Reflecting on My Moxie

Libby interned at Sanctuary for  Families this summer.

10 Duke students in New York City.

9 females. 1 male. 3 Duke staff.

2 months.

6 nonprofit internships.

8 reflection dinners. 7 seminars discussing readings about feminism.

1 final presentation.

The Moxie Project in a nutshell, right? …Hardly.

The project is called the “Moxie” Project. Moxie, meaning spunk, daring, boldness. I feel like there had to be something extra special about this DukeEngage project, or else the name of the project would be a let down. And there was something special about it.

Before this project started I was familiar with service and partnership. I had been on several missions trips to Mississippi, Washington D.C., Mexico, and Haiti. I had taken  classes about poverty and how to approach a solution in an ethical way. I have always had a heart for helping others. My faith was the foundation that drove that, and my character and personality sustained it. I came into the program extremely excited and up for a challenge.

I absolutely loved my internship at Sanctuary for Families, which provides a comprehensive approach to help fight domestic violence and sex trafficking. Preparing for the project back at Duke, I had wanted to be more directly involved with the community I was serving, but once I got to Sanctuary, I learned that I could find my niche in a development department and still have an impact on a certain community. I learned that it takes a lot more to run a nonprofit than I thought. Developed nonprofits like Sanctuary for Families need boards of directors, development and financial staff, clinical and legal staff, administrative staff, and people to take care of the facility and delegate how the donations are organized and distributed. As much as I believe I work well with people directly, I had to surrender this desire of mine to fill in where the organization needed me. I reflected a lot about who I was coming into this space and what privileges I had that needed to be surrendered in order for me to show up as someone who could help contribute to Sanctuary’s mission. They valued my input and new suggestions, but I knew I needed to come in with an empty cup, ready to be filled with knowledge about domestic violence and all its repercussions. I didn’t want to bring any biases or misconceptions about domestic violence or how nonprofits operate. I was humble.

My internship at Sanctuary really turned into a relationship between me and my supervisors. I learned that working for a nonprofit didn’t have to be work work work from 9am to 5pm only stopping to eat lunch to escape the sad, depressing world we live in. In fact, the office I worked in was a positive, happy atmosphere where people would pop their heads into other’s offices to ask how each others’ weekends were. Working to stop an issue that is heart breaking like domestic violence does not mean one has to throw themselves into a grueling, depressing battle. Don’t get me wrong, there were several days where I was discouraged about the news I was reading about women who had the courage to leave their batterers and work for a better life and then ended up being found and killed by their batterers…and there was a day when I saw the documentary “Very Young Girls” about girls who struggle to leave the life of prostitution and I needed to get out of the office for a while. But there was a balance between the gravitational reality of domestic violence and the aura of positivity in the office that encouraged and inspired me keep fighting without losing hope.

One aspect that I loved about Sanctuary for Families’ approach to the domestic violence issue is that it was holistic, attacking the problem from every angle. I tend (dare I say like?) to bash our society for putting a bandaid on things instead of treating the source of the problem. We like to say here, take this pill to get rid of your symptoms without looking at what is causing the problem in the first place. Sanctuary addresses this by not only helping domestic abuse victims leave their batterers, but also by counseling them and teaching them how to be independent and training them to have the skills they need to find an adequate job and not fall back into abusive relationships. They also do a lot of advocacy by going into the community to train the police and people in the judicial system how to recognize domestic violence and how to deal with it. I think if other nonprofits do not have the resources to attack the problems they address comprehensively, then it would be a great idea to team up with other nonprofits- to work together.

This summer definitely consolidated a lot of my views of feminism and women’s rights. I am proud to say I am a feminist, and I know I want to deconstruct the stigma of feminism on Duke’s campus through my own example. You can argue with people as much as you want, with those words going in one ear and out the other, but (forgive me for the cliche) actions speak louder than words. I want to fight for the equal treatment and rights of all women, because as far as I’m concerned, until they get those rights, I don’t have those rights either.

I am really looking forward to the capstone course that my peers and I will take this fall. I want more time to unpack and process everything that I experienced this summer, and I am so happy I get to do this with the 9 other students who were with me in New York. We get to continue our march together as Moxies– exploring, debating, questioning, and living what feminism means to us and how we fit into its role in our community.

We have vigor, verve, pep, courage, aggressiveness, nerve, skill, and know-how. This is The Moxie Project… and it isn’t finished yet 🙂

what they need me to be.

Libby has interned for Sanctuary for Families this summer. 

The mission statement of the nonprofit that I intern for, Sanctuary for Families, says: “Sanctuary for Families is dedicated to the safety, healing and self-determination of victims of domestic violence and related forms of gender violence. Through comprehensive services for our clients and their children, and through outreach, education and advocacy, we strive to create a world in which freedom from gender violence is a basic human right.” Sanctuary uses “help” and “partnership” to foster the safety, health, and self-determination of domestic violence victims and related forms of violence. They don’t just help people by giving them housing or helping them get orders of protection from their batters, they want to cultivate a better world with better systems for their clients.

Part of helping effectively and serving effectively includes listening to people- Listening to those in need about who they are and where they have come from, what their state of life is, what they are missing that they need, what they have that they would like to change, what they have done already to try to better their situation, and what they would like others to do to help them. It is so easy to assume you know how you can help someone, but until you have asked these questions, your actions in “helping” them might not actually be helping them at all.

At Sanctuary for Families, the voices of clients have to be heard in order to produce effective outcomes for those clients. Sanctuary has transformed over the 26 years it has been around because Sanctuary leaders were able to understand from the people they were serving and understand that they needed to provide a holistic set of services to accomplish their goal of helping domestic abuse victims.

Feedback from clients constantly helps the staff of Sanctuary know how they are impacting them in the long term. Listening to the voices of those they are trying to help helps Sanctuary know how to attack domestic violence at the root of the problem, working to prevent it from happening and educating law enforcement how to recognize and handle domestic violence situations and also by helping clients build themselves back up to a place where they can have successful, functioning lives again.

My notion of what it means to help someone has been and will continue to be evolving. Coming into this summer, the ideas of community service and partnership were to me part of the umbrella of service. Service is helping but helping does not always mean serving– they are not completely interchangeable.

When I think of community service, I think of volunteering. I think of going to soup kitchens to serve food and wash dishes, picking up trash on highways, keeping the elderly company in nursing homes, visiting patients in the hospital to cheer them up, etc. Growing up, I thought it meant something that people committed to doing because they were nice people and wanted to give back to the community. In my mind there was no deeply linked passion behind helping others achieve something when it came to community services. Volunteering is the same in my mind, but it could also be linked to engaging in a passion to help others in a certain predicament based on personal preference as to what causes one cares about.

Partnership digs even deeper. Partnership means people working together. It is a relationship of give and take and of working together. I think it is so important for helpers to be in a partnership with their “helpees.” A partnership implies communication and with communication comes mutual knowledge of what is and what is not needed. My perception of these terms will definitely influence where I go and what I do in the future. When it comes to service I will be both humble and aware of who I am working with to try to serve them. I will listen to what they really need and I will do all I can to understand where they are coming from, so I can truly be what they need me to be.

Politics As Usual

This week we asked students to reflect on the role of electoral politics in creating social change.  They were asked to answer the question “Do we need a female President?” in light of Rebecca Traister’s book Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election that Changed Everything For American Women, and to think about the connections between grassroots organizations and electoral politics.  The students also interviewed people at their worksites about the role of politics in their lives and work. 


Libby Hase is interning at Sanctuary for Families this summer.

I have observed that following politicians’ stances on issues is complicated. They have their own personal beliefs. They have the beliefs that they want to portray to the public in order to get votes. And sometimes they vote for certain regulations just because they want to gain favor with other politicians, regardless of beliefs. These observations, along with the fact that college has just kept me honestly very busy, has caused me to stop following politics closely in the last couple of years. I also honestly and even ashamedly admit that once Obama was elected, I lowered my effort in keeping up with politics probably because I felt I didn’t need to. Once the presidential election was over, I didn’t need to pay attention until the next one came around, right?

I say ashamedly because after this summer, I am even more aware how important it is to follow political issues so that people can vote and support what causes are particularly important to them in life.

(And I do not accept the reply that someone does not have a cause that is important to them.)

The struggle to improve the way our government works and to improve the quality of life of Americans is something that is constantly being discussed and voted on. I believe we, as inhabitants of this country and as human beings, have a responsibility to help in this struggle. This might mean voting to keep an existing law or place, or actively calling senators to vote for a new law. As a woman, I want to keep up with politics so that I can continue to have a voice in what happens in this country pertaining to women’s rights (among other things).

With at least three waves of the women’s movement behind us, how many more will it take before women can confidently say they feel like they have equal rights as men do? Women have slowly been gaining more rights in the last century, but there has recently been a battle over keeping funding for reproductive rights and controversy over abortion laws. I think it might just take a woman president to finally push more equality for women through the senate and congress. Having a national role model could be the answer to influencing groups of Americans to jump to action or vote a certain way. I believe in the power of collective action and in individual leaders. When one is not working, sometimes the other one will.

She Can Back It Up

Libby is interning at Sanctuary for Families, which provides advocacy and support services for victims of violence and sex trafficking.

I have always been impressed by people who know what they are talking about. You might laugh at this statement… but think about it for a second. How many times have you shaken your head at someone who firmly believes in an idea and they:

A) do a miserable job of substantiating their claim
B) have no idea what they are talking about

(these do not have to be mutually exclusive)

In life, I want to know what I’m talking about. My beliefs are part of who I am. They are part of my genuine identity. If I can’t back them up when someone asks me what I value and why, I feel like I am not only letting myself down, but I am also letting down those people who share my beliefs- and I like being a team player.

There are so many -isms and -ologies bouncing around today, and people as a whole are prone to persuasion- It’s no wonder that people don’t know what they are talking about. Throw in some ambiguity, a dash of personal interpretation, and you get a lot of people with varying abstract definitions (perhaps an oxymoron?) of things like:
Let’s look at “feminism.” My nine fellow Dukies and I are two and a half weeks into this Moxie Project experience to explore feminism. We have been trying to define feminism, and I think we are all on different pages as to what it really means. We can all agree on certain (perhaps, only a few) tenets of what feminism is, but what does this really mean? What are the implications of its meaning? Who can call themselves feminists?… And the ubiquitous question: Why does this even matter?
It is too early to delve into those questions. My head is… well, it is spinning. It is difficult to define such a term that is attached to the seemingly countless branches of the women’s movement and is weighted with so much negative stigma. But my goal for the summer is to figure out what feminism means because:

1. I have always believed in feminist ideals, even though I might not have known it.
2. I want to know what I’m talking about when I do attach myself to feminism.

I have always believed women should be respected just as much as men. Last week I remembered just how angry I was in high school when my guy friends and past boyfriends said sexist comments or make crude jokes. It really infuriated me. I had forgotten that. I was raised to treat everyone as an equal, and when friends said they were just joking, they didn’t get that it wasn’t just a joke to me. I wanted it to be just a joke. Things would have been so much easier if I could just take it as a joke. I didn’t understand why I got so upset. Blame it on being a teenager? Now I know that doesn’t fully explain it- I have always wanted to change the inequality between men and women.

I think I want to call myself a feminist. Before I do so, I want to flesh out society’s definition of feminism and what feminism means to me.

Then, when someone asks me, “Why do you believe in feminism?” I can lay it out like x, y, and z… So I can do the feminist cause justice… So I can represent the female gender well… So when they talk about me… they will say, “She can back it up.