Once a Moxie, Always a Moxie

It has officially been one week since leaving New York and the Moxie project and somehow this week has felt like a century. It is amazing how much I had gotten used to the lifestyle of the city: constantly busy, always exhausted, very little downtime. My body had finally adjusted. But now that it’s over and I’m no longer working everyday, I find myself counting down the days until I will be back in classes and work and just having something to do at all times. I think being a Moxie made me forget how to relax.

Upon leaving New York City, I went straight back to Durham and immediately reentered the Duke bubble. What I’ve really noticed though through talking to my Duke friends this past week is just how unique the Moxie project really is. When I try to explain the program and its many components people just don’t quite get it. None of their internships or research projects also involved reading academic texts, taking part in seminars, and going to reflection dinners. Many of their summers consisted of going into work each day, putting in the hours, then going home to put it all behind them for awhile until starting again the next day. It’s hard to explain what it was like to have the themes of our readings and the context of our work follow us throughout everything we did, whether at work or with other Moxies or neither. The Moxie project is truly one of a kind and I’m now realizing just how lucky I am to have been a part of this program.

And unlike many other internships I could have done this summer, I don’t feel as though being a Moxie ended when I left New York City. I can actually feel how much those 8 weeks have affected me. The most noticeable impact I’ve felt since finishing the program is that I think I have officially found my voice.

When someone makes a racist, sexist, homophobic or just offensive comment I physically can’t just brush it away anymore. I find myself with an intense urge to call them out and explain why what they said was wrong. I am more confident in my political beliefs and my passions and have found myself actively participating in discussion on political and social issues, something I once would shy away from. The Moxie project gave me the language necessary to express my opinions and convictions and for that I am forever grateful.

The only real regret I feel at the moment is that I didn’t participate in this program earlier in my Duke career. I am realizing how much more attuned I am to the everyday oppression and microaggressions that exist even just within our Duke bubble. I plan to spend my senior year using this new voice and the strategies I’ve learned to help make (or at least start to make) some actual change to the systemic issues in our school’s community. And then after I graduate in less than a year (yikes) I feel confident that the skills and perspectives I’ve gained this summer will carry with me into everything I do.

Once a Moxie, always a Moxie.

Next Steps

In 297 days I will be a graduate of Duke University. Now that may sound like a lot, but trust me, as each day passes and that number gets smaller, it’s like a slap to the face that I need to actually get my life together. In the last few weeks of my Moxie experience, the future seems to be all my brain can think about.

What am I going to be doing in 298 days?

I used to think I had it all figured out. I would go into public health research, work in a lab somewhere or for some government health agency. Easy right? I had a plan.

But lately, as time slowly starts to run out, I’m starting to second guess the plans that I had ingrained in my head for so long. And this summer in the Moxie program hasn’t made it any less complicated. Before starting this program, I saw it as a way to grow as a feminist and expand my knowledge of social justice principles and feminist theory, but I hadn’t really connected the program to my career interests. When I first applied, I didn’t know what organization I would end up with or what type of work I would be doing, but I had anticipated that it probably wouldn’t completely relate to my work in public health.

When I would tell people that I was going to work for a non-profit this summer, many were surprised that I was planning to branch out of my usual research based jobs while others simply commended me for the “moral work” I’d be doing. But I’ve realized that that isn’t what I want this experience to be. I don’t want it to just be a note on my resume to show that I have dabbled in the nonprofit sector or had experience serving “less privileged communities”. My work at GGE and my experience with the Moxie program as a whole has really made me think about what kind of work I actually want to go into.

When I was originally placed with Girls for Gender Equity, I’ll admit I was nervous. I had limited experience working with schools and the education system. I had never planned youth programs or written a curriculum. And I didn’t know what it would feel like to work as a white woman for an organization that focuses on issues related to girls of color. I didn’t know what to expect, but I figured I would try it out and step out of my comfort zone for the summer.

What I didn’t realize was how much the experience would change me, and how much I would learn from the people I have been working with. While the things I have learned about the NYC education system, after-school program planning, and curriculum building may not exactly end up translating into my future work, the everyday conversations on issues of race, gender, discrimination, emotional intelligence, community building, etc — these are the skills and the knowledge that I know will stay with me in everything I do. I know now that I want — I need my work in public health, whatever that may be, to actually mean something and to actually at least attempt to make real change. The hard part now is just figuring out how to make that happen.

So while I can’t tell you exactly where I’ll be headed or what I’ll be doing in 298 days (you’ll have to get back to me on that), I can assure you that I’ll no doubt be carrying this summer’s experiences with me wherever I go.

The Inescapable Moxie Lens

On May 28th of this year, I was in a good place. I felt comfortable in my existence and my newfound identity as a feminist. I was excited to jump into the Moxie Project, to work for the summer, be surrounded by other strong females, and maybe learn a few things along the way.

But, today, 5 weeks into the program, I’ve realized it’s not that easy. Yes, I’ve been loving my job with Girls for Gender Equity, yes I’m constantly in the company of 7 other passionate feminists, and yes, I’ve learned more than a few things about the feminist movement through our readings and discussions. But what I didn’t expect was how much this program was going to seep into my everyday thoughts and actions.

Back at school it’s easy to leave a 90 minute lecture and remove yourself from the material you were just studying. You don’t go home after a physiology course and obsess over each skin cell on your arm or the way your joints move in your leg. At least you hope you don’t. But here it’s not that easy. The topics we cover in the readings, the context of my work, the themes of the enrichment events — they come up everywhere. Even in the most nuanced actions I take or interactions I have, I’m always forced to see it through the Moxie lens, no matter how hard I try to fight it.glasses

When my male friends make a joke about getting laid or “hitting that” — jokes I may have once laughed along with — I’m now disgusted and ashamed of my association with these perfect examples of sexist, entitled pigs.

Even in juslegst the simple daily actions of straightening my hair and shaving my legs, I’m starting to question the reasons I do these things. Is it really just for me, as I constantly argue? Or is it to fulfill a beauty image that society deems acceptable, thus perpetuating gender norms and complying with the patriarchy?

I’ll be readipatrickng a book or watching a tv show that I always loved, and now I find myself getting angry. Getting angry at the characters for obsessing over men or allowing themselves to be objectified. Getting angry at the writers for continuously creating damsels in distress whose only purpose is to find a man, get married, and live happily ever after. Getting angry at myself for ever finding these things enjoyable, relatable even.

This program is making me see my whole life differently. The decisions I’ve made, the friends I’ve kept, the groups I’ve joined. I’m starting to question how I have been a feminist when so many aspects of my being seem to go against the concepts we’ve been discussing. That’s not to say that I now plan to go home after this program and burn all my books, end friendships, and throw away my razor. But I do know that being in this program is making me see the world and myself differently. I’ve accepted that the Moxie lens is here to stay — but in the end I don’t think I mind it.

Privilege: ✓

So it’s official. I have now survived 3exhausted weeks of being a New Yorker and more importantly, being a Moxie. When they warned me that the summer would be busy, they weren’t kidding. This weekend it finally hit me. I felt exhausted mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, metaphysically, financially and every other –ly you can think of.

check your privilegeBut while this program has already been a lot – what with the 40-hour workweeks, heavy readings, and seminars that have made us lose faith in the world – I appreciate the ways in which I can already tell it’s changing my thinking and forcing me to reflect on my own experiences and my own privileges. Coming from a lower income family that has faced a myriad of its own struggles over the years, it’s sometimes really easy to overlook the ways in which I am privileged as a white heterosexual in our society.

This past week we focused a lot of time discussing the criminal justice system, how our organizations intersect with it, how it targets populations differently, and the power dynamics within it. Our conversations got me thinking about my own family’s experience with law enforcement and not only how that experience has shaped who I am today, but also how different the experience may have been if I was not privileged in certain respects. I’ll leave specific details aside, but when I was very young, too young to quite comprehend, my parents ran into legal trouble when financial distress brought them to make a risky decision involving illegal substances. Because of the crime, my father spent several years of my childhood incarcerated, a time period that took me many years to really understand.

I’m not ashamed of that point in my family’s history. I realize that at the time my parents  were simply trying to find any way possible to support my family. But, after the past week of covering this topic, I’ve started realizing how different that experience could have been had my family not had its white privilege. Had my parents been people of color, would my mother have been allowed to avoid incarceration as well? Would my siblings and I have been placed into the foster care system? Would my father have been released when he was? These questions have been racing through my head, especially after witnessing and reading about police brutality and the targeting of people of color in the Color of Violence and the Do Not Resist documentary. And it’s not just the criminal justice system that is guilty of these injustices. My work at GGE has opened my eyes to school push-out that disproportionately targets students of color, thus perpetuating the school to prison pipeline. Before this program, I don’t think I had ever fully grasped the extent to which varying systems in our country have historically targeted and criminalized minority groups.

So, I think one of the most important things I’ve learned so far as a Moxie is that checking our privilege does not mean discrediting personal experiences and struggles. Instead, it means acknowledging the ways society has put some of us at an advantage and thinking about how we can direct that privilege towards changing the system rather than remaining complicit in it.

The first step towards getprivilegeting rid of inequality is finally acknowledging that it actually exists.


Jumping Right In

As a kid I dreamt of living in New York City. I wanted to experience the city that never sleeps. The bright lights, the massive stores, the artistic energy…NYC was the place to be.

Now, one week into the Moxie program, while I’m loving the city, I must admit the fantasy is starting to wear off… I’ve already learned some vital lessons about the realities of actually living in a big city

1) Getting the Metro card to work on the first try is nearly impossible

2)You will encounter rats, there is no avoiding them

3) Half of your day will be spent waiting for subways


4) Never go to Trader Joe’s at 7pm. You will regret all life decisions

5) Do not go to Times Square unless you have mentally prepared yourself for hell on Earth


(case in point)

6) If you’re in a rush, the train you need WILL be delayed or simply not running

7) Be prepared to be perpetually exhausted.

But when I dreamt of living in the city as a kid, I didn’t imagine that I would actually be spending the majority of each day outside of the heart of city, away from the craziness of Manhattan. And I really, really didn’t expect that this would be my favorite part.

Before starting my internship with Girls for Gender Equity, I honestly had no idea what I was getting myself into. I mostly expected to be doing office work, but when my supervisor emailed me and said we’d be Girls_for_Gender_Equity_Logo_300dpi-large“jumping right in,” she really wasn’t kidding. The first day on the job, I was brought to one of the middle schools GGE works with way out in Brooklyn. Everyday since, I’ve spent half of my workday at the schools assisting with the after school program, the Urban Leaders Academy.

The kids I’ve had the chance to meet are fun and goofy and will sing Beyoncé lyrics any chance they get. They have so much energy it almost wears me out just watching them. But, what I’ve really found amazing is how much I can already see the effects GGE has had on them. Just in my first few days I’ve watched these 11 to 13 year olds learn about/reflect on topics like food justice, conflict resolution, gender identities, relationships, and mental health. I even had the chance to interview some of the students, and I’m so impressed with how much GGE has impacted their lives, allowing them to reflect on personal issues, build relationships, and improve their performance in school. ULA also incorporates a peer mentorship program where high school students organize and facilitate a weekly workshop with the middle schoolers. It’s amazing how dedicated the students, mentors, and staff are to the program. I am sad to think that ULA will be ending in just a week and a half when school lets out, but I’m so excited to continue my work with GGE and to hopefully contribute to making this program even more impactful.

So, while living in the big apple might not be exactly the fantasy I’d imagined as a prepubescent teen, I love the city and the work I’m doing and I can’t wait to see what’s in store next!






Embracing the F-word

Hello, my name is Andrea Cool and I am a feminist.

While this may seem completely obvious considering where you’re reading this, for me it’s something that took me a while to actually say – an identity I had to learn to recognize. That isn’t to say that I ever disagreed with the values of feminism. On the contrary, to me they seemed like no brainers. Of course I believed in gender equality. Of course I could do anything that my older brother was able to do. Of course I could be successful.

Initially, the problem was that I was sheltered. Don’t get me wrong; my family faced its fair share of obstacles as I was growing up, ones that even today I’m still learning to understand. But, sexism, the patriarchy, gender violence – those didn’t exist for me as a kid. I didn’t understand the extent to which many women and girls were oppressed. This is a way that I am privileged. I am lucky.

I attribute this to my mother. I grew up in a house where my mom called the shots. If she wanted to do something, nothing would stop her from getting it done. To the childhood me, my mother was my role model; she was invincible. She made me feel invincible too.

Eventually though, this invincibility started to wear off. I couldn’t be sheltered from the realities of the world forever. The unrealistic expectations set for women. The objectification of women in the media. The fact that just walking down the street can be a dangerous thing for women. But even though I was starting to see these injustices – and wanted to change them – I didn’t immediately consider myself a feminist. A feminist was what you called the radical women who burned their bras and hated all men (or at least that’s what I thought). I wasn’t ready to be labeled with the “F-word”.

It wasn’t really until I got to college that I started to actually understand the meaning of the word feminism and realized that, oh wait, I guess I do identify with this movement because I do in fact believe that women deserve the same rights as men.

The word “feminist” has gotten such a bad rep in the past that it’s scaring people off from what really matters: gender equality. It’s a word we need to start embracing to get rid of this stupid extremist stereotype.

So today I am a feminist. I am also a cat lover, a runner, a terrible cook, and a Broadway enthusiast. I am a student at Duke University, studying Biology and Global Health. In the fall I will be going into my senior year when I will start looking into universities to continue my studies in public health focusing on women’s health rights. I realize how extremely lucky I am to be where I’m at today. That isn’t to say I haven’t worked my ass off to get here – because trust me I have – but if I hadn’t grown up in an atmosphere that told me I could be whatever I wanted to be and that gave me the tools to do just that, so many things could’ve held me back.

This summer I will be working with Girls for Gender Equity, helping to improve their after-school program geared toward girls of color living in underserved communities, where it’s easy for young girls to fall through the cracks in the system. I’m so excited to work for this organization because I want to help other young women to feel the  support and have the opportunities that I did to make it through school and have the chance to achieve their dreams. As the inspirational Malala Yousafzai said, “We cannot all succeed if half of us are held back”.

So I am ready for this summer in New York. I am ready to embrace my identity as a feminist and hopefully see that identity grow and develop as I step out of my comfort zone. I realize that I won’t be changing the world in just 2 short months, but if the work I do can help GGE make a difference in even just one girl’s life, that sounds like a success to me.