From director (and comedy legend) Amy Poehler comes one of the most realistic feminist films I’ve ever seen. Moxie is a call out and fight-back against every form of misogyny that exists in modern-day society. The movie elevates intersectional feminism that highlights the fight from women of all ethnicities, races, sexual orientations, gender identities, and backgrounds. The movie challenges our silence and dares us to question our role and complacency within the patriarchy. It does all of this in a captivating way, using comedy to deliver its important message.
The film naturally shows examples of everyday, real-life machismo. The reaffirmation of traditional gender roles, casual sexual harassment, the oversexualization of the female body, men and boys’ belief of superiority, women's internalized misogyny, valuing convenience over saftey, the mansplainer, the “male savior”... the list goes on and on. These small instances occur all throughout the movie and are so realistic that it becomes somewhat triggering to watch. It made me incredibly uncomfortable, causing me to pause the movie or look away. I can bet any girl, woman, or female-presenting person has experienced at least one of the many examples Moxie presents. By including scenes like this, however bad they can seem to be, the film emphasizes their existence and long-term effect on women, whether the perpetrators are conscious of it or not.
In the presence of some of these occurrences, the main character, Vivian, is… silent. She insists on keeping her head down as the only way to not be a target and encourages others to do the same. As if the only way to live peacefully (without disrespect from men) is by dumbing herself down, shutting up, never causing “trouble” and being complacent. Her internalized misogyny guides her to ignore as other women are harassed, not recognizing when mistreatment is based on her gender and accepting silence as the only answer. She even partakes in supporting a disgusting list created by boys, slutshaming and body shaming all the girls at her school.
By doing this, she is not only allowing, but perpetuating this toxic behavior and spaces to exist. Spaces that overtly become the nesting ground of harassers, misogynists and killers. She does this ignorantly, because that's the way it always has been—that's just the way the world is. The reality is that Vivian is so much like most of us. Knowingly dismissing these small yet impactful conducts, unaware of the persistent problems within our patriarchal society that harm women because it was constructed by and for white cis straight men.
In the midst of all this, there is an epiphany, one I believe every girl and woman has eventually; a feminist awakening, to give it a name. Vivian starts to ask herself: why? Why do lists like this exist? Who let this happen? Why don't we do anything about it? Why do women have to be the ones to shut up and not make a big deal out of a “joke”? Why is something that is clearly messed up so normalized? Why? Why? WHY!?
Once the questions start, they do not stop
On our search for answers, we realize we've been taught to be complacent from the very beginning. We've been taught to laugh when our worth is put into question, and when we are disrespected, we've been told to close our legs and cover our stomachs because boys just can't help themselves; we've been taught to rely on the “all-knowing” man… We don't realize fighting back is even an option. And that's the thing that makes us most angry. That's what pushes Vivian to make her homemade protest magazine: pure rage. Because once you open your eyes to injustice, it's impossible to close them back.
After the release of adrenaline, Vivian goes to the girls' school bathroom, takes out all the pamphlets and—hesitates. In truth, there is something so terrifying, as a woman, about stating your opinion. You're always going to be told, by some mansplainer or another, that you're wrong. Without taking into account your feelings, experiences, education, knowledge, or worth. The scariest thing about speaking up is the possibility of not being heard, not being understood, being gaslit, and being up there alone.
So Vivian contemplates shutting up, but by fate, her work is shoved into the world and insanely loved by all the girls at the school. This is one of the most powerful things about Vivian’s awakening and the type of woman she is. She says so herself: she is not a leader, she is not the one to scream and fight back. Yet there she is doing it anyway. She comes to understand this is all so much bigger than her. Even if it scares the crap out of her, she recognizes how important it is to fight back in the ways she can. She also learns she has some privilege and uses it to help her other fellow marginalized feminists to fight without crossing her boundaries.
When we do nothing, we become part of the problem. This is not a women's issue, it is a social issue. Machismo affects all of us and every single part of our society in a negative way. Since we are raised and taught only from the male perspective though, women fighting back makes men feel threatened. The boys in the film, as well as their school system, immediately defend themselves without recognizing the harm they've done. Their behavior however, is inexcusable. Moreover, throughout this toxic masculinity, the film shows us a respectful and realistic male ally. Someone who does not step over their boundaries, recognizes his privilege, and is simply not a bad person. I know, crazy right? In addition to this, he is Vivian’s love interest (and the romance is absolutely adorable okay!).
The reality is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. These small issues stem from much, much bigger problems that we must fight to dismantle. Nonetheless, Moxie is the perfect medium to inspire and educate others towards a better society. In a world full of chick-flicks that depict feminism as simply being badasses in heels, Moxie is a breath of fresh air that shows how feminism is so much more than this. Feminism is about living freely and fully being yourself in every sense of the word without being judged, questioned or harassed—finding empowerment in that is a nice side effect. Films like these can empower young girls and help them recognize their worth a lot quicker than how we used to. If I had seen this movie when I was 14, my vengeance against the patriarchy would have started a lot sooner. This film portrays everything I spent years denying and then trying to understand in just a 1-hour-and-51-minute run time.
No fight is less impactful or goes unnoticed. Small acts of revolution have big ripple effects. There is power in being a Rebel Girl. Feminism can commence with simply standing up for yourself, saying no to the misogyny, and having solidarity with our sisters. Moxie dares us to question everything and stand up for what we know is right, to fight for our ancestors who didn't have the privilege to. There is comfort in the revolution, that hope somehow still exists, that we are not alone and that we matter.