Movie night with Jenn

On Sunday night, Jenn and I watched the 1999 teen film called 10 Things I Hate About You starring Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger. After researching the film, I learned that it was loosely based on the Shakespeare play The Taming of the Shrew (I haven’t read the play so I won’t be discussing it). Throughout the movie, I was interested in the comparison between the two main women characters, Kat and Bianca. Kat is a strong, independent, and confident woman who doesn’t like to do what people expect of her. In contrast, her sister Bianca is self-absorbed and “girly”, and beautiful. The two are basically polar opposites.

Girls who don’t conform to norms, whether it be through clothing or style, are seen as crazy and weird. Kat is the one everyone hates, but throughout the movie she is just being herself. She is not trying to be controlled by patriarchal forces that try and hold her back. A good example of this force would be her father. Kat finds out she gets accepted to Sarah Lawrence and her father immediately tells her she is not going because it is too far and he would be unable to keep an eye on her. What I find interesting is that Kat has such strong actions against these patriarchal forces, but in the end the forces seem to win. In typical romantic movie fashion, the guy gets the girl and they live happily ever after. In the beginning, I liked how adamant she was about her beliefs, but then she got hypocritical towards the end. This movie had so much potential to highlight feminism to a young teen audience, but instead men won once again.

Before Moxie, I believe I would not have noticed the influence of the patriarchy. Pre-moxie Taylor would have watched the movie, shut off her computer and fell asleep without giving it a second thought. I know my basic analysis is not as deep as it could be, but it shows the improvement I have made in identifying and analyzing issues in feminism.

(I hope I didn’t spoil the movie so that, if you’re interested, you’ll check it out on Netflix!)

Empowerment Through Clothing Style

I had never given much thought to why I preferred to dress “comfortable” or in baggy clothes. Ever since I was a child, I specifically chose clothes that were big on me and avoided clothes that had pink or purple in them. Growing up I loved to play sports, first it was football, and then it was basketball. When I played football with my cousins, I wouldn’t mind diving for the ball and landing on the ground because being covered in dirt did not phase me. I took pride in the scars and bruises I had, whether it be from falling off my bike or a scrape from sliding on my knees. One moment sticks out to me when I think of my preferred style and how it relates to our recent moxie week on girl’s empowerment.

During picture day in elementary school, it must’ve been 4th or 5th grade, I wanted to wear my Dallas Cowboys jersey. The Dallas Cowboys are my favorite sports team and I’ve been a dedicated fan since I was born.NFL football nfl dallas cowboys cowboys GIF

I distinctly remember at the time that I was nervous to wear my Cowboys jersey because it wasn’t normal. Girls always dressed nice, in a dress or a skirt and curled their hair, but I wanted to wear my jersey. I didn’t want to be restricted by a dress and I thought my picture would be cooler than my classmates. Reflecting on it now, I was nervous because this was not the norm. I believe that this relates to the theme of our 6th week of Moxie, when we spoke about girl’s empowerment. At a young age, even though I was not aware of it, I decided to not be restricted by my gender norms, and decided to wear what I wanted. I felt empowered at a young age and attribute that to my success in both school and sports. I’m not saying that girls dressing how they want is the only type of empowerment, but for me it worked. Exploring gender roles is a normal part of growing up, but I feel that it was acceptable for me to explore while it may not be the same for boys. I feel that empowerment for girls can often be hindered by what they’re expected to do or wear, but along with freedom to develop as they wish helps shape a strong and confident woman.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice gif movie batman action GIF

Playing SPENT

This week I played an online game called Spent, (shout out to Norma for recommending this game) which was created by the Urban Ministries of Durham. I entered the site and immediately noticed how dark the layout was. It gave me an ominous feeling. The first words I see say “Urban Ministries of Durham serves over 6,000 people every year. But you’d never need help, right? Prove it.” I was nervous.

I accepted the challenge and was given $1,000 to live on for one month. I then had the options of choosing between minimum wage jobs that peaked at $9 an hour. I was immediately overwhelmed by the hard decisions I had to make. The one that particularly affected me was deciding what money I could use on my child. I felt that it was unfair to take away experiences for them because of my financial state. For example, they received a birthday card with $10 and I chose to keep the money because I only had $48 left and I was barely halfway through the month. They also had an opportunity to go the museum with their class, but it would’ve cost me $15, so I decided that they would stay at school for the day. One thing that I did pay for was a sports uniform so that they could participate in an after-school sports league. Growing up, sports were very important to me, so I thought this one luxury would be beneficial. Other situations arose during the game like making the decision if I should live closer to work for a higher rent or farther with a lower rent but higher transportation costs. The bill collector called and I chose to hang up on them and my landlord raised rent without a written notice 30 days in advance, which is an illegal practice, so I had to leave.

Bad situations came up one after another and I was calling the shots. However, I appreciated the facts and stats that accompanied most decisions I made. Even though this was a game, it really brought me back down to Earth and reminded me that this is real life. People are going through this every day and they don’t have the luxury of leaving this online game after the 30 days are up. It was easy for me to have the mindset that this is just a game and I don’t have to think too much about it. However, I knew that if I thought this way, it would undermine the purpose of the game which strives to raise awareness about the issues of poverty, homelessness, criminalization, and many more. I feel that this game should be played by everyone because it is a simple way to “put yourself in the shoes” of the less fortunate and to begin to understand the problems they face everyday.

Learning about Reproductive Justice one case at a time

During week 2 of Moxie we discussed Reproductive Justice and had a seminar at Choices in Jamaica, Queens. Leading up to the visit I only thought of reproductive justice in terms of pro-choice and pro-life. My idea of what reproductive justice is changed, however, while in a weekly meeting with my Legal Momentum supervisors:

In 2013, a NYPD officer named Akema Thompson was denied the opportunity to change the date of her Civil Service Test, which is an exam a police officer can take to earn a promotion, because the date of the exam was the due date of her first child. Her request for a makeup exam was denied because her reason did not meet the guidelines for accommodation. She appealed again to city officials and she finally heard back as she was in labor, three days before the exam. They said they would give her extra time to finish or a cushion to sit on.

I was so confused that the excuse of having a child and recovering from this monumental event were not enough to allow Officer Thompson to take a makeup exam. This was an obvious example of discrimination against her as woman. But how does this case fit into the realm of reproductive justice? With a few quick internet searches I found some helpful explanations.

Reproductive justice is defined as “the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, and economic well-being of women and girls, based on the full achievement and protection of women’s human rights.” It is helpful to look at this definition through different approaches that include reproductive health and rights. The refusal of the NYPD to adequately accommodate Ms. Thompson discriminated against her and her pregnancy and violated her reproductive rights as outlined in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This federal law states that, “women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions” be treated the same as other employees who are “similar in their ability or inability to work.” In other words, Officer Thompson was denied the opportunity to take a career changing exam because she was pregnant. She was therefore discriminated against based on sex. This is because a man would never face this problem: women are the only ones who can get pregnant, and thus women are the only ones with this challenge.

My organization, Legal Momentum, took on this case and filed a pregnancy discrimination charge against New York City with the Equal Opportunity Commission. The city agreed to pay Officer Thompson $50,000 and allowed her to take the exam on a different date. They also agreed to change the policy and included pregnancy-related problems as cause for rescheduling an exam.

The fight is far from over–polices now must be enforced, but learning about Officer Thompson’s case opened my eyes to the vast and complicated topic of reproductive justice.

Star GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Finding My Way

Hi! My name is Taylor Miller and I’m a rising senior majoring in Public Policy with a minor in Environmental Science and Policy and a certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. I decided to apply to the Moxie program for many reasons, but my summer 2016 internship really solidified my desire in becoming involved in women’s activism.

I have never been one to speak my mind and I would describe myself as a wallflower. Growing up with this type of personality challenged me to find ways to make a difference. In my opinion, nothing is wrong with having this introverted personality. I usually get criticized for it, but I have accepted that it’s okay. Now, this doesn’t mean that I am completely silent everywhere I go, I speak my mind when and where I please, but growing up with this sort of pensive approach, think first, talk second, has really helped me hone in on what I want to do in life.

I must admit that I had very little knowledge of social justice and women’s activism so I applied to Moxie optimistic, but worried because I felt my lack of experience in the field would be detrimental. Along with my introverted personality I thought that it would be nearly impossible for me to be an activist or social justice warrior. However, I knew that the goals of Moxie, such as observing and practicing feminist social change, would be beneficial to me. Going back to my summer 2015 internship I realized that I wanted to become involved in women’s activism because of the lack of support and knowledge that that Native American had access to concerning issues like assault and violence against women and children. During my 2016 internship I attended brownbag lunches at various law firms and there was one woman who attended and brought up the Violence against Women act and the Indian Child Welfare Act. I had no prior knowledge of the two, but I began to do my own research and discovered that Native American women suffer domestic violence and sexual assault at higher rates than other racial groups. This did not surprise me, I began to wonder why, and concluded that, as I mentioned earlier, the lack of knowledge and resources available to Native American women was also detrimental to me because I did not know of these two important legal acts.

So, as I was searching for internships and thinking about what I wanted to do for my crucial junior summer, I stumbled across the DukeEngage NYC program and decided that I needed to put aside my insecurities of being an introvert and put my passion first, advocating for Native American people in any capacity and environment. I know I made the right decision by applying to this program and I’m excited to work with an amazing organization like Legal Momentum.