About Danielle Lazarus

Danielle is a junior at Duke University, majoring in Public Policy and History. Although she loves Real Madrid, Philadelphia sports are her true passion, from the Phillies to the Eagles—and even the Union, too.

I love you, Bachelorette, but it’s time to change

I’d be remiss if I didn’t spend at least a little time on the Moxie blog discussing what is quite possibly my favorite topic in the world: The Bachelorette and The Bachelor.  Since this is the last opportunity I’ll have to contribute to this space–brace yourself.


My roommates grew accustomed to my Monday night routine over the last eight weeks: my door is shut by 8pm sharp, and, for two hours, it was just me, Andi Dorfman (this season’s Bachelorette), and her 25 suitors.  For those of you who somehow haven’t heard me talk obsessively about the show at one point or another (aka those of you who have never met me), the show works in this way: the Bachelorette goes on a series of one-on-one or group dates each week until she eliminates all of them except for one, to whom (the producers of the show pray) she will get engaged.  Andi’s season worked out accordingly: she is currently engaged to Josh Murray, a financial advisor the show preferred to label as a “former pro baseball player.”

See, the Bachelorette is all about reducing things down to labels–isn’t that what the show is built around, reducing the idea of “love” to a collective 20 hours spent with a person leading up to a proposal in an exotic locale, all filmed on camera?  It’s easier that way, isn’t it; easier for viewers to buy into this idea of “love” when it’s shoved down our throat as such, and also easier to buy into our “heroes,” the Bachelors and Bachelorettes, when they’re characterized in a similar fashion as Josh was: by their career (or even a former career), family, or past appearances on another Bachelor/ette franchise, since every lead “hero” is a contestant from a past season.  Emily Maynard, the Bachelorette two seasons ago, for example, was the sweet Southern blonde whose former fiancé tragically passed in a plane crash while she was pregnant with her daughter.  Desiree Hartsock, last season’s Bachelorette, was the wholesome, fan-favorite wedding dress designer who was tragically dumped by previous Bachelor Sean Lowe after he met her family.

Let me make this clear right now: I will ALWAYS watch this show.  It’s reality TV at it’s best and I’m addicted.  However, I couldn’t necessarily identify with Emily and Desiree.  Sure, I liked watching their “journeys,” the “drama” that ensued, and yes, their proposals–but I do think that, if I were the Bachelorette (one of my backup plans in life, shhhh), I would’ve played the role differently than Emily and Desiree.  There was something missing–some kind of fire, drive, and passion that these two didn’t seem to possess.  Or maybe they did; there were certainly glimpses (Emily calling out a contestant for calling her daughter “baggage” was a plus), but the editing of their seasons seemed to conceal most of their personalities, extraneous from the label ABC placed on them from the start.  Don’t get me wrong–I still rooted for them, but reality TV often makes characters (or caricatures) of its contestants.

But Andi was different–or, maybe just her label was.  She was my favorite Bachelor contestant ever, even before she called out her season’s Bachelor, Juan Pablo, on the terrible, sexist, homophobic person he is (that even his “label” on the show as loving, romantic, soccer-playing Venezuelan single parent couldn’t conceal in the end).  Andi telling Juan Pablo that his narcism, selfishness, and pompousness was unacceptable to her was something I could identify with from my own past, and she communicated her feelings to him in a manner in which I hope to conduct myself in the future.  From her boldness to her career (I want to be a lawyer, she’s an assistant district attorney); from her religion (both Andi and I are Jewish) to even the letters that compose her name (A-N-D-I and D-A-N-I–far-fetched, but bear with me)…Andi has been the closest thing I could find to myself on TV.

Yet aren’t I Emily and Desiree too?  Despite me not necessarily identifying with their exact lifestyles, I look just like Emily and Desiree–we compose the majority of the Bachelor/ette’s contestants, and (as a result) its audience.  The Bachelor/ette has consisted of approximately 90% Caucasian contestants and 100% Caucasian leads.  The demographic that watches the Bachelor/ette with the same vigor that I do will definitely watch the show because it’s wonderful reality TV, but deep down inside I also know it’s because every season, although we may not be as long-lost-sister-esque as Andi and me, there will be some version of us on TV at 8pm on Mondays.

There’s nothing wrong with liking seeing a version of yourself on TV–but there’s something wrong when that’s all there is.

From the beginning, Moxie’s goal was to discuss those aren’t discussed enough, aka those who aren’t represented on the Bachelor/ette.  The show is immune to change.  As host Chris Harrison has said: “Look, if you’ve been making pizzas for 12 years and you’ve made millions of dollars and everybody loves your pizzas and someone comes and says, ‘Hey, you should make hamburgers.’ Why? I have a great business model, and I don’t know if hamburgers are going to sell.”  And later: “Is [the show’s] job to break barriers, or is it a business? That’s not for me to answer.”

I do think Andi began chipping at the “barriers” Chris Harrison mentioned in that interview.  She was intelligent, headstrong, and unapologetic –and of course, she was called a “brat,” “weird,” “defensive,” “fake,” “hypocritical,” “aggressive,” and “not strong.”  Sound familiar, feminist movement?  Andi, in my opinion, set the bar for the way in which a Bachelorette will be “labeled” by ABC from now on.

But that’s only the first step.

I’ve struggled with the idea of privilege during Moxie, but that–the ability to watch myself travel the world, fall in “love”, and get my heart broken every Monday–is privilege.  Pizza’s delicious, Chris, but hopefully the menu will change soon.

A reflection on reflecting

When people find out I went to a Quaker high school, they often ask me what exactly makes it Quaker.  I’ve been asked if the fact that we wear “Pilgrim uniforms” makes it Quaker (which we don’t), or if it’s actually the fact that we only eat Quaker oatmeal (we have a fully stocked cafeteria, thank you).  But I always answer the question with the three defining aspects of my Friends education:


  • The omnipresence of the Quaker testimonies (I had SPICES memorized by the second day of my first year attending school there) –  (Simplicity Peace Integrity Community Equality Stewardship, for those of you who don’t catch my drift [aka all of you])
  • The emphasis on stewardship and service (we had a service hours requirement, in addition to a “Day of Service” and a “Friends Multicultural Day” which involved helping out the community instead of sitting in a classroom—best days of the year)
  • Meeting for Worship

“What’s Meeting for Worship?” I would be asked next.  It’s a bit difficult to explain, and you kind of have to experience it for yourself to understand.  Basically, it’s a 45-minute block of time each week dedicated solely to taking a break from our busy lives to reflect on our current state of mind.  Right before the class before lunch every Thursday, the entire school convenes in a room and sits in silence until the “spirit” moves someone to speak.  They then stand up, share their thoughts with the community, and then sit back down.  Throughout the Meeting, this is probably repeated by about five to 10 other people.  At the end, you shake hands with the people around you, exit the room, and go about your day, feeling refreshed and centered.

I’ve always had a strained relationship with Meeting for Worship, which evolved throughout my time in high school.  The first time I ever shared was in fourth grade, when my friend and I read a poem about each of the SPICES (I’m telling you, it is absolutely necessary to memorize them ASAP).  I was made fun of by some boy afterwards for “actually sharing during Meeting for Worship—only nerds do that” so from then on, I vowed to stay silent.  I spent the rest of elementary school and middle school “reflecting” about boys or my homework, whispering with my friend next to me, or playing with the ponytails on my wrist.

By ninth grade, it became “cool” to sleep during Meeting for Worship.  And by 11th grade, I considered four hours a good night’s sleep, so Meeting for Worship became equivalent with naptime.  I even let myself stay up extra late on Wednesday nights since I knew could sleep in Meeting.  Sometimes, when I had a test later in the day, I snuck in flashcards.  Sometimes I “reflected” by studying for the test, but mostly, I was out cold.

It was an unwritten rule that everyone should share at least once before we graduated high school, and I, along with the 91 other kids in my grade, was determined to (my SPICES poem did not count).  It was amazing to hear the musings of all of my classmates throughout the year.  They varied from the common “high school meant so much to me, thank you,” to sharing fears about moving forward to college, and the occasional really deep, thoughtful, beautiful reflection on growing up.  I will never forget hearing my good friend share the most breathtaking story about how all four of her siblings had attended to our high school, and how it had finally hit her that this was it—she was going to college, breaking the family apart, and how torn it made her feel about moving on.  Writing about it wouldn’t do it justice; it was truly breathtaking.  I was inspired by it, and I wanted my final words shared at Meeting for Worship to mean as much to me as hers meant to her.

Yet I couldn’t do it, and it remains one of my biggest regrets to this day.

When it was my time to stand up, all I could muster was “uh I’d like to thank Penn Charter and all my friends for my time in high school it was great thank you it meant so much.”

I remember sitting back down and feeling immediately ashamed.  I always participated in discussions and debates during class—why couldn’t I bring myself to share during Meeting for Worship?  I was refreshed after my 20-minute nap; I had already gone through my flashcards before I stood up; if that made me prepared to share, where did my words go?

And then I realized: there were no words.  That nap and those flashcards would have helped tremendously during any discussion or debate—but not at all during Meeting, which was fueled by reflection.

And I think this has been happening sometimes on Moxie.  No, I don’t nap during or anything, but I do sometimes expect to come into conversations prepared with the equivalent of those flashcards: to share my viewpoint on issues with laid-out facts, as though I’m in a debate or taking a test.  It unfortunately took me until now to realize that Moxie, too, is fueled by reflection.

From now on, I will reflect.  I will deviate from what the “flashcards” tell me, and truly search deep inside for how I feel, maybe not necessarily what I think. I want to test myself, not treat the discussions as though they are tests.  Most of all, I want to challenge myself, and let myself be challenged by the eight other amazing girls on the program too (and Ada and Nicole).

After all, I don’t want to leave Moxie with the same sense of regret as I did during Meeting.

I’m Sorry, Cersei



-Cersei-Lannister-cersei-lannister-30942505-1154-867The season finale for my favorite show in the entire world, Game of Thrones, was Sunday night.  Although it’s based in a fantasy world that is certainly patriarchal—for example, after being beaten by female knight Brienne of Tarth in a duel, the ruthless Hound uses his final, precious seconds to add an aside about how he was “killed by a woman”—Thrones features many a strong female character.  There’s Brienne, who, prior to crushing the Hound, recounted her resiliency in learning how to sword fight as a child to eventually battle with and, as we saw Sunday night, beat the boys.  There’s Arya Stark, growing more cold-hearted as each episode passes, one-by-one crossing those who have scorned her family off her infamous kill list—not letting her gender get in the way of her agenda.  Sansa Stark has been criticized before for passively sitting captive in King’s Landing, but season four has revealed how she has been sneakily plotting her escape from the Lannisters the whole time, using what she picked up from the devious Littlefinger to gain his trust and (hopefully) exact her revenge.  On the opposite side of the spectrum is Daenerys Targaryen, the overtly just Khaleesi, whose mission before returning to Westeros is break the chains off every slave in Essos, trying to keep control of her three “adolescent” dragons along the way.

And then there’s Cersei.

Although these female characters and a smattering of others—Catelyn, Ygritte, Margaery, Meera Reed, and even Gilly come to mind—have all been portrayed as powerful, determined, albeit human, women, Cersei has always been more difficult to interpret.  My natural instinct has always been to root against her—she is a Lannister, after all—but there were certainly moments across the first three seasons that allowed me to sympathize with her, like seeing her passionate love for her children, or her ability to stand up to her father.

Honestly, as twisted as it is, I’ve also always been able to look past Cersei and Jaime’s incestuous relationship.  It made me feel uncomfortable, sure, but Jaime’s absence over the past few seasons have made it an afterthought—even though it was arguably Bran seeing Jaime and Cersei “doing it” in the first episode, prompting Jaime to throw Bran off the roof, that arguably set off the entire Game.  But because Jaime and Brienne were wandering Westeros, and Cersei was slinking around King’s Landing pretending to have control over her and Jaime’s insane nut-job son Joffery, I didn’t think much about their more-than-just-siblings relationship.

That is, until it was brought center stage in the third episode of season four.  ***SPOILER SERIOUSLY DON’T READ THIS*** Let me set the scene: said insane nutjob son of Cersei and Jaime was just poisoned and killed.  Cersei is lingering at his funeral, unwilling to leave her beloved son’s dead body.  Enter Jaime—without a right hand, the one in which he drew his sword, with a gold casting in its place.  In Cersei’s eyes, he is is no longer what he once was: the Kingslayer, the feared warrior who ended Targaryen rule with one swift swing of his weapon.  As a result, Cersei is no longer interested in him as a lover.  She tells him to leave Joffrey’s funeral, that she doesn’t want him anymore.

And that’s when the most messed up part of the scene happens: Jaime rapes her.

Cersei said no.  Cersei said stop.  Cersei pushed him away.  Yet Jaime still forced himself on her.

Many people, including the showrunners of Game of Thrones, the director of that episode, the actor who played Jaime, and many fans, vehemently denied that Jaime raped Cersei.  Even George R.R. Martin was wishy-washy on the whole situation: he tried to relate that episode to what had happened in the books, in which the act is obviously consensual.  But no, they all said, Jaime was simply overcome by passion at being alone with Cersei for the first time since he returned to King’s Landing.


No, everyone: it was rape.

But, for some reason, everyone else did.Don’t worry, I tried to convince myself otherwise, too.  I liked Jaime.  I liked his banter with Brienne, his badass Kingslayer backstory, how his journey home from being a Stark POW made him vulnerable—and thus likeable.  But, despite how much I tried to employ every excuse in the world about why what Jaime did to Cersei wasn’t rape, it was.  And I couldn’t excuse one of my previously-favorite characters for what he did.

Including Cersei.  Or, at least, whoever was in charge of writing Cersei’s character.

I was expecting repercussions for Jaime, a heated discussion chastising Jaime for what he did, or at least for the incident to be brought up again.  But the world of Westeros ignored Jaime’s rape of Cersei, and never referred throughout the following episodes.  Maybe after two weeks at Legal Momentum, where we’re working hard to ensure that all women, including and especially victims and survivors of sexual assault, possess economic, social, and political freedom, I was expecting a type of response to Cersei’s rape that we are attempting to generate at work.

But not only did Westeros ignore Jaime’s rape, it was also an afterthought in the media by the time episode four rolled around.  And it wasn’t brought up either this week, when Cersei returned to Jaime in the season finale, kissed his replica hand, and passionately made love to him as though nothing had happened.

I really don’t want to place Cersei’s situation in the modern world—after all, this is Westeros, where White Walkers, dragons, and evil king-killing baby demons roam the land.  But Cersei’s declaration of love to Jaime only reaffirms the unease the mainstream media has with rape, and how it so often chooses to ignore it instead of face it head on.

Game of Thrones, my favorite show, explicitly did that.  The showrunners clearly made many mistakes: in the way they wrote Thrones, since Jaime’s rape of Cersei did nothing to further the plot of the show (especially since it WAS CONSENSUAL in the books), and in their reaction to the incident, since, after denying it was even rape to the media, they downright never referred to what had happened ever again.  The media should’ve been harder on them, followed up, and, even though there were some key character deaths this week, should’ve dedicated at least a portion of their coverage to the Cersei-Jaime situation.

The biggest shame, however, is how people may view Cersei now: for those who remember episode 3, as a powerless slut for going back to the guy who raped her—or, as “OMG CERSEI AND JAIME ARE HOOKING UP AGAIN I FEEL UNEASY EW INCEST BUT YAY LOVE!!!” for the majority of people who fail to recall Jaime’s rape.  Yes, rape.  Not passion, but rape.

And the writers could’ve changed that.

We’ve all been wishy-washy in our view of Cersei, what with her diabolical ways, but the writers had the opportunity to break the Westerosi mold: to affirm yet another strong female character in the queen, in confronting the issue of rape head on. I mean, the character of Cersei is an independent woman—but she’s not.  She’s written by other people, mostly men.  If she were a human being, the decision to go back to Jaime (who, I think, genuinely loves her) would’ve been hers.  But she’s a character, and the writers in charger of molding her fantasy persona completely shut the door on the fact that she was raped by allowing her to so effortlessly go back to Jaime.  She’s been fierce enough in the past to accuse her brother of a death he didn’t commit: where’s that fire now?

#YesAllWomen get mad sometimes

Dani is a rising junior interning with Legal Momentum this summer.

Between DukeEngage Academy and today, I have been especially shaken by the mass shootings at UCSB, by a man who specifically targeted women to avenge them for not paying him sexual attention. Personally, this occurrence felt especially close to home, considering that two of the UCSB victims were members of Tri Delta, my sorority, and that the shooting occurred in one of my best friend’s neighborhoods. However, the sole bright spot has been the public’s reaction—I love the #YesAllWoman hashtag, which is meant to demonstrate to men the often not-so-obvious harassment all women face daily. This has made me even more proud of being a feminist.

image But it’d be naïve to think that because the overwhelming majority of the public sphere supports  #YesAllWomen, feminism is magically squeaky-clean. Even with public support of feminism from  celebrities such as Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Lena Dunham, feminism is still a loaded and  stigmatized term, and is seen as belittling by many men and women alike.

For example, I received the text pictured in this post from a girl friend earlier today (note: the text my  friend received was from a boy—both of their names are blurred out). As you can see, I was with my  grandparents when I got it, so I didn’t have time to write a response then and there—but it was initially  something along the lines of “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” Especially after reading a lot about UCSB and  gender issues in the past week, I was perplexed and angered that even one person out there didn’t see  all of the good the feminist movement was promoting.

However, I thought back to when this girl friend told me earlier how she and a few other girls had  “attacked” this same boy about his views on gender, 3-on-1, and how he resisted any of their points. I  used that story in helping to construct my response to him. If I responded with my initial expletive-laced reaction to his statement, he would probably send back a similar expletive-laced statement to me. It was okay for me to feel angry, but I needed to be practical and know my audience if I was going to gain any ground with him. Using angry, strong language with him wouldn’t exactly invalidate my points, but it would set me at a disadvantage and decrease the maturity level of our conversation by a few degrees. In addition, this boy viewed feminists as aggressive, belligerent woman—although that stereotype is untrue, it would be unwise for me to take this approach to best communicate my point.

An hour or so later, once I left my grandparents’ house and got in the car, I was able to write a more composed response. I wrote a pithy message clarifying to him that feminism’s definition was simply believing in and advocating for men and women having equal rights and opportunities—that’s it. I then told him that therefore any “intellectually” sound woman should be a feminist.

#YesAllWomen have been told something along those lines from a guy before—denouncing, condemning, and even insulting feminism. That’s why one of my goals this summer is to continue to discuss feminism with him and other guy friends, to clarify and destigmatize the term in a 15-20 minute, calm conversation. It’s easy to get riled up about gender issues, which should definitely be the case—there’s some messed up stuff going on out there. But in order to have an influence on those around us, especially those who are initially averse to our ideas, we must engage in practical feminism: knowing our audience and effectively communicating our ideas, without sacrificing any of our passion and “intellectualism” along the way. I look forward to striking a balance this summer during the Moxie Project.