Don’t Holla at Me

ovarian psycos riding bikes at clit mass

ovarian psycos riding bikes at clitoral mass

A few weeks ago the Moxies attended a film screening about a bicycle group called the Ovarian Psycos . The film chronicled the adventures of a bicycle group in Boyle Heights, a predominantly Latino neighborhood in Los Angeles. This group’s purpose is to retake the neighborhood for women by riding their bikes and howling in the night. They basically howl to make their presence and power known to the men of the neighborhood. The film provoked me. It had me thinking about gender politics, gendered spaces, gendered violence, and race.  Last week those thoughts became fertile through our academic analysis of gender violence, the preceding week’s articles on police violence, and the work of Brooklyn Movement Center .

Now what’s this violence I keep talking about? In Carole Sheffield’s “Sexual Terrorism” article, sexual terrorism is any act of violence committed against women to create an atmosphere of fear. All women live in this atmosphere of terror and while most women will not feel every possible act of violence, every woman will have felt an act. For example, one of the most common actions against women is street harassment. This is a problem which has been increasingly criminalized, but criminalization has failed to curb the harassment.  Instead we are left with criminalized communities and frightened women.

It is no shocking statement to say women live in fear. They fear men, the unknown, the dark, etc. because women are told as girls to be afraid. Women are told to fear strangers, going out at night, dressing scantly clad, and any other number of things. This is repeated to them as little girls and eventually women absorb all of this and become unintentionally and subliminally compliant. Often the older women get, the more they become aware of these perceived dangers and decide to comply.  So how can women ever feel safe if it’s engrained? Or feel like they can walk at night by themselves if they’re socialized to feel unsafe? It’s not self defense courses marketed to them by some ex-cop or ex-military martial arts master.  Women will find their way to feel safe in a world threatening them. So what is the solution?

Well there are alternatives to dealing with things like sexual harassment other than using police action (which harms a community and victims).One way women have found safety from gender violence at BMC is the No Disrespect bike patrols. BMC organizes all female identifying bike patrols in which women patrol against all gendered and sexualized street harassment in Central Brooklyn’s public spaces. Sexualized and gendered street harassment stems from the patriarchy (as does most things). If men didn’t feel entitled to women and their bodies then there would be no harassment. The same aspect of patriarchy that makes men feel they have the right to catcall women is the same aspect that makes men feel like they can physically, physiologically, financially, and legislatively control women’s bodies and lives. However, bikers like the Ovarian Psycos and No Disrespect will continue to push back at this arm of the patriarchy by taking back the streets. As long as there are women and girls on bikes practicing bystander intervention, increasing their visibility, and patrolling, there will be other options to criminalization and solutions to sexual terrorism.

not a girls bike



This past weekend was Pride in NYC. empire state prideIt was a colorful, rowdy, amazing celebration of the LGBTQIA community, and more widely, the individuality and diversity of us all. The streets were  filled with people of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions brought together by their pride in the LGBTQIA movement, either as a member or an ally.

Pride. What a double edged sword. On one hand, pride is a tool, a celebration, even an offensive weapon if need be. On the other hand, we are told that pride is vain, a vice, and a weakness. We often put great capital on humility, especially in social justice and nonprofit work. We avoid glorifying ourselves, and shift focus toward the work of the organization, the plight of those we serve.

Sometimes we want to find a problem in every action or program. After all, that’s how most of us learn and improve. But what if I said it’s okay to stop being a perfectionist for a second, to acknowledge that what you’ve accomplished is good, despite its problems? For some, that might feel like an uncomfortable space to inhabit and for others, it may feel like an affirmation of hard work and sacrifice.

Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing my boss and the President/CEO of Choices, Merle Hoffman. Among other things, we discussed how she came to be in her position, and what motivated her through years of opposition and strain. She spoke of her enemies being the measure of her success, remarking, “It just validated that I was doing something very important, and very right.” She also explained how most people need to be praised or validated for their work. Especially in regards to social justice work, Merle emphasized the need for humility and perseverance. Yet as she spoke, I could see the pride in her eyes and hear it in her voice as she recounted all that she had accomplished.

cheerleader failMerle is right that in this line of work, there are often no cheerleaders in a very dark world. The other side of the coin though, I think, is the need for an inner pride. That pride in your work is what drives you forward when you are all alone. Without it, social justice work becomes an empty shell of servitude, lacking real substance and connection.

So it’s not either/or when it comes to pride and humility. Both are essential ingredients for the perfect social justice pie. Too much pride is what leads to arrogance and vanity, and too little can yield lackluster effort and disingenuity. Coupled with humility, just the right amount of pride in oneself and one’s work is what keeps your head above the water and your feet moving forward in this dark and lonely world.pride

On Musicals

Prior to taking on your new identity as a Moxie, you were already critical of the media you viewed. Autumn referenced in discussion recently a favorite Onion article of yours, “Woman Takes Short Half-Hour Break From Being Feminist To Enjoy TV Show.” This article, of course, is satire, but the phenomenon is not. Since beginning to identify with feminism, you have realized how little it is taken into consideration with much of popular media, or what a simplified version creators tend to be working from. How difficult it is to fully enjoy things when they were created out of patriarchy.

This has only been exacerbated with your work at the Bronx Family Justice Center recently, as you learn more and more about the effects of domestic violence, both on adults and children. It has made you experience another part of your New York experience with new eyes; the theatre scene. At Duke, you are extremely active in a student-run theatre company, and you love watching theatre, consuming it, listening to it, and creating it. You have long realized that while theatre as a genre is often classist and restrictive in many ways (expensive, overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male, overwhelmingly straight and cisgender), it can be used as a phenomenal social tool. Since you arrived in this city, you have seen four shows, three of which heavily featured gender-based violence. The reel of scenes and incidents won’t stop playing in your head, coaxing you to think about a new dimension of theatre and what it does, what it can do.

Beth Malone, playing Older Alison in Fun Home, makes an offhand comment about child neglect halfway through the show. Her father has spent his time onstage criticizing his children, forcing them into clothes they don’t want to wear, being aloof and secretive, and ultimately leaving them alone in a strange room for a full night. To you, “child neglect” seems like an apt and conservative label. The audience around you laughs uncomfortably when she says it, whether because of the content or the sardonic, “whatever” tone the actress delivers it with.

Matilda Wormwood isn’t wanted by her family, in part because she’s assigned female at birth. Her parents frequently verbally abuse her and her father threatens physical violence. Her masculinized school principal Miss Trunchbull (who is played by a man in drag) also frequently impresses violence upon the students at her school, as well as historically abusing Matilda’s teacher, Miss Honey. You have always taken all of these things in stride, as part of the classic tale; you first read the Roald Dahl novel when you were very small. Sitting in the theatre, though, you feel newly unsettled by the dark material coated in excellent theatrical achievements, thinking about the traumatized children that you have been working with.

And then there’s Waitress. You see it with all the Moxies as an enrichment activity. You write afterwards in your reflection that you wish that you could have seen it alone and sat with its themes and problematics on your own. As it was, this was the only show to explicitly address gender-based violence and feature it as a central plot, which can in many ways been seen as a good thing. Art about things can change things. However, the show’s content normalized power imbalances as sexy and male stalking as persistence to be rewarded. Having spent a lot of time with the classic power and control wheel hanging above your desk, you wonder what would happen if the Waitress team were to visit the BxFJC for a few days.

Regardless, you enjoy all three of these shows in various ways. However, it has definitely made you think much harder about the social power of the medium and the narratives that we choose to tell through it. You still have a few shows on your list, and you’ll see how those go as well.

Maybe Tired, Never Defeated

Four weeks down and four more weeks to go… What have I learned and what have I yet to learn?

It’s amazing that the eight Moxies in the program are interning at different places that reflect diverse approaches to social justice. We not only get to learn from each other but we get to foster a spirit of activism within our group. But, last week was one of those weeks where everything is hurling at you all at once and you don’t exactly know what to put where.

Social activism was not something I was very good at. I loved learning about issues that we face and ways to solve these issues, but that was as far as I went for the most part. So after spending a month with a group of strong minded, intelligent and dedicated women, I could not help but get inspired to do what I can to be socially active in the issues that I want to solve. At first it felt easy enough, one step at a time. We discussed about feminism and what it meant to us and how we are feminists. It wasn’t a hard question, rather a pleasant reminder of why we’re all here. Then we talked about nonprofits and their works, slightly critiquing some of their agendas and approaches of social justice. It was a new way of thinking: to question the norms that have been established. But we knew these surface conversations were not why we were here.

We were here to talk about women’s loss of possession to their own bodies and what they chose to do with it. We were here to talk about the millions of black bodies who have been beaten, brutalized and are imprisoned for the possession of 1/8th of a gram of marihuana. We were here to ask why our society feels comfortable with a system that prioritizes punishing those who are already oppressed in order to “Make America Great Again” and question why the resistance of oppression is deemed a crime. We were here to understand why those seeking justice in their communities are ignored. We were here to realize how women are perceived in our own society and be baffled at how deeply rooted these perceptions are: so much so that they are the reasons why women suffer at the hands of their own family members, spouses, communities and strangers.

And at first, it feels like we are here to fix the world: to change it. But then we start to realize how incredibly difficult it is to change the world. It’s a disheartening point when you realize that dedication to social activism is a road that is slow. It needs patience, dedication, hope, positivity and absolute persistence for the cause we are all here to fix. And instead of changing the world, we should change ourselves, because those who see our change and respond to it are the ones who will influence others, and so on. It is so important to keep in mind the balance of changing individuals and changing communities.

At times, I wish I was unaware. I wish I didn’t analyze things to the core and find flaws that reflect the problems that I see everyday, because I have never sought the so called bliss of ignorance until this week. But then you meet people dedicated to the very same cause of social justice, who are brilliant and beautiful and patient. You meet people who will listen to you rant for hours and reassure your sanity and it feels like when the music in your headphones syncs up to the rhythm of your steps as you walk. So as burdensome as activism may feel, the small steps we are taking today are here to be strides others will take in the future.





Passing through the cracks

Mother in her forties or fifties, Black, middle class. Spanish man in his eighties who reminds me of my grandpa. Heterosexual white male with a job on Wall Street. Queer college student, female, might be Latina, might be white.

Some might call “people-watching” the ordinary activity of documenting the observable traits of passers-by, but this is something we all do, regardless of whether we’re aware of it. I people-watch on trains and park benches, inventing personal histories and relationships with minimal regard for the lives I’m rewriting and erasing.

All around me are familiar faces...

All around me are familiar faces…

In reality, there’s nothing objective about these “observable traits.” When we slip non-strangers into ready-made categories, we ease ourselves of the burden of actually listening to the stories they share. When we slip strangers into these categories, we replace the fear of uncertainty with the pleasure of self-proclaimed knowledge. This allows us to “identify” who we’re walking next to on the sidewalk, who is standing in front of us on the train, who we socialize with at work, and who we ask on dates. This enables feminists to advocate on behalf of some women and girls, but let LGBTQ folks and people of color slip through the cracks. This permits us to question the veracity of a person’s sexual orientation if it doesn’t align with our own. This frames our vision so that women who have been sexually assaulted are “sexually assaulted women,” “battered women,” “women victims” or “women survivors,” but never just women. They are seldom women adorned with the specificity they see in themselves.

To quote Sonia Sanchez, a remarkable poet whom the Moxies heard last week, “we are what we are what we never think we are.”  This week, I was struck by a young woman’s account of how biphobia has impacted her in the wake of the Orlando shooting. In the article, she describes the benefits and shortcomings of “passing” as a bisexual. Although she avoids discrimination when holding her male spouse’s hand in public, the very assumption that underlies others’ indifference to this show of affection is that she is heterosexual; her actions are sexually permissible for this reason only. The erasure perpetrated by those assumptions, disguised as “passing privilege,” slips through the cracks with a collection of others. She is invisible, and her invisibility causes me to question how many passers-by I am not really seeing.

Take Your Time, Do it Right

Last Tuesday, my morning started like most of my mornings since I arrived here: with a *ping* into my inbox. I checked my email, and when I read who had sent it, I freaked out, just as any student intern, with no useful skills knowing they’re youngest person on staff would. The director? And founder of the family defense practice herself??? Had emailed me??? DIRECTLY?!  

She was inviting me to help prepare for and attend a press conference and hearing at city council. I couldn’t believe it! The only problem? The hearing was the next day. I was on the spot, under pressure, with no time to spare. Basically? I was in my zone. I was asked to find some social science research that would prove a point to the council members about why “length of stay in foster care” wasn’t necessarily a good measure for deciding whether the Administration for Children’s Services was doing a good job. I was also tasked with sending out an email to all of staff, asking for anecdotal examples of clients who had worked things out with older children, to show that it really is never too late for parents and children to work out their issues. All of this was done within a four-hour period, while I was out of the office, all across Brooklyn, meeting with one client after another, and as the signature reads, each email was “Sent from my iPhone.”

Everything was happening at once on this particular day. I was corresponding with clients, leaving messages for our administration, and taking notes on who I spoke to and what was said during my time “in the field.” I felt, on the surface, particularly overwhelmed but I felt something else too. A thrill. The same thrill I often feel while at Duke. When people are counting on you to get things done and know all the answers, and it seems like every thing that could happen is happening all at once. At least for me, those moments have become all too familiar. They are moments that accumulate into the regular once-a-semester emotional breakdowns and loss of all motivation (which may or may not have grown into thrice-a-semester over the years). But the sense of purpose I feel in those moments of time crunch are addicting. They’re the moments in which I feel most useful.

And then, the “should’ve been expected” unexpected occurred. The hearing was rescheduled. We’d have more than a week more to prepare, gather stories, solidify research. Nothing wrong with that. The next day I opened the document I’d been adding quotes from research papers to… And found myself stressed. What if this wasn’t topical enough? What if I wasn’t looking in the right places? The speed at which the word document grew slowed significantly from the one day I thought I’d had to prepare it. When the day of the actual city council meeting came, I had something to contribute, but I’d honestly let myself down. I know I could’ve done more, done better research. And though there had been plenty of other projects keeping me busy in the meantime, I realize there is yet another drawback to being a person who works best with a metaphorical fire burning under their butt. Sure, you’re a chronic procrastinator. Yes, you tend to sprint to the finish line and have to recuperate for a while afterwards. But also, when the “fire” you’re used to is burning slow, and there’s more smoke than open flames coming off of it, you won’t know what to do. I realize that the work I do at BFDP is often a lot of running from one place to another, meeting here, meeting there, sending off this email and replying to 3 others. But there are also things that require time, effort, forethought, and planning. And that is the performance area I intend to work my hardest at improving in the 4 ½ or 5 weeks (WHAT?!) I have remaining.

It’s just like all of the unsolicited but honestly good advice I keep getting from law students and practiced attorneys at my job when I say I’m still deciding whether or not I want to go to law school: “Take your time. Don’t go right into law school. Make sure every decision you make is worth it. Know what you want before you go for it.”

In the end, the testimonies, like the hearing, were postponed. I got to watch public advocates and council members sling mud and throw shade at ACS for the less-than-stellar statistics concerning foster youth the administration has been reporting. But I unfortunately did not get to stay and hear our director speak on the proposed legislation, and present some of the research I helped compile. When the director of BFDP started the organization almost ten years ago, she simply saw a need that wasn’t being met. Seeing now what amazing people the program has drawn and all of the important work the practice has done makes me realize that even if you don’t end up using your work the way you expected, it will pay to be prepared.


Ragex [ray-gex] (n.) ragexism, ragexist, ragex-esque

  1. The intersection between race, gender, and sexuality

Let’s get straight to the point: the criminal justice system is shitty. It often does the opposite of what it is intended—it kills the people, abuses the people, and rapes the people who are often the most vulnerable in the first place.

The dominant framing right now of police brutality is focused on young, Black men, which is valid. I too was convinced that for now, this should be our primary focus. Neither do I necessarily disagree with that now, because yes, black men are being treated like animals, beaten bloody, and then shot, unarmed in the streets, and this is bad.

However, this is a widely shared experience that occurs commonly with black women. And not just with black women, but with all women of color, and with women of color of the LGBTQIA community, and with all members of the LGBTQIA community. Which brings me to ragex: the truth that the Women’s Movement, Black Lives Matter, and the fight for LGBTQIA rights are inextricable.

For me, I found it difficult to align myself with the LGBTQIA movement, simply because I’m straight. Not that I did not support it, but I didn’t think I could relate. Now, I question why not? We are all deviations from the “normal” and therefore, we are all threats, defying the white, male, heterosexual standard. Yet, we have all been socialized to question those who are different from us. If we other each other, what example is that setting for the “dominant” forces against us?

It all comes down to labels. The difference between identity and ambiguity. On one hand, we can find comfort in identity and shared experience. On the other, why are we so worried about labels and how others identify? We should not have to explain ourselves and who we are, nor be able to, in order to feel safe and accepted.

However, this othering is not only inherent in police officers, but enhanced by law enforcement culture which serves to maintain raced, gendered, and heterosexual “order.” So who do you turn to if your “protectors” are killing you? Abusing you? Raping you? The answer is your community. We must support each other, and not just those like you, but the entire “othered” community. Ragex is not a threat. Ragex is the link—the shared struggle and experience that can bridge us together.

Privilege: ✓

So it’s official. I have now survived 3exhausted weeks of being a New Yorker and more importantly, being a Moxie. When they warned me that the summer would be busy, they weren’t kidding. This weekend it finally hit me. I felt exhausted mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, metaphysically, financially and every other –ly you can think of.

check your privilegeBut while this program has already been a lot – what with the 40-hour workweeks, heavy readings, and seminars that have made us lose faith in the world – I appreciate the ways in which I can already tell it’s changing my thinking and forcing me to reflect on my own experiences and my own privileges. Coming from a lower income family that has faced a myriad of its own struggles over the years, it’s sometimes really easy to overlook the ways in which I am privileged as a white heterosexual in our society.

This past week we focused a lot of time discussing the criminal justice system, how our organizations intersect with it, how it targets populations differently, and the power dynamics within it. Our conversations got me thinking about my own family’s experience with law enforcement and not only how that experience has shaped who I am today, but also how different the experience may have been if I was not privileged in certain respects. I’ll leave specific details aside, but when I was very young, too young to quite comprehend, my parents ran into legal trouble when financial distress brought them to make a risky decision involving illegal substances. Because of the crime, my father spent several years of my childhood incarcerated, a time period that took me many years to really understand.

I’m not ashamed of that point in my family’s history. I realize that at the time my parents  were simply trying to find any way possible to support my family. But, after the past week of covering this topic, I’ve started realizing how different that experience could have been had my family not had its white privilege. Had my parents been people of color, would my mother have been allowed to avoid incarceration as well? Would my siblings and I have been placed into the foster care system? Would my father have been released when he was? These questions have been racing through my head, especially after witnessing and reading about police brutality and the targeting of people of color in the Color of Violence and the Do Not Resist documentary. And it’s not just the criminal justice system that is guilty of these injustices. My work at GGE has opened my eyes to school push-out that disproportionately targets students of color, thus perpetuating the school to prison pipeline. Before this program, I don’t think I had ever fully grasped the extent to which varying systems in our country have historically targeted and criminalized minority groups.

So, I think one of the most important things I’ve learned so far as a Moxie is that checking our privilege does not mean discrediting personal experiences and struggles. Instead, it means acknowledging the ways society has put some of us at an advantage and thinking about how we can direct that privilege towards changing the system rather than remaining complicit in it.

The first step towards getprivilegeting rid of inequality is finally acknowledging that it actually exists.


Choices, Choices, which one should I pick?

eyes wide open

This week we visited CHOICES. Where I revisited the site of some great personal pain. Visiting CHOICES made me think about a woman’s right to choose and the fight for reproductive justice, specifically in New York (where abortion was legal a full two years before Roe v Wade). The experiences I had with abortion in North Carolina and California were nothing like New York’s CHOICES. At CHOICES they ensured from the moment of entrance to the medical center that this was a woman’s choice, that she was not being coerced by anyone to take her power over her own body away.

In North Carolina they presented the state legislated stump speech and gave me two hours to think about my decision and in California they saw me the same day. Both of these experiences without counseling. That was the most impressive part about the operations at CHOICES, that a woman’s physical, emotional, and spiritual well being was being cared for and considered. There is something truly inspiring about the way they do things but they are also led by a charismatic leader- Merle. Merle (having had an abortion herself) will and has always defended a woman’s right to choose, no matter the circumstance or frequency of abortions, a woman will always have rights over her body. There is empowerment to taking back one’s body, especially after society and policy has policed women and women’s bodies.

Meeting Merle was like meeting a pillar of female strength. A true superwoman fighting for women HOWEVER she felt like a problematic fav. As much as I admired her tenacity (which few men can match), the articles we read this week rung loudly through me. Was there something inherently wrong about providing poor women and women of color with reproductive medicine? Whose responsibility is it to decide? I felt that yes, it was a woman’s right and always her right; however, the state and others involve themselves to startling degrees. Beyond the restrictions (worst in states like Texas) and the freedoms in states like California and New York, there remains the moral and ethical boundaries and barriers to women accessing and controlling their own bodies. Moreover there is an issue when it comes to whom exercises their rights (as there usually is). Women with money will always have access and opportunity to deal with unwanted pregnancies, but poor women wont (this is the class dilemma). In terms of where race and class intersect it’s a question of need versus ability.  More women of color and poor women need or want reproductive care and abortions but do not have the money or access to get them, but CHOICES offers them a CHOICE. It is again the right to choose that women like Merle fight for and have been fighting for for forty years.

No matter what I am pro-CHOICES, because it is quintessentially progressive. It gives me a sense of security to know that there are people out there doing the work Merle does, and even more to know they’re a train ride away.