Finding our “Moxie” – why every girl needs to make her voice heard

After a week that seemed too long and never ending post the new restrictions imposed after the surge in covid cases, I was looking forward to Friday. Thursday night in particular as it would be my last night of Netflix binge watching for quite some time now. My 6 year old had her last of this term on Friday and we are now staring at 2 month long vacations. This means no going to bed at 9 pm and staying awake till Mumma ends her day, which is super exciting for my girl but not for me. As I miss that unwind and me time towards end of the day that I would usually indulge in when she had her school days. I wanted to make my Thursday night memorable and watched this movie on Netflix called “Moxie” recommended by a blogger on Facebook.

To say I loved it would be an understatement, I find it hard to describe how much I related to it and I so wished such a movie would have been made back when I was in college.

The move is about a introvert teenager who has just started a new year at college- a lot of rules, so called harmless teasing , lecturers being indifferent when confronted with issues -she shrugs all this off but it bothers her somewhere at back of her mind. And the fact that its almost always the women students at the receiving end.

A girl student was sent home by the Principal for wearing a tank top, this girl is of relatively heavier built compared to another lanky one sitting beside her wearing the very same outfit and to whom the Principal doesn’t as much glance at. The boys in the class guffawing as this girl is asked to “cover up” by the Principal are the very same guys who often show up shirtless at sporting events held by the school. Our protagonist is seething in rage and she discusses this with her mother over dinner , she learns that her mother used to be a rebel back in her school days. Her mom (played by the dynamic and funny Amy Poehler who also directed this movie) and her gang of friends protested many things which seemed unfair back then. This gets the young girl charged up, she believes she can make a difference by calling out things thats are unfair, biased, and work to detriment of women students. She starts a zine (short form for magazine) with art work and strong messages calling out sexism , keeping it anonymous though and prints several copies. The movie then goes on to show how women reclaim their spaces, call out biases and the Principal is forced to take action against an unruly student.

This movie took me down memory lane, the world was a different place back then when I was studying back in 2000-2005. It reminded me of the time I was in 9th grade at school. I studied in a small, unknown sort of a school. The way the house captains were chosen back then was very random and thinking of it, the unfairness makes me cringe at times. A teacher walked into the classroom in the midst of a lecture and read out 2 names per house (we had Red, Blue, Green, Yellow houses). She asked the students who wanted to vote for Candidate A to raise their hands and then took a count and then it was for Candidate B, the one who had more votes would be house captain. I was pitted against a boy who I was surprised was even a candidate in the race. Academically I was way ahead, among the Top 3 in class. I was active in drama, debates and dance, Sports was one area where I wasn’t interested and had barely done anything. I was also school monitor for a few years. My competitor was perhaps only visible in sports as far as I can remember. The way the students voted was – all girls supported me and each and every guy voted for the boy candidate. No surprise that with more number of guys, he won. I remember that day and the unfairness of it all which made really upset. This was something I was so looking forward to win. Should there have been a more deserving candidate I would have gladly accepted my defeat and walked away. I do know my shortcomings- but the fact that gender was a reason to support a candidate was absurd. We were not asked to make a speech about why we think we would be the best house captain – in hindsight I doubt that speech would have made the voters think differently- maybe it would? I will never know.

Back to college in 2003, I was in my First year B com and had joined a new college in Mangalore. A convent college which was regarded as one of the Top in academics. A few weeks into our new term, all the girls from 1st, 2nd and 3rd year B com were summoned for a meeting after school with the Dean and lecturers. It was a rather awkward conversation, I still remember the looks of discomfort on faces of the Dean and the more senior and older male lecturers as they had come to discuss the dress code for women. No sleeveless or mega sleeves, T shirts should be long – some of these restrictions seemed bizarre. While I do understand support dressing up per the occasion and place, these restrictions seemed like we were not in college in a city but some village. I do not as much rememberer the reaction of all the girls around and this is why I think now as I look back – wish we had a Moxie kind of movie, feminist posts, discussions back then.

The point is – it did feel odd, something not being right and uncomfortable – there was this sense of “its not ok” but most of us just shrugged our shoulders and moved on. Never did we even discuss this in our washroom conversations. Times have changed, watching movies like Moxie and reading articles, talking in groups about issues, rules, that are biased or unfair helps clear our blurred vision and we realise its not just us but many others who have gone through similar situations and struggles and its time we call it out.

The outcome is something we can never be sure of but I am certain that ignoring it and moving on is not they way forward. I would like to watch this movie with my daughter when she is older. I hope each and every girl out there finds her Moxie and the ways of rebelling may be different, but calling out things that are not fair, is what we all must do. The world is a much better place and while we have a long way to go in becoming a more equal society, we have made progress and thats cos there was a Moxie out there. Be that Moxie for our sisters and daughters, will you?

Image courtesy- Amazon and NewIndian express.

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