For Future Moxies


My fellow Sanctuary intern & partner in crime

To the next installment of NYC-bound badasses,

July 27, 2013 sitting in JFK and already I am SO JEALOUS OF YOU. Get ready for the most unpredictable, challenging and unparalleled experience of your entire life…and take note of the person you perceive yourself to be in this moment; this ‘self’s world will be turned upside down.

I can only imagine your excitement when you received your acceptance letter, screamed, and started making your bucket list for the summer ahead. Imagine I will, because my moment was one of quasi rejection…I was an alternate for Moxie. So for anyone on the waitlist or accepted late like I was, don’t be discouraged and have your moment too!! I feared that I may feel “second tier”, or that it would be really obvious and awkward that I wasn’t initially picked. As much as possible, try to banish these thoughts…you’re here, you’re fantastic and you are going to be an integral part of the group. Be assertive with your opinions and don’t be embarrassed about things you don’t know, this summer will be a learning experience for all.


Anita Hill!!

This being said, you are all going to be equipped with all of the tools (readings, internships, events), the location (change happens in NYC) and the catalysts (seminars, reflection dinners, blogging) to change your world and the reality of people around you. You have two brilliant, trailblazing women (Ada, Anna Marie and Walter…the only dog I will ever like) guiding you through this program designed to educate, inspire, shock, mobilize and fuel you to expose and remove the unspoken privilege and oppression ingrained in our society. The impact that Moxie will have on you is entirely in your control…take advantage of every moment to be challenged, nurtured and educated this summer.

Logistics: Buy a map. New York is YOURS for the summer, and it will take you that long to try and discover it all. You will be living in the trendy West Village area, right beside a subway station with trains that span all of the Boroughs. I don’t have a Smartphone, so my pop-out, laminated map took the place of any navigation apps (HopStop being the group favourite). Initially I was unsure and afraid of being lost or late, but I am so grateful now to have been forced to intuitively travel around the city. Having a map allows you to get a feel for the bigger picture, the different neighborhoods and how all the subway lines are organized. While you are off exploring….take photos!! I am really regretting my sporadic picture-taking right now as I’m desperate for Moxie. Luckily, I have Kristie aka the most fabulous and technologically savvy person alive who diligently captured  the past eight weeks in photos, videos, tweets and “check-ins”.



The Vannelli Family does Pride

Lastly, cherish and develop the connections you will make. You will be brought together with nine other Dukies that you probably would never have met otherwise. On top of that, your supervisors, the feminist superheroes and guest “lecturers” whom you will come in contact with are all phenomenal people to get to know. Listen to their stories, and share your own. As for the Moxies themselves…we were an eclectic bunch of women, each of whom I want to be when I grow up.




I will be joining the ranks of avid readers of this blogosphere, and can’t wait to read about how you tackle the summer ahead!

Moxie love,


624 Bill$….isn’t it 2013?!

“A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”


Feminist rockstar Gloria Steinem as an undercover Bunny

                        “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.”

“The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off”

Gloria Steinem

Feminism is not a dirty word. Within four syllables, this loaded f-bomb encompasses the defiant, unrelenting and radical action of individuals fed up with our sexist, patriarchal society. The beginning of feminist organizing dates back to 1848 when a woman did not legally exist once she was married…though when unmarried she was essentially nonexistent and a social leper. Over the past half-century, one of the most significant American institutions has exercised their influence over the gender equity agenda. Hocus pocus, SCOTUS to the rescue. In the United States, the Supreme Court has played an important role in shaping the landscape for women’s equality over the last half century. By issuing rulings on cases involving reproductive rights, sexual harassment and marriage equality, SCOTUS is inextricably linked to the work of grassroots activists and feminist icons everywhere.

“If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament” – Florynce Kennedy, Gloria Steinem’s lawyer

Sarah Weddington was 27 when she argued and triumphed in Roe v. Wade. While this iconic SCOTUS ruling marked a tangible progression for the feminist movement, it was not without backlash from prominent groups, mainly Republican and religious. Many anti-choice activists fight blindly for their cause without fully understanding the opposition—‘pro-choice’ is not synonymous with ‘pro-abortion’. I have yet to meet a pro-choicer who likes the idea of abortion, or enjoys the bloody posters shoved in their face as they escort women into clinics. As Weddington articulated in 1973, “We are not asking this court to decide that abortion is good, or that everyone should have one. We are asking this court to decide that that issue is one for the individual to decide, not the government.”

All of the key players in the movement flexed their feminist guns during that time; one “glorified dirty old man” in particular. Hugh Hefner, the Plahughyboy mogul funded court cases to challenge laws that hindered his vision of healthy sexuality, including Roe and the legalization of birth control—both crucial to feminists. Hef prides himself on being “a feminist before there was such a thing as feminism” and even tried to date Gloria Steinem before she became feminist royalty. This failed miserably, in fact she turned out to be “the Playboy Bunny Hugh Hefner wished he never hired” when the disguised journalist entered the floppy eared world to reveal just how out of sync Hugh was with the female-empowerment agenda. The 70s were a time of sexual liberation, promoted by progressive legislative change.



          Roe stands on shaky ground these days; finicky state bills are being proposed that could effectively close all existing clinics. Texas was first; luckily, some epic women (Wendy Davis, Cecile Richards) have been working tirelessly to do everything in their power to protect women’s reproductive rights.  Two weeks ago, with the country focused on #StandWithTxWomen rallies and the upcoming holiday weekend, the NC Assembly introduced and immediately passed the “Family, Faith, and Freedom Protection Act”. This single bill compiles every anti-abortion law that has ever been drafted in one slick move, closing all but one clinic within the state limits. The backlash was incredible; thousands of concerned North Carolinians raised their voices and their picket signs against the sneak attack on the female body. Wisconsin & Ohio have followed suit with similarly ridiculous attempts at ‘personhood’ legislation and closing these spaces that provide life-saving care. I’m sick of seeing old white men sit in the power seat determining these new policies. The tragic news last Saturday that Texas finalized the anti-choice bill will force many women into flea markets for dangerous, under-the-table pills to terminate their pregnancies.

Screen shot 2013-07-10 at 8.15.29 AM

            Women don’t get pregnant for the sake of having an abortion. Roe v. Wade did not mean that abortions could be performed; they have always and will always be done. However, legalizing the infrastructure, education, services and preventative care that empowers women to determine their own reproductive future will decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies. Today, the gender war still rages on and looks to undo the work of the many waves of feminists before us. As always, the actions of the government and the courts—led by their Supreme—continue to dictate women’s experiences with their bodies and the world. While court rulings have mandated nationwide recognition of some feminist principles, SCOTUS must lead the charge against our patriarchal society as a whole. The legacies of Sarah, Gloria, Wendy, Cecile and all feminist superheroes live on through this next generation of activists. We are primed and ready with compelling signage, a social media army and a ‘sick of this shit’ attitude that promises to make waves and break down barriers. Stop tampering with the women; it’s time to change the system.

“Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It’s about making life more fair for women everywhere. It’s not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It’s about baking a new pie.”Gloria Steinem


7 Tips to Ensure a Successful Pride Weekend

  1. Hold the rally in the most stunning, invigorating and empowering space possible. Ideal: run the event along the length of a pier jutting out into the Hudson River atp-esb-pride-2013nd neighbored by the iconic buildings of New York’s downtown—most notably (and aptly named), the Freedom Tower.
  2. Sell merchandise that earns money, advertises for the cause and is too adorable to turn down. Bonus points for rainbow-coloured rain streaming from an animated, lovable storm cloud.
  3. Speaking of storm clouds, if you could possibly arrange this, make a worthwhile deal with Mother Nature to have it rain lightly for the first few performances, only to create a massive, epic and extremely fitting rainbow that will consume the entire sky. Expect SERIOUS excitement and escalated cheering.
  4. In terms of the choirs/comedians/speakers/solo artists you decide to fill the program with, remember—variety is key. Mix things up; follow a crude comedian who overuses the word cock with a recent high school graduate telling his courageous, public coming-out story.
  5. Give a shout out to the straight folks in the crowd! They love that, and feel even more special and welcomed to this cause that is all about passion, equality and diversity. Plus this will help future LGBTQ activists in the constant struggle to permanently remove the barrier  between the homo- and hetero-sexual community, the first major step that must happen before there is true respect and acceptance of all sexual orientations.
  6. Bring out the drag queens. And Gaga. Pull out all the stops and do everything in your power to make this the event of the weekend, and a fabulous cause to support.
  7. Be a commanding presence in one of the most vibrant, progressive cities in the world. March down all parts of town, embrace the wacky outfits and wavepride the Pride flag proudly. This is your moment, celebrate it!! Especially when 4 days prior, SCOTUS struck down DOMA (ahhh!).

Happy Pride!

What happened to the ‘act’ in activism?

photoo1This week probed some interesting discussion surrounding the role of social media in constructing a new form of activism for the younger generation. Malcolm Gladwell’s “Small Change” article in the New Yorker articulated the struggle, risk and danger posed for youth 50 years ago in trying to contribute to the civil right’s movement, and he points out the flaws in the modern social media approach for advocacy.

I have been both aware and unnerved by this notion for a while, concerned that I was ‘all talk, no walk’. The idea connects to the differences in information sharing between the generations. Our culture is conditioned to accept nothing less than instant downloading, immediate answers and entirely accessible information now. As students, we are able to be educated far more passively, even lazily. This critique can also be applied to the young people of this generation trying to advocate for change. We turn to social media to spread updates about our cause and…what else? Where is the literal, risky, putting-ourselves-out-there action that must go hand in hand with social reform? Coming into this summer, one of my goals was to ‘take all of my careful reading and passion surrounding issues and mobilize my beliefs to make positive change’. Upon starting my work at Sanctuary however, I can appreciate the extremely slow process of reform and the ‘behind the scenes’ role that some must take while the whole organization works to improve the lives of women. With each tweet that I send, I feel like I am speaking to those in power and causing them to question our currently reliance on patriarchy and controlling others. While an effective tool for educating and uniting the general population, social media can only be taken so far until it is time to go offline and into the field.


This Saturday, I experienced my first taste of firm, definitive action that fought for my beliefs in the face of protesters. Maya, Grace and I volunteered to escort women and families into Choices for whichever health screening or procedure they needed. “We are for life, they are for death”; “We hate killers”; “Everything and everyone in there is murderous”. Yes, I had to defend (verbally and physically) my pro-choice stance and yes, there were times when I felt scared and exposed on this street corner in a bright white lab coat, definitively entering this ‘war over choice’.

Our first encounter with an outspoken street person occurred around 8 AM—a confused man wanders by us slurring his speech. He asks Maya and I, “why kill the babies? She should just have it. Every baby makes parents happy. My mom wanted to abort me, and I know you probably look at me and say, what a pathetic life, maybe she should have.” I asked him if he had any of these ‘guaranteed happiness’ children. “I have twelve children, all different women. Child support sucks. I have no money” I asked him about women who couldn’t financially support a child, and if their choice was the most responsible decision. I also reinforced—as I did all morning—that us volunteers in lab coats were not on the street advertising that “EVERYONE GET AN ABORTION! PRO-ABORTION;” rather we were simply advocating for a women’s right to choose and assess her own situation. “If they chose to do the sex, they have to have the kid.” What about in the cases of rape? “Well that’s different. Then I don’t know I guess.” He walked away and I was hopeful that our interaction forced him to take pause and rethink the pro/anti-choice argument as without a hard line; the need for case-by-case analysis reinforces the need for choice.


Though we were told not to engage with the protesters, I intervened in one situation where a harasser, Randall, was ranting to two women—who had never heard of Choices before—about ‘all the murder under the blue awning’. I approached them and used my pamphlet to outline the other necessary medical procedures offered inside, which they were excited about. I informed them of the preventative screenings, referrals and choices for their pregnancy. The woman said she was very against abortion, and I explained the pre-natal wing and all the services provided. Randall switched his tactic—“how can you trust killers to provide safe treatment? They will kill you like they do everyone else! It is all a scam!” I asked him where else these women could go for this treatment. He wouldn’t look at me, continuing with his false threats. The women were very confused by our contradicting claims. As they walked away, the pro-lifers pounced. At the end of the street, three of them (including the pastor) continued to fill their heads with nonsense. I was elated when I heard one of the women cut them off and say: “yes, I also do not like abortions. But I cannot make that decision for every woman, she must choose. And there are so many other services here, I will be back.”

My most enjoyable interaction was with a large man who approached us in disbelief, saying, “You actually need to be out here to protect people from them? What has this world come to? Of course I’m pro-choice—who am I as a man to try and dictate the lives of women. We can’t hold that kind of power. I don’t want to pass judgment on anyone because I don’t want them to judge me. I’m up there in the methadone clinic; everyone leads different lives and needs to make different choices.” So eloquently summarized, I was inspired and encouraged by how this man really gets it.

Girl, you have to love the struggle

13.06.04-009I feel like time has both frozen and whizzed forward at lightning speed since my last attempt at forming coherent, ‘bloggable’ thoughts. The past week in New York has been a whirlwind of subway lines, aching feet, profound conversations and new perspectives.

On the second day of work for Sanctuary, Brianna, Amber, Laura (an intern from Holy Cross) lived at Chelsea Piers while assisting with the set-up, execution, take-down and follow-up of the Zero Tolerance benefit. As a Moxie group, we discussed our own feminist identities and the inter-sectional nature of the women’s movement between gender, race and class. The workweek culminated with a trip to Choices, a Women’s Reproductive Health Clinic in Jamaica, Queens. While feminism is something I proudly associate with and passionately defend, it was not until reading and later meeting Merle Hoffman that I understood the connection between reproductive justice and feminist activism. I have never had an issue with abortion; I have passively given my support to the move to provide women with the opportunity to assess their situation and make an informed decision about their reproductive future. It was only this week that I realized just how central and fundamental the fight for reproductive rights is to closing the gender gap.13.06.04-276

Sanctuary has educated us on the trends and vocabulary of gender violence, where every form of abuse and violence ties back to the cycle of Power and Control. To witness change and reform, feminists must uproot the unequal distribution of power embedded in patriarchal systems. Claiming universal reproductive rights is the first step for women to gain control over their own bodies.

Merle is a dynamic, vibrant and brilliant woman at the forefront of the pro-choice fight. During our visit to her clinic, I was captivated by how she confidently articulated her philosophy while engaging with our apprehension and inquiry about her work. Her approach in speaking with us encompassed the essence and mission of Choices. Along with providing prenatal care, preventative screenings and abortions, patients experience the power of education—often their first exposure to necessary information. I was shocked by the elegance and functionality of the clinic, with strategically placed prenatal and abortion wings equipped for patient safety in an emergency. Along our tour, we all jumped at the opportunity to watch a speedy procedure that is essentially a post-abortion ‘search party’. We watched a clinician reconstruct an 11-week fetus; ensuring that all the limbs and placenta were accounted for, she could finalize the abortion. In a moment with the potential for shock, horror and disgust, I was surprised by my uncommon reaction: fascination for another instance that reminded me of my deep love of science. How remarkable that this intricate biological process could be manipulated to engineer the ideal reproductive future for this woman. Does it make me a bad person that questions of moral and religious ‘rights/wrongs’ seemed irrelevant in light of this indicator of one woman regaining control and having a choice?13.06.04-063

Though exhausted and experiencing an information and sensory overload, we peppered her with questions and were sad to leave, spending the subway ride working to commit each piece of wisdom to memory. My three favourites:

1. Regarding how she daily combats anti-choice activists through protests, legislation and personal attacks while remaining tenacious and focused: “Girl, you have to love the struggle.”

2. Don’t shy away from for-profit work. There is a subconscious belief among women that money is bad and in order to help people, we must stay for from it. Making money and advocating for others are not mutually exclusive. Building this business and making a profit provided me with the mobility and means to assist my cause in many locations and from all different sides.

3. I asked how she had time to write a comprehensive memoir—while creating a thriving business, leading the pro-choice movement and becoming a mother: There is so much stimulation and information in our world, all vying for space in our heads. In a society where more is better, it is necessary to limit extraneous information so as to leave the mind uncluttered. Only then will you be able to compartmentalize and accomplish everything you want to do. I loved her anecdote about Watson and Sherlock Holmes: Watson was astonished that Holmes didn’t know whether the Sun revolved around the Earth or vice versa. Holmes simply explained: “my dear Watson, if I filled my head with such irrelevant information, I wouldn’t have any room left to reason through details pertaining to my life.”

Claire from Canada

Claire is a rising junior interning with Sanctuary for Families.leaves

My name is Claire, quickly remembered by the alliteration “Claire from Canada.” A rising junior at Duke, I came to the USA as a rowing recruit and discovered a wealth of other passions and experiences for me to throw my energy into. I’m thrilled to be a Moxie and intern with Sanctuary for Families. The NY based organization is committed to ending gender violence by supporting and advocating for women and their children. I will better understand my role at Sanctuary this coming Monday; I head South of the border Sunday afternoon and will face the bustle and subway system early Monday morning.

My upbringing was shaped by strong female leaders and “firsts”: my grandma was the first woman in her town to pursue post-secondary education, while my mother persevered through school and social barriers to become to first female emergency physician in our city. I was raised knowing nothing but equality and justice, witnessing the benefits of empowered women reaching their full potential. It wasn’t until I grew older that my naivety gave way to the reality of the disparity within social, gender and racial groups. I wanted to understand how people had been conditioned to look at a category with multiple variations and rank them from greater to lesser. Why was there an inferior sex or a lesser race? My curiosity led to a preferred genre of literature; I read books from A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini) to Room (Emma Donoghue) and my passion for advocacy and change grew.

I arrived at Duke full of ideas, hoping to find heated discussions and outlets for activism. What I discovered were judgmental peers about the female athlete in their engineering classes, and sexist professors who knew that girls were better suited for the ‘softer sciences’. I was full of passion, drive, and now frustration, but did not know what to do with it all, apart from aggressively correcting rude remarks and assumptions. But I wanted to change the whole mindset, buried in the inequity found within the different categories people fall into. And that brings us to the present: 1 week away from the Moxie Project. I hope to take all of my fuel, passion and attempted self-inspection to do work that makes an impact (however small), and understand and strongly define my feminist identity. There is so much to learn! Contributing to this blog will help both with reflection, and helping to track the change I see in myself throughout the summer. As this is the inaugural post, I will create a kind of ‘bucket list’ here of what I hope to both achieve and experience, and hopefully this will hold me accountable. Here’s to exciting beginnings!

  1. Learn the grid system both above and below ground
  2. Engage daily in conversations with others who express different beliefs from mine; appreciate the perspectives of someone else while improving the articulation of my ideas
  3. Do one thing each day that is unknown, intriguing and ‘scary’…and keep a log of what was done and how it felt to conquer a fear
  4. Run EVERYWHERE around the island, and repeat
  5. Find my independence in this new setting, both with navigation and preparing my food. My roommate Maya and I hope to be avid chefs this summer!
  6. Absorb as many aspects of New York culture as I can
  7. Take at minimum an hour daily to be alone and reflect, write/blog and summarize the physical and intangible outcomes of the day
  8. Read the New York Times and attempt as many crosswords as possible
  9. Walk in the PRIDE Parade on June 30
  10. Be open and ready for everything I will learn this summer—about myself, feminist theory, the operations of a non-profit, advocacy, and the city.