The Myth of the “girly-girl”

Less than a week after leaving my city life in the concrete jungle, I find myself in the piney woods of east Texas — no cell service or wifi, 100 degree Texas heat, and the sweet soundtrack of nature. Within hours or arriving, I’ve already removed 1 scorpion and 3 spiders from the midst of high pitches screams in a cramped cabin, courtesy of my 11 preteen campers. They applaud my bravery in handling the bugs, something that they say they themselves could have “never” done. I tell them that this is not true. They could have done the same thing.

During introductions the first night, I have 3 girls specify that they are “girly-girls” — meaning their favorite color is pink, they like to do hair and make up, make bracelets, and they don’t touch bugs. I cringe a little.

I had never thought about this during my time in Moxie, but I really hate that the idea of a girly-girl and a tomboy even exist. The traits for a girly-girl represent everything that patriarchy wishes to enforce and police in women, focusing on appearance and perception and trapping women into a position of submission to the man. Girly-girls grow up to be damsels in distress, reliant on men for their survival. Girly-girls are told to value how they look and how other people perceive them rather than self-love and acceptance and rather than considering any other life-skills. And girls are either forced into joining the ranks of girly-girls or told to renouncing their womanhood all together, as they deviate to the label “tomboy”. Because, of course, a girl could never be good at sports, or choose to wear basketball shorts because they are comfortable, or like science because it is cool, or wear her hair in a ponytail because it just makes sense. No no, those types of girls are not girls at all. Because boy is good and girl is less, boy is power and girl is pretty, boy can be president and girl can be president’s wife.

We are teaching our girls exactly how they are valued in society. Limiting their potential by allowing their predestination as secondary. Letting them know early on which skill they should work on perfecting to reach success. Even to just survive.

I reject this. I reject the myth of the girly-girl and refuse to let patriarchy continue oppressing our girls.

I told my girls that they are not girly-girls, they’re just girls. Because girl is great. Girl is strong and passionate and driven. Because anything boys can do, girls can do better.

Black + Woman

With approximately 8 followers, 3 tweets, and 1 like – I am proud to announce that yesterday I officially joined Twitter! Well, rejoined. Technically, this is my third Twitter account in 5 years… But my first account is overcrowded with my conservative former classmates (thanks Texas) and my second account follows every celebrity I’ve ever loved (I had a phase). So really, creating this account was a declaration of my existence as a woke, educated, black feminist ready to officially join the world of Black Twitter.

Preparing to be empowered and inspired, I spent the evening researching recommended Twitter accounts for news, music, black feminism, activism, healthcare, black comedians, sports updates, politics, and small puppies (childish, but look how cute he is).

So, this morning I logged on to my twitter to scroll my feed. Ready to be inundated by black women, liberal news sources, and cute puppy memes. I was not disappointed.

Scrolling my feed, one of the first thing that came up was an image of a black man and his daughter. I loved it already! The post was for a start up short film about a black dad and his daughter. I read the reply tweets, which praise this short film for the strides that it takes towards representation, self-pride, hair positivity, visibility of black fathers, etc.

And I am so here for it! In a society that promotes Eurocentric beauty standards and whitewashed mainstream media, many young people of color struggle in their own affirmation. When I was young, I believed that my hair was most beautiful when it was pin-straight. Many black people are working to shift that narrative so that black girls and black boys see real images of themselves in the media. This cartoon is definitely doing that.

But as I watched the video my feelings for the film became a bit more conflicted. The creator of the film explains that “the short film tells the story about a young, African American father who has never done his daughter’s hair before. And he tries to do his daughter’s hair for the first time.” Mind you, the girl looks to be about 5 years old. Now, hold on…

So you mean to tell me, this baby girl has been around for a least 4 years (if I’m being generous) and this is the first time her daddy is touching her hair…

4 years …


So, while we are praising this man for finally tending to his child, are we going to talk about the tireless hours that some other parental (presumably female) figure has spent toiling with the daughter’s beautifully managed afro?

The thing is, I am in no way criticizing this film because I think it reflects a very real narrative not only in black household, but in all households. A narrative in which women are responsible for the reproductive labor, the children and the home, and men are held almost entirely unaccountable (so long as they are “bringing home the bacon”). This expectation generally holds true regardless of if the mother has her own career, dreams, goals, aspirations.

This is not a criticism of men and the effort that they do or don’t put into raising their children, but I want to call to attention the subtlety of misogyny in our daily lives that perpetuates and reinforces our existing patriarchal system. If we continue to accept the societal expectation that reproductive labor falls on the backs of women, we will never reach the liberation and equity that we seek.

I wanted to reply to the post on Twitter, but I didn’t because I did not want to offend the creator of this film or any black men with similar experiences. But I am glad that I decided to write this post. This week we discussed intersectionality in Moxie, and this for me epitomizes my intersectionality as a black woman. I will continue to champion and applaud efforts to liberate black people from the oppression of racism, but in doing so I cannot abandon my existence as a woman and my duty to fight against sexism. Approaching social justice from a black feminist framework affirms my identity and existence and condemns not just one but all forms of structural oppression.

And for the record, it is my every intention to see and share this short film when it is released.


June 25th, P R I D E !


Throughout the month of June, New York City buildings and businesses have been adorned in rainbow flags and messages of support. I woke up Sunday morning to see the restaurant on the corner hanging additional rainbow flags and stood in line with people wearing t-shirts supporting pride in the bagel shop. I knew it was going to be a good day!


For Pride, we were invited to march with Sanctuary for Families in the parade. I knew we were in for a great experience. The parade exceeded my expectations. So many happy people filled the streets of Manhattan to unapologetically exist. And despite the progress that still needs to be made, this one day was set aside for joy and celebration of how far we have come. People of all ages, colors, and creeds were present for this celebration.

After spending a week talking about the policing of LGBTQ+ communities, I was hopeful that for this one day there would be minimal policing. I was disheartened to go home and read this article. 12 people were arrested at the Pride parade for protesting the corporatization and police presence / participation in Pride. Some people cheered as the protesters were taken away and the parade able to continue. I am frustrated by the outcome of this demonstration.

I think in this new era of “progress,” it is easy to forget about who has been doing liberation work and all to often we fail to acknowledge those that are continuing to fight for freedom. We forget about the lives lost due to police brutality during the Stonewall riots of 1969. We forget that the first Pride parades were political demonstrations, marches, and parades, honoring Stonewall. We forget that while corporations and police forces can show solidarity during pride, they continue to discriminate against and disproportionately arrest, change, and sentence LGBTQ+ people. We forget that the fight is not over.

Self-care is important and necessary for survival, but I never want to allow myself to be complacent with anything short of liberation for all.

“Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” ~ Emma Lazarus

It’s the least I can do…

On Saturday we watched an independent film at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival called “Complicit“. The documentary follows the journey of a Chinese migrant worker who is diagnosed with an occupational disease, Leukemia, due to exposure to carcinogenic chemicals in an electronics factory. He and many others have found agency in China by organizing against the exploitation of migrant workers in mass production factories.

I am not an expert on this topic, and if anyone is interested in the story you should check out the film, but I think it is important to share this story and the many like it. Men and women are leaving their homes to make additional income for their families and returning less than a decade later with severe medical problems and all of the burdens and complications that come with chronic conditions. And no corporations are being held accountable for their role in cutting these lives short.

We must recognize the humanity in the men and women that are stuck in systems of oppression and acknowledge that we, as consumers, are complicit in and benefiting from the exploitation of capitalism. Apple. Samsung. Walmart. Forever 21. Urban Outfitters. HP. Microsoft. Victoria’s Secret. Adidas. The list is truly endless…

I know I’m not the first person to address the implications of global production and the necessity to recognize my own privilege, but I recently read an article that changed my perspective on what it refers to as “conscious consumerism”. Conscious consumerism is the actions that consumers take to promote sustainability and fair practices – buying from companies that claim not to use sweatshops, recycling, buying organics, etc. What they say is that conscious consumerism is well intentioned but it will not change the world. The efforts we, as individuals, take are not enough to combat structural oppression and systems that are built to succeed on the backs of marginalized groups.

It is important to be informed about corporate practices and to support companies that align with your values. It is also important to support efforts working to combat corporate injustices and to support politicians and organizations that are committed to implementing long term, large scale change.

Consciousness is about more than just being aware. As I continue to learn, I want to find ways to lessen my role in structural labor oppression. This might make aspects of my life inconvenient or more costly. And as I make more money, I may find myself give more to organizations that fight against systems. The reality of today is that there are young people dying before they reach their 30’s to produce my iPhones and laptops. Any and all of my efforts are in no way saving the world, but it’s the least I can do…

For Us, By Us.

Picture this. A young boy, sixth grader, at the Urban Leaders Academy weekly afterschool program led by Girls for Gender Equity. He’s hype. Running around and having a good time in the relays with his friends. Now imagine sitting him down to explain to him that he, as a male body, is an ally and takes up space in the conversation for gender equity. That he needs to check his privilege and act in a way that promotes the social equality of his female classmates.

Now consider a grown-up example. Imagine a white woman, passionate about helping survivors of sexual assault and specifically women of color. Funders hear this woman’s plea and grant her– neither a person of color nor a survivor–10 million dollars to organize for the cause. Do you see any similarity between this woman and the young boy? As you can imagine, organizers who were elected to work under this woman were able to identify the problem with this situation and made sure that someone better qualified was appointed to lead the organization.

What these two situations have in common is that they explore organizing spaces and the role of allies. A major critique of specific organizing efforts led by allies is that they pursue issues in communities that they know little about without consulting the members of those communities and without regarding the organizing work that is already being done. (See: “Solidarity Not Charity”) Consideration of the community voices and leadership from within groups who face oppression is the most effective way to impact change, as the needs of the community become the focus of the work. Furthermore, the most empowering thing you can do for a community is to support and uplift people that are accountable to those communities, have been on the ground, and understand the issues through experience.

Girls for Gender Equity captures this idea of “for us, by us”. The organization was started by a woman of color and has evolved as a grassroots organization that is led by
people across the spectrum of race, sex, gender, and class as they serve communities that capture these similar demographics. Representation people!!! It’s so important.

In addition to representation within the infrastructures of school and state, GGE programs work to empower and uplift young people as leaders and organizers in their own communities. I saw this in two key programs. Sisters in Strength is a two-year high-school women’s cohort that explores organizing and activism. Young Women’s Advisory Council is another group of young people that work on policy and meet with lawmakers to both voice their concerns and to learn the how to affect change through legislation. I think it is phenomenal to see women of color working to better the experiences for women of color. For us, by us. And from the bottom up, empowerment for some of us is empowerment for all. F.U.B.U.

Excitement and Discomfort

“I am uncomfortable being comfortable.” – Steve Nash

I came across this quote in an old notebook, written by a younger me during a summer at Point Guard College in 2011. Six years later I find myself continuing to push my bounds of comfort in an effort to achieve what I often refer to as “personal growth”. This summer I am expecting a lot of discomfort but looking forward to being challenged by Ada and Shannan, emboldened through my work with Girls for Gender Equity, and inspired by the brilliant minds of the 6 other Moxies as I venture into the realm of feminism.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Devon. I am a rising senior / biology major / chemistry minor / pre-med / freedom fighter. My first 18 years of life were spent in Frisco, Texas (a northern suburb of Dallas) before I took flight to Durham, NC. At Duke, I have learned to question everything and this has brought me to a deeper understanding of who I am as well as led me to further questions. This summer I hope to address my role as a feminist and how it can be incorporated into my everyday life while staying true to my identity as a black woman and aspiring physician.

During an activity at DukeEngage Academy we were instructed to ask our partners repeatedly “who are you?” followed by “how might you be perceived?” for one minute each. As Shannan asked me the first question with a patient smile, I responded “Black. A woman. A friend. A daughter. A sister. A Christian.” When she moved on to the second question, I was forced to confront my own discomfort with the idea of perception.

Perception is a concept that has recently plagued my thoughts. On an impulse last semester, I deleted all my social media profiles to get away from my doubts and fears concerning how I was being perceived through social media. In a recent conversation with a stranger, I realized that perceptions are inescapable. In my ideal world, we would all be seen for who we are; but the reality of life is that from another person’s perspective what you are can only be encompassed by what they perceive of you. Perception. So, as I work to understand who I am, I am also working towards living a life that reflects the person that I wish to be perceived as.

As I journey to the concrete jungle next week, I am filled with excitement. Excited to explore my responsibility as a woman to dismantle the patriarchy and address the inherent oppression of our society. Excited to work with GGE to evaluate systems that are affecting our girls and empower a new generation of leaders. Excited to grow and learn and connect with the Moxies. I don’t exactly know where this summer is going to take me but I know that I am excited to find out!