You Say You Want a Revolution

Much to my chagrin, I’ve left the city that never sleeps (or smells nice or slows down or leaves you alone…) and returned home to a much different atmosphere. And I’m not just talking about the pace or the hospitality. Being away from the other Moxies, the nonprofits, and the radically awesome events (read: FEMINISTS) has forced me back to reality—not everyone is willing to engage in conversation about systematic oppression. Shocking.

Not only are most people unwilling to talk about the issues we constantly discussed during Moxie, but they react to the mention of these social inequalities with doubt and anger. Thus, I am becoming the “humorless feminist” in the eyes of many…a title I am reluctant to accept. After being surrounded by people who expanded my mind and views for a full two months, I’m finding it difficult to translate all that I have learned into everyday life and interactions.

40 Things Only Internet Feminists Will Understand

Perhaps my biggest struggle since Moxie has been patience. I came into Moxie a self-identified, albeit rather uninformed, feminist who had been lucky enough to see the light after a regrettably conservative, Catholic educational experience. This journey from Republican ignorance to understanding was tough every step of the way—nobody wants to confront her privilege, nobody wants to admit that she benefits from an oppressive system, and nobody wants to realize that she has an obligation to participate in improving our world. BUT I worked through it, and I’m still working through it. It’s something that needs to happen if anything is going to improve. Therefore, I’m having a bit of a rough time dealing with people who just refuse to open their eyes and work through this shit.

40 Things Only Internet Feminists Will Understand

However, it’s important to remind myself that I DEFINITELY do not have all the answers, and I am DEFINITELY still trying to figure out how to respond the fucked up system we live in. Feminist thought is a method of looking at the world completely antithetical to the way we have been conditioned to see things. I can’t really expect people to be so eager to see things in a way that turns their world totally upside down. I’m realizing that changing people’s minds is a very s l o w and resistant process, and it often isn’t my place to argue someone into thinking the way I do.

Cognitive dissonance, people. It’s science.

Moving forward from Moxie, I hope to take the lessons from my summer and apply them in a more active way than just flapping my gums. Sitting around talking about how much everything sucks accomplishes absolutely no good for the people who actually need it. While it’s a lot easier to complain about the evil patriarchal mentality that’s ruining our world, we’re totally complicit in it if we too do nothing to change it. As I embark on my semester abroad in Copenhagen, I hope to reflect on the lessons about social justice, movement building, and activism that I gained this summer in order to move from passive to active feminist.

Maybe a semester away is just the thing I need to kick off the revolution.

Bow Down, Bitches

“This is not real life.”

This was my immediate reaction when I found out that I would be going to the Beyoncé and Jay-Z concert last Saturday. I couldn’t fathom that in a few short hours, I would be in the presence of the Queen herself. I can’t say I’m quite to Bey-Hive status with my Beyoncé devotion, but between watching countless videos from past shows and upsetting myself over her dancing capabilities, I never imagined I would have the chance to see one of the biggest stars of my generation live.

To my surprise, as I sat in my seat jittery with anticipation, I noticed these very same words on the screen onstage. “This is not real life.”

I can’t be sure of the intention behind this opening message. Was it an acknowledgement of the surreal excitement fans felt leading up to the show? Beyoncé’s cocky nod to the fact that people dream about seeing her live? An indulgent reflection from Bey and Jay on how perfect their lives are? I can’t be sure. But by the end of the show, I came to realize that the main thing that seemed unreal was Beyoncé herself.

We all know Beyoncé’s thing is feminism–Beyoncé feminism, to be specific. Her brand seems to revolve around empowering young women to express themselves sexually without shame, develop a work-life balance, and live independently. All of which are fairly accessible when you’re Beyoncé, but not quite so easy as just another mortal.

Beyoncé can be as overtly sexual as she wants onstage–I don’t care if she wants to twerk in a thong alongside her backup dancers or slide up and down a weirdly ergonomic sex bench. Whatever, it’s her body and her choice. Hell, if I looked like Beyoncé I’d probably never wear pants either…but that’s just the point. Most of us don’t look like Beyoncé, and we don’t all want to express our sexuality overtly. And when so many of her fans are young and looking for an empowering female role model, she should consider this truth.

Look at the juxtaposition between Beyoncé’s choreography and costumes and that of Les twins. All three of them are inhumanly good dancers, but the Les twins’ choreography is much more sexually subtle. It was undeniably sexy when they flipped all around amidst blue-green smoke with their silk garments trailing. The way they move has a definite, understated sexiness. Meanwhile, Beyoncé is sliding up and down a pole pants-less and literally bearing her entire backside to the audience. What is this sharp contrast teaching young girls? To me, this performance is just another affirmation of the different ways men and women are supposed to show their sexuality. Women are supposed to disrobe and move their hips in circles, but men can be sexy in a subtle way. And again, looking like Beyoncé makes it a hell of a lot easier to express your sexuality by grinding up and down a pole. This is a confident and unabashed expression a lot of women will never be comfortable with for themselves. For the millions of young fans admiring her, are they realizing that there are other ways to express their sexuality? And that Beyoncé’s appearance makes this expression not only easier personally but also societally?

She almost seems to acknowledge this inaccessibility in her song “***Flawless.” Sure, everyone swoons over her inclusion of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech and the definition of feminism, but then she proceeds to sing a ridiculously self-glorifying song that excludes basically all other women. Yes, it’s a song about how she overcame the standards society places on women to become incredibly successful, but it’s done with an air of superiority and intangibility. Okay yeah she says, “we flawless, ladies tell ’em” and has the rousing feminist speech… but come on, one of the most prominent lines in the whole song is “bow down, bitches.” Excuse me, but where’s the solidarity? Shouldn’t you be telling women that they too have the strength to be mega-successful rather than reminding them that they’re just dreaming of having your life? Seems pretty individualistic to me.

And then hilariously, right after this so-called feminist anthem Jay-Z reappears and replaces the “bitches” and “hos” in his song with “ma.” For the one song right after “***Flawless.” And subsequently continues to demean women in his lyrics. It was like they realized the paradox they’d created with their music but felt the need to create a brief buffer zone. You didn’t fool anyone, Mr. and Mrs. Carter. Especially when the part of Drunk in Love they encouraged the audience to join in on was “Eat the cake, Anna Mae.” Of all the memorable, sexy lines in that song, why did they have to get the crowd pumped up to sing the lines that glorify domestic violence? Not cool.

After seeing Beyoncé live, I’ve realized that her image truly is not realistic nor is it practical, and she even admits it herself. Her expression of feminism is full of contradictions. Beyoncé is in a world of her own. Maybe she’s trying to communicate this truth to us through her extravagant shows and larger than life image, and I think it’s important to remember that she IS a public figure, a businesswomen selling her product. So, if you’re ever watching Beyoncé and begin to ask yourself why you too can’t drop it low in a golden leotard and five inch heels while hitting a high note, just step out of the Bey-Hive for a minute and remind yourself…

“This is not real life.” (And like she’s probably in the Illuminati, anyway, and who can compete with that?)

(Gay) Christmas Every Day

If you’ve ever been to a Pride March, then you’ll understand why we consider this annual celebration of all things queer to be “gay Christmas.” Everything is covered in glitter, nobody feels judged, and everyone is a good dancer (yes, even we lesbians too, okay?) Can you imagine if the whole world were like this every day? Literally nothing could be happier.

The Monday morning tragedy of realizing life is no longer like a fabulous episode of Queer as Folk manifests in multiple layers. LGBTQ individuals wake up to a world that is not only a lot less colorful and chiseled, but a world that is a lot less safe and tolerant. Walking around the day of Pride surrounded by rainbow everything and same-sex couples holding hands is an experience of solidarity and safety that is so lamentably absent from everyday life. It’s the one day that I don’t feel like everyone I pass notices that I’m holding hands with a girl, and it’s the one day that we truly celebrate people in all their forms.

So why isn’t every day like Pride? Why do we feel that we should confine the fullest expression of our identities to just one day?

It’s because tolerance is conditional.

The tradition of setting aside a day for LGBTQ folks to rally, party, and reflect in honor and remembrance of the Stonewall Riots is vital for celebrating how far the gay rights movement has come. However, it also makes us saliently aware that this fabricated reality isn’t representative of everyday freedoms. Every other day, we’re supposed to suppress our LGBTQ identities in an effort to protect ourselves, blend in. And this, in part, is because people only fully accept those outside of the norm when they try to conform to societal standards.

After all, where has the gay rights movement been focused? MARRIAGE EQUALITY. I take issue with this emphasis both politically and socially. Politically speaking, this emphasis seems like just another effort to encourage conformity to patriarchal systems. The idea that marriage is the institution that gives relationships validity—not to mention rights—sounds like yet another way for the government to control who receives rights and when.


Socially, however, my issues lie with when, where, and why heterosexual people breeders join the gay rights movement. Malcolm Gladwell articulated this issue absolutely beautifully in a recent interview as a part of the LIVE from the NYPL series:

“What we call tolerance in this country is when people who are unlike us want to be like us, and when we decide to accept someone who is not like us and wants to be like us, we pat ourselves on the back…

Sorry — you don’t get points for accepting someone who wants to be just like you. You get points for accepting someone who doesn’t want to be like you — that’s where the difficulty lies.”

Yes, I want the freedom to marry a woman one day. BUT, I deserve rights, respect, and equality regardless of whether I want to marry and regardless of the identities that might prevent me from such a marriage. This is the challenge of accepting people who really do lie outside of societal norms.

So yes, I love Pride. I love the flashy displays and the insane costumes and, yes, the go-go dancers. And if it weren’t for the occasional AIDS awareness or political activist banner, you may even forget for a moment that you’re among one of the most marginalized groups of people in the entire world. There’s still a long way to go.

Pride is comparable to safe spaces for people of color. They’re awesome and totally necessary, but we need to critically examine why they need to exist and how we can integrate their existence into the greater social culture.

I mean, does this not look like a perfect world?


The Relic of My Religion

As I’ve gotten older and escaped the bubble that was my Catholic education, my relationship with Catholicism has been on the rocks. We don’t even go on Sunday dates like we used to, and we hardly ever agree anymore. I’d come to a point at which my morality was most certainly influenced by my religion, but in no way dictated by it. That is, except for one thing…you know…that dirty word…that “A” word…the one you definitely don’t talk about outside the context of the March for Life…

Yup. Abortion. Abortion was pretty much the one controversial social issue that the Church had me on. Abortion was the real remaining “relic of my religion,” if you will, the final cobwebbed antique that I had left on the shelf for later examination. I’m down with contraception, and I guess I would have been damned with the rest of Sodom and Gomorrah, but something about the Church’s rhetoric regarding abortion deeply affected me. Maybe it was the genocidal language, maybe it was the days of prayer for the souls of the aborted…who really knows. The demonization of abortion had been shoved down my throat since I was a kid, and I basically viewed the pro-choice movement as a bunch of heartless, irresponsible women killing their babies and refusing to face the consequences of their choices.

Reaction GIF: disgust, what the fuck?

I wasn’t really as bad as I sound.

Even just writing that, admitting that now feels so wrong. Only now can I see the blame, presumption, and judgment in those thoughts. The funny thing is that before Moxie I never even fully grasped that these ideas being fed to me somehow got away with completely removing WOMEN from the conversation. When people talk about the evils of abortion, you almost never hear any acknowledgement of the woman’s rights; she is invariably relegated to an incubator for the growing life, willingly or otherwise, it matters not. Denying women the right to abortion is a violation of a woman’s right to control her fertility as well as an insistence that this fertility is the only role of womanhood. Putting limits on abortions is an assumption that women aren’t rational enough to make a life or death decision.

Let’s pause for a moment…isn’t that interesting? Strange how many of these same people protesting abortion rights support our MALE presidents in sending hordes of American soldiers to fight and die in wars. It’s not “respect for life” guiding the pro-life movement…it’s a stifling of female sexuality, a rejection of the rationality of women, and an effort to control women’s bodies. And the strangest part is—I don’t even think a lot of them realize it. I certainly didn’t, and that may be because the language around pro-life distances itself from women entirely.

40 Things Only Internet Feminists Will Understand

Realizing this discord in dialogue between the two sanctions led to a real-deal feminist light-bulb moment: It’s an issue of defining women’s bodies solely as vessels for carrying babies. Abortion access means that society realizes a woman’s worth beyond her body and her agency over her body. Yes, child bearing can be a role of women’s bodies, but women, as autonomous beings, have the freedom to control if and when we want to accept that role; motherhood isn’t the sole purpose of the female being.

And here we have the whole point of feminism—empowering people to be masters of their own beings without outside judgment or control. This is why abortion rights are indispensable if we ever hope for gender equality, or really any equality. And this is why, after all these years, I couldn’t be prouder to say that I am pro-choice.

How Being a Catholic Schoolgirl Prepared me for Hollaback!

Rebecca is a rising junior interning with Hollaback! this summer.

It may seem ironic to some that Catholic school inspired me to join the Moxie Project. Let’s be honest, between doctrines that stifle sexuality (especially women’s), demonize homosexuality, and limit reproductive rights…it’s a wonder I didn’t come out of that place a Republican closed-minded puritan. Tired political jokes aside, nothing could have motivated me to work for Hollaback! like having to wear a Catholic schoolgirl uniform on the streets of Atlanta. It was pretty much impossible to go anywhere after school without experiencing some form of unwanted hootin’ and hollerin’, largely from the older crowd I might add, and it always made me just downright uncomfortable. Alas, I was but a reluctant, timid high schooler with no idea how to react to these creepy, unwanted advances…

Enter Hollaback!…a nonprofit that aims to combat this harassment that women face every day. If you’re female, then you know all too well that you don’t have to be wearing a stereotypically fetishized blouse/plaid skort/knee sock combo to be a target (although believe me, it does help). Street harassment is all too common for women everywhere, and while most of us choose to respond with a simple roll of the eyes, this quiet acceptance is sending a message…and it may not be the message we’re hoping for. Not speaking out against street harassment maintains that women should passively accept unwanted advances, perpetuating objectification and rape culture. Men have zero entitlement to women’s bodies, and if we empower ourselves against street harassment, we can begin to send that message loud and clear.

I began to feel that street harassment was at least a somewhat obvious problem—something any rational individual could support—until I visited a good friend last weekend. I was giving my typical spiel about the Moxie Project and street harassment (see above), feeling like Emily May and the rest of the Hollaback! staff would have been beaming with pride. However, my friend, a perfectly rational and very intelligent individual, albeit male, responded completely unexpectedly. He not only said that street harassment should be viewed as complimentary and desired, but he basically suggested that the only reason women experience catcalling more than men is because women are better to look at. Now I can’t say I disagree with his opinion on the differential aesthetic appeal between men and women, but the rest of his words caught me entirely off guard. The worst part was that I just couldn’t seem to convince him otherwise. In that moment I realized anticlimactically that (1) men really just don’t understand what women experience every day and (2) they make excuses for their actions. These probably don’t exactly classify as earth-shattering, but they have given me some direction for what I want to accomplish this summer…like figuring out the best way to respond to downright ignorance.

So here’s to a summer of progress and discovery for Rebecca – this Catholic schoolgirl is ready to delve into the Moxie Project head-on. I’m attacking this summer to figure out my own relationship with feminism. This summer won’t always be easy or fun—but it’ll sure as hell be worth it.