Blast from the Past!

When I was eighteen, I wrote for Seventeen Magazine as a part of their “Freshman 15” program–a program where the magazine chooses fifteen college freshmen to post a blog every other week to their website about their freshman year of college (“…detail the drama”). Due to my lack of desire for the limelight and slight embarrassment for writing for a magazine that opposed my feminism in many ways, I had all but pushed the experience–and the blog posts–out of my head. Until last week.

308163_2550431397201_1605517910_nPerusing the internet, I stumbled upon one of my old posts which led me to click, read, and kill an hour and a half of my day. Some posts described issues of extreme banality (I categorize here posts about my relationships, “finding yourself,” working out, etc.), others about general, boring college topics (what clothes should you bring to college?! College is harder than I thought it would be, etc.), and (hidden among the insipid), a couple about feminism.

I wish I could spend my entire blog post expressing my desire to take back some of my words on a medley of those topics. I felt pressured to talk about relationships and body image because that, to me, screamed, “Seventeen Magazine!” I expressed many difficulties with breaking up with my partner at the time, but always with a positive twist! I talked about exercising and losing weight. Some of my comments were vain, vapid, and contributed to an effortlessly perfect image and culture I despise. I hated that the Seventeen editors titled my videos with taglines that read, “Maya and her friends found a sneaky way to avoid dining room crowding — and check out some hot guys!” and spelled women’s rights “woman’s rights.”  Reading over them, I wanted to bury my head in my hands and scream.

But my posts on feminism made me happy. Not because they were very intelligent (No, on the other hand, they really show a disconnect in my understanding of what feminism is), but because they really showed growth. I am certainly still learning and growing, but it was exciting to see what has become a huge marker of my identity–my feminism–in its youth.

I could have talked about a number of things of importance. I wasted my platform to speak directly to young girls about what is really important in life, and in my life. I wish I wouldn’t have talked about my relationships or my body in such vanity because there are very real things about those topics and a million others that need to be said. It was exciting to see my youthful feminism, but I do wish I would have played my cards differently.

As I leaned into the camera with my “stylish” bright red lipstick, I say, “Feminism is all about just being who you are and expecting the best for yourself.”

Knowing eighteen year old me, I suppose it could’ve been worse.

Let me know what you think and Hollaback! at yo’ girl!

From One Rich White Girl to Another

My Wednesday night began with a conversation between me and some white friends outside of the Moxie program talking about Moxie over pizza.  They started asking me basic questions, “How do you like it?” and “What do you do in it?” but the conversation quickly progressed from this boring superficiality to more in-depth topics (thank goodness, or this would be a really dull blog post).

I explained to them that one of the coolest parts of my program is watching how all of these different women engage with feminism–many of whom have little experience with the term. I talked about how one person didn’t consider herself a feminist because she sees it as a white women’s movement. That blew their minds so I continued on, explaining feminism, womanism, and my own struggle with recognizing my privilege, particularly when it came to race–something I hadn’t (embarrassingly) ever put much thought to until the beginning of my sophomore year of college. They kept asking me questions and it was extremely exciting explaining everything to them. It was a personal challenge, trying to find ways to explain intersectionality and how saying “I don’t see race” was not anti-racism, and what systemic problems were to people who had never really engaged in this kind of academic thought.

But a friend was there who really started frustrating me. She just didn’t get it. She was complaining about how her black roommate in New York had tweeted about her (something to the extent of “ugh, living with rich white girls…”) and she asked me what I thought. I laughed and said, “Well, you are a rich white girl.” She also laughed but continued on, saying, “I’m not rich. I’m middle class.”

We’re talking about a girl who just spent 25 dollars on dinner for herself, wears expensive clothes and designer items, lives in an upscale home in the middle of D.C., and is paying for Duke out of pocket. There is nothing wrong with any of that (er, well, maybe I’ll get into distribution of wealth another time…) but the fact that she was so dopey, so utterly out of touch with reality really made my blood boil. And this was from one rich white girl to another.

Surprisingly, it made me think a lot about the way academics work. As a science major, she wasn’t required to take any identity courses (i.e. african american studies, women’s studies, etc.) and likely had never thought about these things before. But that wasn’t necessarily her fault. As a white, straight, upper-class person she didn’t have to think about race or sexual orientation or class because of that privilege. What was holding her accountable? What was encouraging her to think about these things? There was nothing.

I kept thinking. How can we expect anything to change if we keep ignorant people ignorant and they continue to be our leaders, our teachers, our law enforcers, our presidents? Why isn’t there some sort of institutional push (at least at a highly-esteemed university like Duke) to bring kids like her into classes that will make them think about these things? Can you imagine what our world would be like if Elementary students were taught that being called a “girl” or “gay” isn’t an insult? If Elementary students had a thirty minute block in their day where they got to talk about who they think they are, at such a young age? Where they could be encouraged to think about their identity in the world around them? How would this shape the people they would come to be?

The most interesting part about my conversation was that all of the girls I was talking with, this girl included, really seemed to take away a lot from the very basic things I was saying about identity. There was a lot of  “I can’t believe I’ve never thought about that!” and “Oh my gosh, are you serious…wow” flying around the room. And this was me talking about basic, simplified concepts and examples. I just kept thinking about how bringing these women into identity classes, at least one, could be incredibly personally rewarding for them. They could learn how to better work within our world and interact with others in classes where professors could better explain these concepts. If they got so much from me, I can only imagine what would happen if these students (men and women alike) were encouraged to take courses with people who really know what they’re talking about.

Duke did force me into rocks for jocks, after all.

Let me know what you think and Hollaback! at yo’ girl!

How To Write A Blog Post in 30 Minutes or Less

Don’t have the time to express your thoughts and opinions on the web? Supervisor on your tail? Online blog getting old? Losing readers? Here’s your go-to guide on how to write a blog in 30 minutes or less (timer starts now!)

1. Smother pig’s blood all over your body and jump into shark infested waters

AKA write a title that gets people’s attention! Engage people in their curiosity or anger or whatever! Say something that catches their eye, peaks their interest, makes them feel or want to know more, and make them click! If you’re having trouble thinking of anything, make a how-to guide or allude to a list like this. They’re easy to read, easy to write, and don’t take very much time at all to create.

2. Write about stuff you actually care about

When you care about what you’re saying, writing a blog becomes much easier…and thus less time consuming. Don’t be afraid to talk about how you feel or engage with your emotions on a particular subject–regardless of what they are (perhaps you are feeling sassy like me!)

3. Address your audience

Who is your audience and why should they care about what you have to say? This is one of the most important questions to ask yourself. When you know who you’re writing to, it becomes easier and faster to write. For example, if your audience is a lot of stymied mid-20s girls confused about when, where, or how to blog post, creating a blog post like this would likely be good and engaging!


4. Add a picture

Some people just don’t like words nowadays so add a picture to take up space and engage with those viewers! It’s easy and fast. Plus, let’s face it, pictures are so darn cool. I’m including one of me writing this blog post (Thanks, Sarah!)

5. Don’t write too much

And don’t repeat yourself or use words over and over again unless you’re really trying to stick something with your readers. Notice how I kept using the word “engage”? Yeah. One of the best ways to save on time is to limit how long your blog post is. Keep it short ‘n sweet.


Hope I’ve engaged you for a little while! Hollaback at yo’ girl!

Workin’ Hard or Hardly Workin’?

600319_10151984748612846_1645845760_nIt’s not as if I haven’t worked before. I spent years running after eight year olds at a YMCA summer camp, and helped run programs for Duke’s Women’s Center over the last few months. I even played sports and volunteered after the hours upon hours I spent at school. It’s not as if I haven’t worked before….so why am I so tired?

I’m pretty sure I spent the first few days of my internship relaying those thoughts to my fellow moxies. The hour-long commute to and from work coupled with the eight hours of work absolutely exhausted me. But the word exhaustion just didn’t do the feeling justice. My muscles were tense, my neck ached, my back was sore, and although I feel passionately about ending street harassment and love Hollaback!, I got home feeling, quite frankly, grumpy.



But that’s just it—getting home wasn’t the end of my day. I’d have to spend at least half an hour cooking dinner for myself and take a shower and do more work for my program. The days felt so long, but I was still getting eight hours of sleep! I didn’t understand what was going on. The exhaustion would not go away.

You should know a little bit about me. I’m twenty years old and in good shape. I’m single. I have Internet access most of the time and I have enough money to purchase ingredients to make myself meals throughout the day. I’m white. What should you have gathered from that? I don’t have kids. I’m not married. I’m young and I don’t have health problems. I don’t have to wake up early to stand in line at the library to use a computer to send an email. I don’t struggle to eat. I’m privileged.

Thus, I find myself thinking about working women, and working moms. Women who struggle. Women who commute and work long work days and have to come home and take care of their families. Even female breadwinners in partnerships do most of the housework—most of the family care. This means that the vast majority of employed women who have families work long workdays like I do (and probably in less rad jobs), come home to feed their families, clean the house, and take care of the needs of their children and/or partner. With that exhaustion. Let me emphasize: with that exhaustion.  Adding a struggle of class—of making enough money to clothe or feed or maintain good health—complicates the situation further. Adding a discriminatory struggle faced by those of different races or sexual orientations makes things even harder.

I found myself thinking about that a lot this week, and I’d love to hear what your thoughts (and what helps you after a long day of work!). Hollaback at yo’ girl!

Hollaback at yo’ Girl

Maya is a rising junior working at Hollaback! this summer.

smoking mad menAlthough we’re half a century past the 1960s and the closest I’ve ever come to a Lucky Strike Cigarette are vague memories of my granddad, I can’t help but imagine my summer life in New York as a season of Mad Men. I’m not exactly sure why I’m equating them. Perhaps it’s my expectation of encountering challenges along the city streets (both personal and related to gender), or maybe it is something more superficial, like wanting to unapologetically run an office like Joan. There’s also a chance that the hours I’ve spent bored at home watching season after season have made me believe that I should be geared up for a summer working for the “man.”

But I am not Joan, I’m working in Brooklyn and not Manhattan, and the “man” that I’m interning with is quite the opposite: Emily May, Executive Director of Hollaback! In fact, Emily May and Hollaback! are arguablyEmily_holla as far from the “man” as it gets—Emily, an international leader in the anti-street harassment movement and Hollaback! an organization that gives women and members of the LGBTQ community an empowered response to street harassment. After its inception in 2005, Hollaback! has trained over 200 leaders internationally, engaged elected officials, won several awards, and received money and support from numerous foundations and corporations, including the New York Women’s Foundation and Ben and Jerry’s Foundation (the latter of which, I was disappointed to learn, has nothing to do with the ice cream).

I’m Maya, by the way. Feminist and Texan. Mango Lassi drinker and cat lover. I am excited and ready for my Moxie adventure—Mad Men peril aside. I’m looking for a challenge, I’m looking to learn, and I’m excited to step into the Brooklyn unknown!

Hollaback! at yo’ girl!