Our Stepping Stones

“One problem with our current society is that we have an attitude towards education as if it is there to simply make you more clever, make you more ingenious… Even though our society does not emphasize this, the most important use of knowledge and education is to help us understand the importance of engaging in more wholesome actions and bringing about discipline within our minds. The proper utilization of our intelligence and knowledge is to effect changes from within to develop a good heart.”

—Dalai Lama

                  After several hours in Shanghai and 18 hours in the sky, I have finally landed in Seoul and able to catch a breath. I’m able to take in everything that has happened in the past eight weeks and that ain’t a small feat. I have come away with 9 fellow Duke friends who I share so many things in common with as well as role models including my supervisors at Legal Momentum. I have been given a wealth of knowledge and experience, those that have proved to be strong stepping stones for what’s to follow. I just finished uploading photos and videos to Facebook and Instagram and have already viewed each of them a multitude of times. Having completed four years at a boarding school, a gap year in Boston conducting research on my own and two years at Duke, I have always thought of myself as independent. And yet, I cannot tell you how much I have grown during these two months. A few weeks back, one other Moxie and I decided to walk back to our dormitory from Ada’s apartment. What she said can easily wrap up what there is to be taken away from this Moxie adventure. This summer isn’t about the big transformation as a feminist and as a person, she noted, but the little changes that occur within ourselves as we learn new things about the world and about ourselves. #word

P.S. One of our Sunday discussions included L.C. Coleman, founder of “Colored Women Confidential” and fellow Dukie. We were asked to write a word describing each Moxie on each other’s backs. I thought that this space would be a fantastic opportunity to unveil what I think of everyone else. And the funny thing is, if you gave me a chance to re-evaluate, I wouldn’t change my word for each of these ladies. #forevermoxie

Ambie: Genuine

Clurr: Spirited

Ngozi: Spunky

Lorena: Sweet

Mel: Upbeat

Maya: Confident

Gracie: Compassionate

Sarah: Reliable

Brianna: Energy Bunny



Asian Pacific Women and Feminism, cont’d

This week, our readings included an excerpt from “This Bridge Called My Back: writings by radical women of color.” The piece we discussed was written by a Japanese-American activist and feminist Mitsuye Yamada. In “Asian Pacific Women and Feminism,” Yamada denotes the struggle of Asian Pacific women to affirm their own culture while working within it to change it. She furthers her argument with experiences she has had with other American feminists:

 “When Third World women  are asked to speak representing our racial or ethnic group, we are expected to move, charm or entertain, but not to educate in ways that are threatening to our audiences. We speak to audiences that sift out those parts of our speech (if what we say does not fit the image they have of us)… and go home with the same mind they come in with.”

Even in my personal discussions about feminism, Asian women are left out, and I am partly to blame. I would claim that feminism in Korea is nonexistent and depict to my American friends the typical Korean female— submissive, passive and reserved. Yamada’s short piece made me realize just how ignorant I have been of my culture. In expanding my definition of ‘feminism,’ I tried to encompass the diversity I experienced with the other girls around me and yet I had left out my piece of the puzzle—my own culture. In viewing women through such a restrictive lens, I could only discuss what I saw superficially. I failed to look at the deeper picture. I failed to apply new variations to my definition of a feminist.


Cho Yoon–Sun, the current Minister of Gender Equality and Family of South Korea

Yamada’s reflections weren’t shocking and yet, I was surprised. This week made me reflect on the Korean women around me and realized with much embarrassment how I neglected to see any progress. I tried to fit many of the women I encountered to the idea of what I thought was the ideal American feminist. And since they didn’t fit this image, I had failed to see them as feminists. Take for example, my mother’s best friend Cho Yoon-Sun, the new Minister of Gender Equality and Family. Known for her passive mannerisms and inability to say ‘no,’ Ms. Cho takes on the stereotypical character of an Asian Pacific women. And yet her words and actions indicate otherwise. In the news, anchors and experts comment on her good looks and attempt to feminize her but that has not deterred her from her progressive goals. In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, she noted some of the faults with Sheryl Sandberg’s advice for women to “lean in.” Given individual situations and the system around us, she said, being proactive in one’s career is not the ‘one size fits all’ answer. She is currently focused on increasing the percentage of women in high-ranking government positions to 15% (at the moment, it is only 5%). Her demure character contrasted with her liberal views of women allow her to work within the system while changing it.

Relatively, Korea is not progressive and radical in terms of feminism. We have a long way to go, but that doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless. It’s time we begin to open up the discussion to these women and not only listen but also take to heart what they have to say. Because contrary to popular belief, Asian Pacific women are interested and active.

Feats and Feet

carrie-bradshaw-mobile-wallpaper“When I first moved to New York and I was totally broke, sometimes I bought Vogue instead of dinner. I found it fed me more.”    


     Growing up, my mother and I would bond over Sex and The City and in the back of my Chemistry and Physics textbooks, I liked to doodle little dresses and shoes. If all of my aspirations to study science and law went awry, I planned to characteristically move to New York and become the “starving” journalist who would justify spending bucketloads of money on Manolos before paying my rent. Naturally, coming to live in the City for a couple months, I was excited to see how crazily (and glamorously) people put themselves together. But, these thoughts were always categorized separately, distinct from my academic interests—my guilty pleasure and thirst that would be quenched through blogs and Instagram. Never did I think that such interests would intersect with my identity as a scholar and as a feminist.

     In a recent office discussion, one of my supervisors brought up the way in which female politicians are scrutinized more for their sense in fashion than in their policy decisions. I wasn’t sure about the latter half of that clause, but I remembered many politicians featured in Vogue. More accurately, in fourteen administrations, only one first lady hasn’t been featured in the pages of the magazine. Condoleeza Rice, Hillary Clinton and Nikki Haley graced the pages in haute couture. Evidently, I hadn’t thought much of it. What did it mean for Vogue editors to compliment these women for their classy choice in suits and accessories? One of my co-workers was furious—”Everytime, girls go out and really do something. What happens? Their shoes make it to the front page of the Times.”

     Look for yourself. Google (or Bing) “Hillary Clinton” and within first couple pages of the search, you’ll find major news outlets covering the evolution of pantsuits. And a recent example— badass Senator Wendy Davis landed on national headlines following an 11-hour filibuster that helped defeat a controversial abortion bill aimed at severely cutting access to abortion services across Texas. The morning after the feat, my Instagram feed was filled with comments about her choice in wearing pink Mizuno Waves. I tried talking about Davis to a friend that evening and all I got out of him was, “I wonder if those kickass sneaks come in men’s sizes.” And that’s all I could churn out of him that evening. (On a side note: it must be a week of sneakers. Apparently, Roger Federer’s scandalous orange-soled Nike sneaks are sold out in stores everywhere. But, I digress…) If that’s what some got away from Davis’ courage that day, we live in a shitty place.

     Writing yet again another blog entry about female politicians and their style probably does not help change the status quo. But, I hope to document this change of thought and the need to judge politicians as just that—politicians. Yes, a female politician brings to the table knowledge and experience that are rare among the male folk. And those qualities in addition to accomplishments made should be what makes it to the front page of the Washington Post. In the need to feminize those women leading the pack, both men and women depreciate the value and ability to enact positive change by confining these female leaders to their stereotypical roles. (My supervisor suggested that I write a blog targeting the uncleanliness and antiquated sense of taste prevalent in the male politicians atop Capitol Hill, but that probably won’t help solve anything. And besides, I’ll keep jeering within the confines of my own home).

Let’s Talk About Marriage

“Clearly, you don’t want any more career advice. At your core, you know that there are other things that you need that nobody is addressing. A lifelong friend is one of them. Finding the right man to marry is another.”

     In late March, Princeton alumnus and mother of two Princetonians, Susan Patton wrote a little memo to the “daughters [she] never had” and sparked a conversation about marriage. There was a lot of disgruntling around the Duke campus when the article first came out. But, to be perfectly honest, Patton’s words didn’t really ruffle any of my feminist feathers. With Patton’s choice of words, I can see how women and men jumped out of their seats at her unwarranted “Stepford Wives-like” advice. Essentially, there are two ideas encapsulated within this letter and when it attracted national attention, only one was circulated and talked about. Here, in my blog, I want to talk about the other. So, one idea that Patton projects is that educated women should marry educated men.  It’s an idea that I’ve definitely heard from my grandmother and mother. Of course, my grandmother would package her desire for me to marry an educated male with her desire for me to prance around in lovely little dresses and to walk more ladylike without constant reminders (in case anyone needs a refresher: you have to make  sure your feet are parallel and walk so that your thighs are constantly touching each other).


     Here’s the other idea that didn’t quite make it to the table: Patton raises the need to talk more smartly about marriage. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be married and have children. Young bright women may not start to vocalize their need to get married until later in their lives. There is no “prime time” to get married or a “one age fits all” for marriage, but there is absolutely nothing wrong for women to start looking early on. What irks me shitless is when I begin to talk about wanting to get married and receive perplexed looks. “I thought you were a feminist?” one girl or guy would say as if the two were mutually exclusive. It’s ridiculous that bright, successful women can only start to think about marriage after they reach success. In many ways, I think that marriage and professional success go hand-in-hand. Am I saying that Princetonians should marry each other while Dukies only frolic with other Dukies? Of course not. That’s not the point. It takes time to realize what you desire and need in the perfect partner. It’s a tough, sticky, hard decision that needs to be addressed with much care—as much care as we put in our school work and careers. Some women may not need this time to find the perfect one, but for the rest of us who aren’t as lucky, we need all the time and thought we can get. And we shouldn’t be judged because of it. I’m not throwing away my identity as a feminist just because I want to be in the perfect marriage and want to talk about it.

     In sum, there really needs to be more smart conversations about love—and not only on the ever-pervasive subject of prince (or princess) charming and features they should have. But an intelligent discussion about marriage and how to approach it (I think my first exposure to such ‘wisdom’ was in Sex and the City when Carrie and Big initially decide to get married without the fuss of a big, white wedding and ring. The fact that I found such wisdom in Sex and the City is worrisome…). I’m still trying to figure out who I am and so definitely do not yet have the mental capacity or wisdom to figure out what I want (or need) in my future husband. So, let’s start talking (intelligently!!) about marriage and all you relationship gurus, get at me please!


Not just a Tweeter…

“What this world lacks, what activists really need is radical empathy….” It’s a concept I’ve thought about and hinted at in conversations with friends and professors, but I had never been able to coin such a poignant, concise phrase. And as soon as Merle Hoffman, the director of Choices Women’s Medical clinic, uttered those two words, it was as though the room became silent for a second or two—just enough time for me to mentally scribble those two words down and really think about them. In this day and age, it’s simple to feign activism and demonstrate a sense of knowledge through the multiple social media outlets. I should know—I am an uber social media junkie. I constantly ‘like’ statuses or Facebook pages that pop up on my newsfeed or retweet a ‘NYTimes’ link that I’ve found compelling. In the case of activism, it is definitely not only the thought that counts. You really need to pick up your ass and get out there.

And so it happens that during the first week here in the City, I was able to get up and rally for Cuomo’s 10 point Women’s Equality Agenda last Tuesday in Albany. Besides being star struck by Governor Cuomo, Miranda (I don’t think I could ever call her Cynthia Nixon) and Sarah Weddington, I was both overwhelmed and fascinated by the vibrant displays of passion around me—I was able to shadow both men and women as they rallied and shouted and as they visited Assemblymen while lobbying. Here I was able to see those who breathed and practiced radical empathy.

Grace, Lorena and me rallying in Albany

Grace, Lorena and me rallying in Albany

Everyday, as the Communications and Development intern, I am inundated with articles reporting heinous sex crimes, legislation supporting the feminist and LGBTQ movements, etc. Being around such inspiring people, I have really tried to soak this information in—and not just tweet (of course, I’m not criticizing all Tweeters—I can only talk on behalf of my own Twitter usage).  It is as though my supervisors, Julie and Linsey, have handed me a pair of glasses (preferably Google Glass goggles!!) and I can for the first time see the leaves on the trees as opposed to its rough outline. I’ve learned more about the statistics on domestic violence and influence of firearms and horrible, repulsive corporations (CSX…cough…cough..) that continuously fail to provide a safe and healthy environment for all employees.

As an end note to our visit to Choices, Merle humorously cited Sherlock Holmes who claims he does not know that the Earth revolves around the Sun—given that such information is not pertinent to his work. But, as soon as Watson informs him, Holmes notes that he will try to forget that bit immediately as learning such useless things would reduce his ability to learn useful things. In many ways, I think this is what many “radically empathetic” activists have in common—they are able to filter out the useless information that pops up in our daily newsfeed—be it from Facebook, Twitter, the streets and daily interactions. So, the trending hashtags for this week will be: #radicalempathy #NY4Women #WEA #Miranda #wordsofwisdomfromSherlock

sarah weddington

Sarah Weddington at the #NY4Women rally




Everything Else

Kristie is a rising junior interning at Legal Momentum this summer.

It’s been a while since I have left home and slept in my bed for more than two meager weeks at a time. I have spent the last six years in a dormitory, four of which have been with all girls during my time at a New Hampshire boarding school. All of this time spent with girls have prompted many questions about the importance of womanhood, the feminist movement and has brought to light the still patriarchal system we live in. A couple days ago in Seoul, during a night out with some of my close girlfriends, I explained my upcoming summer opportunity at the nonprofit Legal Momentum. I got some raised eyebrows and with a slight smirk, two girls next to me noted how uncomfortable it is going against the patriarchal system (in many ways, its much more blatant in Korea). This inevitably raised some thoughts: the role of women in holding back their own progress, my own views in light of my background as a Korean and an American and whether the question of “having it all” is invalid.

ques cityWith such thoughts, I can’t help but wonder that I couldn’t have chosen a better city to battle these ideas. I am fascinated by the city: its glamor and skyscrapers never fail to amaze me. I have a new sense of fascination, however, as my flight to New York approaches. This summer in the city will hopefully expose some answers to questions I have been dealing with during my time at Duke as well as unearth some new questions, many of which are personal.

I identified some of the obstacles I’ll have to face as I begin working at Legal Momentum (it’s my first 9-5 gig). But I’m sure there will be many that will be unexpected as I begin to explore the city, hang out with the other girls in the Moxie Project, interact with my co-workers and confront some uncomfortable situations. I’m excited to write about many of these upcoming conflicts and piece through them in the Moxie blog.

As I glimpsed through my Instagram feed the other day (yes, I’m an utter Instagram junkie), one little saying has keep running through my mind: “It only ends once. Everything else is just progress.” I’m not sure I’ll solidify my own thoughts and stance on the current feminist movement or even if I’ll accomplish my humble goals I’ve set for the summer. However, I am excited to begin this progress. Keep tuned.