week when she talked back to a teacher.When I heard this I cringed. A week? If you told me in high school that I would have to miss a week of school I would have had a tear filled angry breakdown.


I have had my share of “talking back” throughout my school career. I left little to the imagination with my opinion of my teachers. The frustrating thing is most people can’t connect the dots. They assume that when girls drop out of school they don’t have the motivation to finish, are lazy, or are not smart enough. Instead of the truth, they accept comfortableness and they refuse to accept the notion that the systems that they send their children to and donate money to are fundamentally racist and sexist.

Speaking of being comfortable…

I don’t think I will ever be more comfortable than when I was in high school.

Yes, high school. While many people may cringe at the thought of their high school. I can’t shut up about mine.

Imagine a place where you feel free to voice any opinion you have, raise your hand to answer any question, not caring if you get it wrong. You feel proud when you get it right and you are fine when you don’t.

Imagine a place where you don’t feel inhibited physically to dance, run, stretch, or wear what you want without the idea of a male’s opinion affecting any of your decisions.

I had four blissful and naive years without the distraction of the male gaze and the male presence. Yes, we still talked about boys and giggled when a boy entered our high school.


heteronormative I know, however really does depict the situation.

However, their presence never dictated how we lived out our academic and athletic pursuits.  Never once did I think that I shouldn’t raise my hand because of fear of a male’s opinion. It was unknowingly a sanctuary for my friends and I to thrive in and feel good about ourselves.

Thus when I went to Duke I was hyper aware of the fact that there were males everywhere. I had never been around, lived with, taken classes with males in four years and thus I was shocked at the domineering position they take within classrooms. From personal experience 80% of the questions asked in my big lecture classes are males. When girls ask questions its “I think that..” or “maybe I am wrong but…”.



This kind of stuff did not happen in high school. I am thankful that I don’t fear to speak up in class or seek out the professor in class. Women and men are accepted in equal numbers at Duke, pay the equal amount and thus have the same rights to speak up as much as they want in class and have the same amount of face time with the professor. What is different between my opinion of other girls before and after this summer is what has really changed. Before I was simply frustrated. I would sit next to girls who had questions who wouldn’t ask questions or ask me to ask for them. Now I understand that this inability to speak up is a symptom of the sexist cold that has infected the education system for years.

Finally, this summer has been an interactive educational experience. Just like there is the Duke bubble. There is the Moxie bubble. I know that I will never live and breathe in a space where I am able to have the intellectually thought provoking and passionate conversations that I have had this summer. Like my high school, my few interactions with males this summer have been light hearted and not focused on the conversations that Moxies have. Without the male perspective, we have been able to discuss and analyze how our personal experiences fit into the systemic puzzle that is the American and global world. I am filled to the brim with knowledge and understanding about how so many of our systems work together to oppress some groups of people and uplift others. But this again has been student work, I read and I write and I discuss theory as a student.

As the summer comes to a close, my thoughts have wandered to my next journey: London, England. I will not be returning to the Duke bubble but to a new school in the heart of the East End of London. As the only Moxie studying abroad, it has been hard to contribute to the fall plans of dinners, chats and activism on campus. I am both nervous and apprehensive about moving from Moxie to studying abroad. I want to incorporate the things I have learned in Moxie to viewing the world with a more analytical lens, but I worry that I might forget this between tea and visits from the queen. I don’t want to forget what I have learned, I want it to continue to make me question what I do and how I live.

Fingers crossed that crumpets and feminism go well together!

And as the British would say,






Final Thoughts

Moxie has officially ended and all I can think about it is how unique and truly challenging my DukeEngage experience was. I could not have asked for a better summer. The girls in my program had such different backgrounds and perspectives that it was guaranteed going into any discussion that you would hear an opinion different from your own. Being able to experience so many varying opinions within a positive and encouraging environment encouraged me to express myself, question others, and expand my perspectives.

Whether it was Shannan (our site coordinator) pushing me to think from a different perspective in our discussion dinners, Sai shouting the woes that come from living in a capitalist society, or Nicole (my supervisor at GGE) pushing to ensuring that GGE’s vision was reflected in all of my work, I was challenged on a daily basis during Moxie. Looking back at what I was feeling and thinking during week 1 I feel at week 8 that I am a changed woman! I feel like I have aged 15 years. I might have grown some grey hairs, had a couple of heart attacks, experienced multiple epiphanies, and also developed a completely new line of thinking and analyze the world. No big deal.


The difficult part now is going to be coming home and having to explain to everyone why I feel the way I do about certain issues. Before this program I didn’t like to discuss politics, religion, or really any topic that was fairly sensitive with people outside of my family but now I want to do that all the time. Thank you reflection dinners, reflection writing, reflection discussion, and reflection blog posts.


I have a new sense of pride and understanding when I hear words like: patriarchy, neoliberalism, capitalism, ageism, etc. because I now understand what those mean and feel educated enough on these topics to have a discussion about them.


This program was just the beginning of my feminist journey. I came to New York as a self-identified feminist struggling with fully comprehending the underlying topics of feminist theory and intersectionality. I am leaving as a self-identified feminist still struggling to fully comprehend the underlying topics of feminist theory and intersectionality but with a bit more understanding and knowledge. The best part of this program? The people I met. I have become friends with and worked with amazing people who I know I can look to whenever I do feel like having one of those heated discussions or just to question something I’ve seen or heard.


Ready To Go

I left for the airport 3 hours before my flight was scheduled to leave. Little did I know it would only take me half an hour to get to the airport, check-in, and get through security.

As I wait for boarding to begin, I feel compelled to reflect on my time in NYC.
I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived here at the start of summer. The city seemed so stimulating, I didn’t know how to get around, I hadn’t spent a lot of time with my other Moxies, and I was getting over a head cold. Still, I jumped right in. I got used to the permanently active nature of NYC. After getting lost several times, I learned how to read a subway map. I came to know and love the other Moxies. My cold eventually went away.

Furthermore, I got to know NDWA and the wonderful people that work there. I learned about the domestic worker movement and I began to appreciate it for the remarkable, intersectional, and inspiring movement that it is. I read more feminist theory than I thought I ever would.

During Moxie seminars, I learned from people that are very different from me. I found my voice, and learned to participate more in group conversations rather than simply absorbing what others say.

I realized that I love to have passionate, intelligent conversations, and that it is okay and sometimes preferable to disagree. I volunteered at Choices, a women’s reproductive health clinic, which is not something I necessarily would have predicted at the beginning of the summer. And I’m so glad I did because it gave me the chance to have meaningful conversations with people’s whose views are different from mine. I also got to know New York, which was a great experience. So many museums!

Now, as I’m about to leave, I find that I’ll miss NYC–the city itself, but also the people at NDWA and the other Moxies. And of course, I know I can keep in touch, but it won’t be quite the same. That being said, I do feel ready to move on. This summer was great. I’m so thankful I could be a part of this program, but I feel ready to take what I’ve learned here into my life at home, school, and beyond.

Closing Time

My train home to Philadelphia was scheduled to leave Penn Station at 8 pm. I planned to hop on the subway two blocks from the NYU dorm and take the 2 or 3 train two stops uptown to the station—it would take me about 10 minutes. I left the dorm at 7:30 pm and was walking toward the subway and I realized it would be difficult to maneuver my 50-pound luggage down multiple flights of stairs. So, I decided to take a cab to get me 20 blocks north of where I was. In the thick New York traffic on 6th Ave, I arrived to 33rd street in the cab at 7:47 pm. I was cutting it very close. The cab turned left onto 33rd to get to the station on 7th Ave, and the street looked like a parking lot.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.13.04 PM

I learned on Day 1 of being in New York to never underestimate the amount of time it takes to get somewhere. I didn’t, I just had a sudden change of plans when I realized the subway wouldn’t be feasible. Maybe I should have thought it through a little better.

At 7:50 pm, I quickly paid the cab driver, jumped out of the car and sprinted the final two blocks to the station with my luggage trailing behind me. I apologize to whomever I may have run over with my barreling suitcase in my wake.

I arrived to the Amtrak board at 7:58 pm to see that my 8 pm train was the only train delayed 15 minutes.

Exhale. Deep inhale. Exhale.

I chugged a bottle of water and wiped the sweat from the back of my neck. I had just completed my last New York task. Next stop: Philadelphia.

When it was time to board the train (which actually was 25 minutes late, just to poke fun at me), I rolled my luggage onto the escalator. I rolled it a bit too far and it started to fall forward, off the escalator step. The man behind me reached in front and grabbed my bag to help me. I thanked him, and he insisted he hold it for the next 20 seconds down the escalator. I told him it wasn’t necessary, that I could hold my bag now that it was actually on the step, and he asked me if I was sure. I said yes.

I wondered how I should react to this. Should I be outraged that a man doesn’t think I’m capable of standing next to my own suitcase on an escalator scale? Is that too extreme? He was just trying to help. In this moment, I thought back to the Moxie reading on chivalry that we discussed on the day we arrived in New York. That man was conditioned by society to help a woman carrying a heavy object. I can’t blame him for wanting to help me when my bag was clearly falling—I actually really appreciated it— but once it was back on the step, I was fine. I would have also appreciated him recognizing that rather than insisting he carry it for me. The most frustrating part is, he didn’t even realize he was implying I was incapable of handling it myself.

Structural oppression is everywhere. I knew this before I spent two months living and working in New York. What I didn’t realize though was how structural oppression sneaks up on you. It’s concealed in gestures, words, street corners, school curricula and governmental policies. It often hides from those who are oppressed, and even sometimes from its oppressors.

As the communications intern at Hollaback!, I read the many personal accounts of street harassment victims. Many of these victims are aware of the deep-rooted sexism, racism, classism and homophobia of their oppressors’ words and actions. But some are not, and are simply angry that someone bothered them on the street.

Not everyone has the language and skills I gained from Moxie this summer to speak about oppression. If you can’t pinpoint it, how do you recognize that it’s even there? And if you don’t know it’s there, how can it be changed?

These are a few questions I’ve been left to think about.

On the 90-minute train ride home, I felt I was being transported from one world to another. To pass the time, I mindlessly listened to Beyoncé’s newest album. However, I became more alert while I was listening to “***Flawless.” Beyoncé uses a clip from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDx Talk in her song, “Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.” I’ve listened to the song dozens of times, but this was the first time this line the words sunk in.

I thought back to the feminism chart we created when we visited the group of high school girls who were studying social activism. We had a lot more words and phrases to define feminism than just “social, political and economic equality of the sexes.” A few the phrases on our list that resonated with me were analysis of power, uplifting the marginalized and intersectionality. Chimamanda’s definition of feminist is just one of many interpretations of the word.

Just a few things I was thinking about during my uneventful train ride home.

I reflected on my summer in New York. I remembered getting out of the car on W. 13th Street on June 7th, unable to find the door to my dorm (in my defense, NYU dorms are very poorly marked for security reasons). Within the first few days, people on the street started asking me for directions. It was nice to know I looked the part, but I had to admit my secret of being a newcomer when I couldn’t be of service. During my last week in New York, a man stopped me in the Nevins subway station to ask how far Fulton Street was. Without blinking, I told him it was four stops on the 4 or 5 train. The next day, at Union Square Station, someone asked me for directions to Bryant Park and I told them how to get to the correct subway station, which train to take and where to get off. And my favorite story: during my last weekend in New York, someone asked me which side of the subway to get off. I’m really glad I was there to point the person in the correct direction, because the side with the doors opening wouldn’t have been a clear enough indicator.

Here are just a few of many things I will take away from this summer:

  1. The Moxie Project reinforced many of my pre-existing beliefs. It shed light on the importance of the relationship between feminism and social activism.
  2. I can confidently say I no longer feel as new in New York as when I first arrived.
  3. My ability to verbally communicate my thoughts and opinions has definitely improved. I have a voice and I’m not afraid to use it in an outspoken group.
  4. After participating in Moxie, I find myself being much more analytical and critical of both my personal world and the global world.
  5. I have started to think about how I want to incorporate social activism into my life beyond New York City.
  6. I have been learning how to be a better ally to many marginalized communities.
  7. I’m heading into my junior year at Duke with some new friendships, built on the foundations of common interests, honesty and respect.

Thankyou DukeEngage, Hollaback!, and the Moxie Project leaders and participants for an incredible and unforgettable summer in the Big Apple. To the Moxies—can’t wait to see all of you back on campus! Until then, I’ll be passing the time reading The Sexual Politics of Meat.



Take me back to Moxie…

Writing this last blog was incredibly difficult. I am still struggling to come to terms with how much the Moxie Program (quite frankly) changed my life. The Summer of 2015 was definitely the best one so far.   My intense, 8-week long packed schedule of enriching activities, the discussions about gender and identity, and just the experience of living in the city, completely contrasts with my now (well boring) routine at home before school begins.


This may sound cliché, but words really can’t describe how incredible my summer was. I can’t believe that I was able to have the opportunity to work with and talk to extremely distinguished individuals, have a great internship experience, and also be surrounded by such a positive, inspiring, and fun group of girls. My parents laugh at the fact that I start every other sentence with either “Well, in New York…” or “Actually, we are socialized to believe that…”. I must admit, I probably do sound pretty annoying.


I say that the Moxie Program changed my life because I think about everything in a new light and that I did not just develop one “feminist lens,” but many different  ways of thinking about how society works and the structures that govern our everyday interactions.  I love that the Moxie program sharpened (but still a work in progress) my ability to think critically about social structures, but at the same time, it can be frustrating and overwhelming to constantly be thinking about colossal issues that are inconceivable to solve. For example, it’s impossible for me to go without thinking for less than five minutes about capitalism, patriarchy or privilege. I have also been struggling with how to express what I learned during Moxie to the members of my family and to my friends. How does one explain that we express gender as a result of the patriarchy? I was even more surprised by how difficult it is to get people to understand that street harassment is a form of power and control over women’s bodies and yet another example of how men choose to invade space. To me, the problems with systemic issues such as, street harassment, identity categories, and homelessness are almost common sense. For those who I have spoken to, however, it is, well exasperating, trying to sway their steadfast beliefs.


I feel very satisfied that the Moxie program enabled me to articulate my own “lens(es)” for viewing the oppression in the world, however, my next goal will be to help others develop a lens as well.  Although my fellow Moxie girls and those who have taken a women’s studies class or two know what I am talking about, it is shocking to know that the vast majority of the population is ill informed on issues regarding social justice. What is most exciting and (perhaps scary!) to me is that I am not sure to what extent the experiences and knowledge that I gained during Moxie will shape my future decisions and choices. But, I look forward to it.