A Thank You to the Moxie Project

This summer has given me a greater experience than I ever dreamed it would. The Moxie Project opened up a safe space for learning, reflections and discussion. I had the opportunity to think about issues and discuss ideas with a diverse group of people who were always kind and open to one another. I can not thank Ada, Anna Marie, all of the Moxie girls from Duke, or the GGE staff enough for challenging me and allowing me to feel comfortable expressing my ideas and reflections. I feel so grateful to have had this experience and am excited to continue exploring ideas of feminism, race, power, privilege and all of the complicated intersections of society throughout my life. Thank you Moxie!!

Privileges may secretly be a form of Superpowers…

Superpowers… are REALLY cool. I have always had an infatuation with super powers. From shows like Heroes, to books like Twilight I could read, watch, Google, or have conversations about superpowers all day long. I have had multiple (awesome) dreams about being able to fly, be invisible, walk through walls, read minds, or breathe under water. But, if anyone asks me which super power I could have if I HAD to choose just one, I never hesitate to give my answer… TELEPORTATION. Now, after weighing the costs and benefits of all super powers, why did I land on this one in particular? My reasons are three fold:

#1: Teleportation allows you to be with anyone that you want at any time. If you want to be at home with your family- boom, you’re there. If you want to be in Paris for lunch (French baguettes pictured below… YUM)- boom, you’re there.

#2. Teleportation is a power that you can hide from others if you choose to. It is not like flying, where people would be able to tell that you have a super power. This allows you to keep your powers as private as you want.

#3. Teleportation allows you to get out of any dangerous situation at any time. If you are injured and need to get to a hospital ASAP- boom, you’re there.

In thinking more about my fascination with (and desperate longing for) super powers, I can’t help but think about the privileges that I have that are similar to teleportation, that other people may not have:

#1. While I may not be able to snap my fingers and be with my family, I am lucky enough to have the money to travel to where my family is. And, I HAVE a family. There are many people who do not have the privilege of having a family, and there are people who do not have the privilege of being able to afford to travel to where their family is. I have the privilege of having been able to travel overseas (maybe not for a quick lunch in Paris like listed above), but still- the privilege of travel is one that must be acknowledged.

celeb#2.Like with teleportation, I have the privilege of privacy. This may seem strange to some people, but I truly view privacy as a privilege. While I know that many people in the public eye have chosen to be there, I still can’t help but acknowledge how unfortunate it is that they have such a lack of privacy- via the press and media. People in the spotlight are constantly criticized, whether it be for their looks, or their actions. Their personal space is often taken up by paparazzi or body guards, and everyone seems to have an opinion on every little piece of their life. I am so thankful to have this privilege of privacy.

#3. I know that I can’t snap my fingers and immediately be in a hospital, but, I have the privilege of having a phone where I can call 911 if there is an emergency. I have the privilege of having access to great hospitals, and I have the privilege of health care.

I may never be able to actually teleport (although my fingers are crossed), yet I still want to acknowledge the similarities between some of my privileges and the superpower of teleportation. There are so many little things that I am thankful for and grateful for and appreciative of. It is a constant battle to remember these things on a day to day basis, and the concept of privilege is something that is very complicated. I have a LOT more serious thinking to do about the topic of privilege, and I understand that comparing privilege to superpowers may be a bit strange, but it is just a start at my further thinking of the topic.

With Cyberspace — Nothing is Safe!!

Call me paranoid, but I truly believe that anything done using technology is never guaranteed to be safe. There are hackers, viruses, not to mention mistakes can be made like leaving your Facebook account open. Now, I’m not saying that people shouldn’t have private conversations via the internet or texting, I’m just saying BE AWARE that anything you put out there could possibly be seen by others than just yourself and that other person.

This seems relatively obvious to me, but, how is it that so many people in the spotlight seem to be somewhat oblivious to this. Prime example — Anthony Weiner. While at the Museum of Sex this weekend with the Moxies, I couldn’t help but focus solely on an exhibit which had all of the Facebook messages between Weiner and Meagan Broussard. Weiner, a congressman from New York, proceeded to have a relationship with Broussard via Facebook messages, twitter, and text message. They had sexual conversations and also sent each other sexually explicit pictures.


I do not want to focus on the things Weiner said, or the relationship that he had. What I want to dig deeper into is HOW someone, especially someone in the public eye, can feel “safe” doing something like this. Doesn’t he know that these things could always be dug up and shared with the entire world!? After seeing so many scandals that happen with people in the public eye, whether its from other politicians, Tiger Woods, etc., how is it humanly possible for Weiner to think that doing something like this would not get him into some sort of trouble. Is it a generation thing? Is it him thinking that he is totally invincible because of the power of his political position? Does he secretly want to get caught? WHAT IS IT that makes a person like Weiner believe that he could keep something like this hidden. There are so many scandals that happen every year with people in the spotlight- how are people not learning from each other’s mistakes and learning NOT to use technology as a means of this type of communication!?

My Compliment, Your Insult: How the exact same statement can affect two people differently

Everyone has a different perspective on life because everyone has gone through different experiences and seen different things; no one is exactly the same- (I know you’re thinking… “duh”). But this past week I have begun to understand just how different the people we live among on a day to day basis actually are.

Last Friday I over heard a conversation between two of my friends who are African American. For clarity I will call one woman Lauren, and the other Alexa (these are not their real names). Lauren began to explain that she had been in a meeting with a white man, and afterwards, the man said to her that she was “a very articulate speaker.” Alexa immediately responded “oh, wow,” which left me extremely confused. What was wrong with being called articulate? As a person who often struggles to speak eloquently, I would love to be called articulate, I see that as such a compliment! There was obviously something that I did not understand, so I began to ask questions. It turns out, that Lauren and Alexa both feel that as women of color, being called “articulate” by a white man infers that he did not expect Lauren to be able to speak so well, because she is a black woman. This got me thinking… what are the things that I say to people, intending for it to be a complement because I, myself, would see it as a compliment, when in reality it is an insult to them because of who they are.

Many people hold the belief that asking questions infers that you don’t understand something, which has a negative connotation. The truth is, asking questions often does mean that you do not understand something, but not understanding is nothing that anyone should ever apologize for. Asking questions should be viewed as a positive thing. Asking questions infers that you care to learn more about a subject. There is humility in admitting that there are things that you just don’t know or understand.

Asking questions gives you the power to have relationships with people who have different perspectives from you. Asking questions gives you the ability to be conscious of how other people perceive the world around them. While you may never truly understand the life they have lived, you can still be empathetic by being open and asking questions. You can also help others understand who you are and where you are coming from, by being open to the fact that they, like you, can’t possibly know everything. So, my goal for the remainder of the summer (and for the rest of my life I suppose) is to never stop asking questions, because there are always always ALWAYS going to be things that I just can’t possibly understand on my own based on who I am.

My First Week with GGE in Brooklyn

As I woke up on my first morning of work, I stepped out of bed and onto a sharp piece of wood- leaving me with a splinter. Being the hypochondriac that I am, I immediately freaked out that it was going to get infected. After trying to get it out, I headed to the bathroom to find that our toilet was broken. After finally getting dressed and heading outside, I realized that it was pouring rain, and that I was wearing white work pants… I shuffled through the rain to Rite Aid where I bought Neosporin, hydrogen peroxide and Band-Aids. After doing a mini medical procedure at the Rite Aid entrance on my splintered foot, I met up with Sarah and Maya to make our first trek to Brooklyn together. After walking to the wrong subway, we finally found the right train an soared into Brooklyn. Once off the train, I went my separate way from them so that we could each find our perspective offices (it turns out that the three of us are in the same building, we just didn’t know it at the time). After fifteen minutes of wandering the streets of Brooklyn alone, in the rain, with wet white pants, a splintered foot, and a desperate need for a working bathroom, a kind British man finally pointed me in the right direction. Thankfully, we had left well before 9:00am and so I was still 10 minutes early for my first day.

After a somewhat hectic, wet and physically painful morning, I had my orientation with my boss, and my day was immediately turned around. She explained to me the history of GGE and then we began our focus on ULA. I had done some research before arriving here this summer, but after talking to her, I immediately fell in love with the program. I am a psychology major and have a specific interest in both non-profit work, and in healthy physical and psychological adolescent development. After talking with my boss for about 3 hours (although it seemed like 10 minutes), I watched the film “Hey Shorty.” The film is a documentary that explores the heavy prevalence of street harassment in Brooklyn. One of the most interesting scenes for me was seeing two men talk about a woman walking down the street with her arms crossed. They claimed that because her arms were crossed, she thought that she was better than them and so they harassed her- yet in reality, the poor woman was just trying to get from point A to point B and was probably just cold! To be honest, he film truly shocked me, and for about a 30 minute period of time, I convinced myself that for the remainder of the summer, I would not walk anywhere alone, and that I would never walk with my hands crossed in public again… Thankfully, I eventually got over that!

I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to work with GGE and am truly passionate about the work that GGE and ULA does. My favorite things so far have been conducting interviews with ULA students, and sitting in on a Sisters in Strength meeting. I was extremely impressed with the impact that ULA has had on the students that I have interviewed. ULA creates a “safe space” (a term used by almost every student that I interviewed) where young adolescents can communicate about anything, have their opinion heard, learn others’ opinions, and learn new things about anything from social justice issues to arts and basketball. ULA has taught many students how to use their voice, and has helped develop their confidence. Right now, ULA is in 3 schools, and seeing the impact that it has had on the students in these schools is truly remarkable. My internship has started at the same time that ULA meetings and Sisters in Strength meetings are winding down to an end- so I feel very lucky that I have already been able to visit middle school sites and sit in on SIS meetings, because I have definitely learned a massive amount in seeing how these programs actually work.

On Friday we visited Changes (a reproductive health clinic) in Queens, and got to speak with Merle Hoffman and other members of the staff at Changes. While I could easily write a novel about my experience that day, one of the biggest learning experiences for me was the realization that you can run an organization that helps people, and have that organization be a for-profit one. Not only can you do that, but Merle opened my eyes to the fact that there are many advantages in running a for-profit organization. Choices was a beautiful space, with gorgeous paintings on the wall. It did not seem like a hospital- and that is due to the fact that Merle had the money to make the space comforting and beautiful. Overall, I look forward to learning more about the advantages and disadvantages of non-profit and for-profit organizations as I continue my work with GGE!

Girl Power

Melanie is a rising senior interning at Girls for Gender Equity this summer. 

sexting-590x460“Hmm.. Josh just texted me that he wants me to send him a naked picture of myself. I don’t know that I am totally comfortable with that- but then again, he said he wouldn’t show anyone. Plus, it would definitely make him like me more- I should be flattered that he asked me, especially because Josh is in high school!”

What will this 7th grade girl do? Will her choice even matter? I have seen, first hand, many girls who make the choice to send the nude photo, and I have also seen what it can lead to… an infatuation with sexualization that diverts them from schoolwork, and a viral photo leads to embarrassment and shame causing the girl’s self-esteem to spiral downwards. It is unfortunate that these girls have insecurities about themselves that leads them to stoop to the level of sending a naked photo of in order to get (what they assume would be) positive attention, when in reality the true outcome of this action is negative. But what is this 7th grade girl really great at? Is she an insightful writer? Is she an athlete? Could she be a great artist or engineer? Why is she not thinking about that? Why is she not tapping into her talents as opposed to an over obsession with her body. The issue is not with an over obsession with her body- the issue lies with the fact that she has such a lack of self concept and self esteem that she feels the need to use her body as a tool for any attention. It is vital to help girls  to understand that they have the power and control in their lives, and that they can be anything they want to be.

My name is Melanie Sperling and I am an upcoming senior at Duke. I am a psychology major with a Children in Contemporary Society Certificate. This summer I am excited to be working with Girls for Gender Equity. Specifically I will be doing work with their Urban Leaders Academy (ULA) in planning for their upcoming program year. My major focuses will be in partnership development and logistical program planning and projection. ULA is a holistic program designed to advance leadership skills, social justice principals and values, and self-determination in junior high school students – just what the girl in my example could use.

Have you ever sat and talked with middle school girls? I worked extensively with this age group my past three years at Duke through tutoring programs and The Girls’ Club in Durham. Additionally, many of my friends have middle school aged sisters, and I was a middle schooler myself not too long ago. One thing that many middle school students have in common is that they are sensitive, and are working to develop their own identity. They often fly through romantic relationships on a weekly basis, socialize in cliques, and are highly critical of one another. Middle school girls are also strong, creative, intelligent and fun loving. Unfortunately, many of the conflicts that occur for girls in middle school cause unnecessary worry and angst and can lead a girl on a negative path if they are not given the skills to develop confidence and leadership, and the perspective to understand the benefits that education can have for their future.

These girls are the people that are eventually going to go out in the world and build their own communities, and they are either going to realize their talents and perpetuate a cycle of education, engagement and leadership, or they are going to submit to a plummeting self concept and likely have negative life outcomes. I am incredibly passionate about working with GGE because their main goal is to promote physical, psychological, social and economic well being for girls, women and ultimately the entire community. GGE acts as a catalyst for change to improve gender and race relations and socio-economic conditions for the most vulnerable youth and communities of color.

I got involved in the Moxie Project  through a course I took this past spring called Women in the Public Sphere. I learned about the history and current state of feminism. My sophomore year I created a research portfolio on the early sexualization of girls in the US. While I have an interest in focusing on the psychological well being of all people, from infants to the elderly, I have a special place in my heart for youth and young adults, and especially for young women. I believe that women can be the backbone of strong organizations and a strong society, and that circumstances that perpetuate negative outcomes for women must be uprooted in order to create communities and societies that can blossom.