Constructing a New Vision of Solidarity

Now that the Moxie Project summer is over, we asked students to reflect back on the summer in its entirety.  We asked them, “What connections have you made between your work and your readings that have stayed with you?  What was most meaningful to you?  Has it changed what you plan to do in anyway?”

Sarah K. interned at Legal Momentum this summer.

The biggest and most challenging lesson I have learned this summer is the importance of solidarity in achieving social change.  Through Moxie readings and seminars I have learned that solidarity is defined as the “helpers” or “outsiders” working together and with the marginalized group in order to achieve the most effective and efficient social change.   Many times, especially coming from a point of privilege, it may be difficult for outsiders to fathom any connection to a group in need.   Yet, our group leaders explained that the freedom of each group of women is tied up together.  In other words, unless all women are free from discrimination, then no one woman can be truly free.

When I first heard that I would be working at Legal Momentum for the equality works division, which works to minimize the widespread discrimination and inequality women face in the construction industry, I was not very excited.  I had nothing in common with construction women, I did not want to work in the construction industry, and I did not see how I could possibly “help” these women.   Why would women even want to be in the construction industry?

During my first few days of work I was reading extensively about the program. Through my reading I began to understand a female’s desire to be in this line of work. This industry offered women economic independence without a college degree and allowed them to work outside with their hands.   Moreover, after learning more about the discriminatory practices on construction sites against women, I understood that my original thoughts about there being no connection between these women and me were very wrong.   Although I did not want to be a construction worker, these women and I still had a lot in common. We were both women working to end discrimination against women.  I did not have to be a construction worker to understand where these women were coming from.

Today, I see that the inequity and discrimination women face in the workplace is most exemplified in the construction industry. The construction industry is typically seen as a very masculine place and thus marks the biggest gender threshold for women to overcome in the workplace.  If women can defy the masculine stereotypes of this industry, then it should be a lot easier to confront those of other industries such as finance or science.

After I understood the importance and ability of finding a common ground between all groups in the pursuit of equity for women, I believe that I am now a better-equipped servant of social change.  This lesson was hard to learn and without first-hand experience I might not have been able to fully grasp the Moxie lessons surrounding solidarity.  Yet, after my internship and the Moxie discussions, I can truly say I better understand solidarity and moreover am one with solidarity.  Of course I recognize solidarity is easier said than done but I truly believe that with hard work I can now find solidarity with anyone in order to improve the social standing of all women.

Out of the Gates

And they’re off!

Having been through a rigorous application process, nine new “Moxies” met together with us three times during the spring semester. We discussed their internship options, talked about their hopes and fears for the summer, addressed their questions about living in New York City, and engaged in various activities to get to know each other.

Each student sent letters to two internship sites, and based on their own preferences and those of the internship directors, we assigned each one to one of the sites. They have since communicated with their supervisors, finding out more about their assignments, asking about work schedules, office culture, and dress codes.

In the final session of the semester, students practiced their oral interviewing skills on each other, recording their conversations about what they learned about gender–what it meant to be a boy or a girl–growing up. They reported loving the experience, and wanted to do more of it. They will each get the chance to interview at least one member of their host organization in depth this summer about their personal and work histories. And of course we hope that they will continue to talk with each other about these issues, even when the recorders aren’t running!

This week we all spent two entire days in the DukeEngage Academy, attending a variety of workshops on including cross-cultural communication, relating service learning to professional development, power and privilege, social entrepreneurship, and travelling as a woman. At breakfast and lunch each day we met and “checked in” about what they were learning and continued talking about our own expectations and goals for the summer. At our last meeting we took out a big map of New York city and found the airport, their NYU dorm, their internship sites, and our apartments. We all exchanged cell phone numbers, and made arrangements for meeting at the airport. Finally, they each wrote a letter to themself about their own hopes and expectations, goals and aspirations for the summer. We collected them, and will hand them back when they return to campus in the fall.

We said goodbye, and are looking forward to seeing them all in New York City!

–Rachel Seidman