Brief Words of Retrospection

The Moxies have officially approached the final week of the program. We survived, y’all. We survived the mind-bending, self-reflecting, radically-charged summer that we were all eagerly waiting to begin. I say “survived” not because this program was painstakingly difficult, but rather because we were on a non-stop rollercoaster ride that consisted of thorough confrontation with issues that are not always talked about in the oftentimes, impermeable Duke bubble. We discussed many, many things.

And if you’ve been keeping up with this year’s Moxie blogs, you’d know that we were consistently questioning the status quo and invited to acknowledge how:

  1. Our choices as consumers are leading to health issues amongst young adults on the other side of the world.
  2. Gender-based violence is fostered by a patriarchal system that socializes boys to be boys.
  3. Our negligence towards identity acceptance is killing queer people.
  4. Our justice system criminalizes poverty and race in the name of justice.

I can go on and on with this list, but in an effort to avoid laundry listing every single issue present on the face of planet earth, I’m keeping it brief. I was relatively familiar with these issues prior to beginning this program. However, I was not yet convinced that I could help in moving the world towards a more socially just future. Just when I was ready to watch the world burn (theoretically speaking), my acceptance to the Moxie program gave me that glimmer of hope that I needed to keep fighting the good fight. From reading feminist and social justice frameworks that are crucial to understanding our society, to working alongside resilient, and inspiring individuals at National Domestic Workers Alliance, my experiences this summer have provided me with yet more tools to critique the status quo and to see how I can do my part in practicing social justice in my life.

It’s a bit bittersweet to see our summer as Moxies coming to an end. But while our adventures end here, the knowledge we gathered this summer will be ever-present. And like every other cliché ending, I am inspired to say that this is not the end. It is simply the beginning to seeing the world with a fresh pair of eyes that -thanks to the Moxie Project- have been trained to re-examine what we think we know about the world and keep questioning the information we take as truth.

From Domestic Work to Domestic Slavery

As I was browsing through my newsfeed on Facebook yesterday afternoon, I came
across a video shared by the National Domestic Workers Alliance, my site placement for the summer. The video highlighted the powerful story of a domestic worker from the Philippines named Judith. In the video, Judith shares the abuse, hunger, and injustice she faced as a human trafficking victim working as a domestic worker for a diplomat in the United States. The experiences Judith shares to the public, as both a domestic worker and a survivor of human trafficking, are not uncommon. In fact, the video points out that, “Domestic workers face some of the highest human trafficking rates in the U.S.” Today, as part of the Damayan Migrant Workers Association, Judith now helps human trafficking victims escape their situations. But for each domestic worker who manages to escape, there are many more who are still exploited and silenced.

Because domestic work is undervalued and unregulated, domestic workers are more likely to be victims of human trafficking and eventually end up in a situation that resembles slavery rather than work. These conditions are as equally pervasive around the world as they are here in the United States. But this is the case in the U.S. because domestic workers have been historically excluded from the National Labor Relations Act, an act that is supposed to protect the rights of the employers and the employed. The NLRA was established in 1935, and when we consider the history of the NLRA, we learn that the 1935 Congress strategically left out agricultural and domestic workers- two labor sectors with predominantly African American workers.

Our United States government has historically disenfranchised individuals because of the color of their skin, and this is still being perpetuated to this day. We are left with the appendages of faulty legislation that was created on the foundations of racist beliefs; and while we can’t go back and erase history, we can look forward and work towards the inclusion of historically marginalized individuals by fixing this exact faulty legislation. It is by organizing and allowing voices such as Judith’s to be heard that we can start to raise consciousness and give light to issues that we may not automatically think are pervasive in the United States.

“Summer of Resistance”

This past Monday, we attended a screening of Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four, a documentary featured as part of a special season of QUEER|ART|FILM called “Summer of Resistance.” The film highlighted 4 Latinx women who were wrongfully convicted for supposedly molesting two little girls. While it was the little girls who testified against these women, it was not the fake testimonies alone that convinced the “justice system” that the 4 women were guilty, but rather, it was the fact that the women were queer that gave the judge even more reason to put them behind bars. The fact that gender expression and sexual preference held more standing than cold, hard evidence just goes to show how people’s racial and homophobic biases can ruin the lives of queer people of color.

By being alive and allowing themselves to love the people they wanted to love, these women were simply resisting. Resisting the gender norms imposed upon them by a stubborn patriarchal system. Resisting the consolidated notions of a typical family that lingered in their town of San Antonio. Resisting the mere idea that love is only restricted to heterosexual relationships. But unfortunately, their resistance was met with 15 years behind bars.

The theme of resistance has always been present in the LGBTQ community. From the Stonewall riots to the Pride Parades that take place across the United States, this resistance is what eventually fuels the radical change that marginalized communities seek and allows for identities to be fully expressed and eventually accepted. Some may even say that the sole act of existing is resistance itself.

The San Antonio Four are an example of how existing as a nonconforming individual can have repercussions, and it is unfortunate to see how our current justice system criminalizes sexuality, gender expression, and race. Right now, it can be difficult for me to begin to fathom a world where identities are no longer policed, but I am constantly reminded that there are individuals out there who are attempting to address systemic/institutionalized oppression that affects queer people of color. From organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign to F2L, little by little, they are addressing issues that affect LGBTQ individuals by joining in the resistance and advocating for their right to unapologetically exist.

The Freedom to Choose

This past Friday, I began my day anxiously anticipating the visit to Choices, a women’s health clinic that also offers abortion services in New York City. After reviewing the Choices website and reading up on the type of services the clinic offers, it made me happy to hear that someone out there was providing women the freedom to choose.

However, the excitement I felt about visiting Choices began to subside as I considered the words I had read two nights prior in Loretta Ross’s chapter “Color of Violence” from her book White Supremacy and Reproductive Justice. I began to consider how in the past, the freedom to choose was not always available to white women nor women of color. While white women were discouraged from having abortions, women of color were subjected to forced contraception and sterilization all in the name of white supremacy.

The awful history that hides behind the shadows of the plight for reproductive justice still lingers to this day. All women are caught in a constant battle against short sighted politicians who don’t seem to take their humanity into account.These politicians deprive them of reproductive education and then expect them to “know better” when they face an unexpected pregnancy. But not surprisingly, those who catch themselves at a double bind tend to be women of color and women in poverty. Because they can’t travel long distances to an abortion clinic or even afford an abortion in the first place, they are more likely to subject themselves to dangerous methods that put their lives at risk.

As we continue to fight the battle for reproductive justice, we must consider the negative effects the lack of choice produces. Being pro-choice does not mean murder, it does not mean carelessness, and it does not mean immorality. To me, being pro-choice means providing women reproductive education and allowing them to take ownership of their own bodies.


Claiming Feminism

Hello, everyone! My name is Norma De Jesus, and I am a rising senior at Duke University double majoring in Public Policy and Cultural Anthropology with a certificate in Latinx Studies in the Global South. I am pursuing these academic interests because of my desire to better understand the world around me and to explore further how our identities are expressed, policed, governed and ultimately, socially constructed. These are also reasons for why I decided to apply to DukeEngage NYC and participate in an 8-weeklong learning adventure where I will have the opportunity to further explore feminism and social justice while interning at the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

I was born and raised in Edinburg, TX a predominantly Latinx small town where I wasn’t introduced to feminism until my senior year of high school when my literature teacher mentioned how our society was patriarchal. At that time, I reduced feminism to a label that described our society and not so much as a label that I could claim as my own. Feminism to me was this very basic literary term which I registered as a lens through which we can view and understand our society. It wasn’t until I got to college and explored this term in its all-encompassing glory that I finally understood the importance of claiming it and applying it to our everyday lives.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk We Should All Be Feminists was the impetus that fueled my desire to better understand feminism. In her Ted Talk, Adichie offers a compelling rendition of the female gender and of the importance of feminism. She also offered one very specific description of the socialization of girls that resonated with my upbringing. She stated that in our society, “We teach girls shame… We make them feel as though by being born female they’re already guilty of something. And so, girls grow up to be women who cannot see they have desire. They grow up to be women who silence themselves.” This silence is then encouraged and praised, especially when society labels unspoken and unapologetic women as too loud, too ambitious, and just too much. Adichie was the very first woman who gave me the courage to claim the word feminism, and she was the one who fueled my desire to help dismantle prescribed norms that this patriarchal society imposes upon our bodies.

Additionally, as I began to delve deeper into feminist frameworks and explore the waves of feminism that helped shape our United States society, I later learned of intersectional feminism. Intersectional feminism acknowledges the overlapping identities that women possess. It helps individuals understand how race, class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation shape women’s experiences. As a Latina, I personally feel more inclined to claim intersectional feminism because it helps me adopt a wider view on social issues and it allows me to see how each specific identity is policed in our society.

Thankfully, I will have the opportunity to continue exploring intersectional feminism as I engage in social justice work during my 8 weeks in New York City. At National Domestic Workers Alliance, an organization that works to advocate for better working conditions and labor rights for domestic workers, the topics of race, class and gender are some of the many intersections that I hope to explore during my time there as an intern. I am excited to be able to learn more about NDWA’s role and impact in advocating alongside domestic workers.