Growing up in a severely patriarchal society, the word “feminism” was foreign to the people in my country, the concept alien to my culture, the idea elusive to me. When it finally infiltrated daily conversations, it was primarily used to insult women who dared to stand up for themselves and openly criticize men for their actions. Girls in my school and I were trying to avoid being called feminists because you don’t want to be associated with females who don’t shave their armpits, right? Unfortunately, this was the only image that people had of feminists at that time within the society I was a part of.
The thought that constantly was nagging me was how the women labeled “feminists” didn’t actually do anything bad to be insulted. They were simply protecting themselves and voicing their opinions – something that every person should be able to do. I saw the dissonance between public opinion and my own, so I started researching… Well, this was what I intended to do, but research? C’mon, even the word itself makes you pull out your hair (yes, we, social science students, are full of inconsistencies).
So, I indulged myself in another form of education – learning through entertainment. Until this very moment, I have watched numerous films and TV shows, have listened to countless songs describing female struggles, their relationships with men, and each other. Given that the issue of gender inequality is an extending and multifaceted one, I am still learning, and in this process of learning, I found the recent Netflix movie Moxie a really insightful picture into the “feminist awakening.”
The movie is centered around the life of the Rockport High student – Vivian – a teenager who deals with adult problems. After befriending a new student, Lucy, and being one of the countless victims of “The List” – a horrendous list created by a group of popular male students where the girls are ranked and given titles like “Most Bangable” and “Best Ass” – Vivian rethinks her previous position of a low-key, silent student and starts Moxie, a movement that preaches female power and equality. However, the movie is not merely about a girl becoming a feminist and empowering other women in her school; it is also about how the changes in our worldview affect those close to us and our relationships with them.
Vivian (Hadley Robinson) is the lead character of Moxie, yes, but this is not why I decided to dedicate a section of the article solely to her. There is one particular scene where the audience gets to see what drives Vivian and her seemingly impulsive actions, like starting a movement, rebelling against her mother, and giving up on her childhood friend. After a disappointing accident at school, during family dinner with her mother, her mother’s new partner, and Vivian’s newfound boyfriend, our main character breaks down, and we finally understand the reasons behind her decisions. Vivian reveals the pain caused by her father who abandoned them a long time ago. Suddenly, it becomes clear that Vivian’s passion is really bottled-up sorrow.
However, the biggest revelation is this: we need to learn to accept and acknowledge hurtful experiences that shaped us into the people we are today in order to stop them from affecting our lives.
What is great about movies is that they don’t provide us with enough details to understand the exact reasons behind the characters’ actions, like the elaborate writing of books, but still give us enough to interpret these details on our own. What I learned from Vivian’s character is that people’s views and their roots can sometimes be unrelated. Vivian channeled her powerful feelings from the trauma and abandonment issues caused by her father into helping herself and other women to stand up for themselves. However, the biggest revelation is this: we need to learn to accept and acknowledge hurtful experiences that shaped us into the people we are today in order to stop them from affecting our lives.
The character of Seth, brought to life by Nico Hiraga, is one of Vivian’s oldest acquaintances and later her love interest. Seth is a compassionate, respectful, kind, intelligent, and supportive person and exactly the kind of guy every girl would be lucky to have in her life. Throughout the course of the movie, we see how the relationship between Vivian and Seth develops: he is attracted to our main character and supports the feminist movement before and after he finds out that it is led by Vivian. Seth offers his help to the Moxie girls when nobody seems to care or notice, which draws the audience to him, and yet…
Why was it important for the story that the main character has a love interest? Why was it important that a love interest is a man? Observing the chivalrous persona of Seth and his honorable actions in the context of Moxie, the movie about female voice and female power, I can’t help but notice the irony that in order to be heard and understood, male support and advocacy is still imperative to the cause. And I am not trying to disrespect men, but with this thought, I can’t help but lose a bit of hope.
The story within the plot of Moxie that resonated with me the most is that of Claudia’s (Lauren Tsai). Claudia is Vivian’s best friend, who is of Asian heritage. After Vivian opens her eyes to gender inequality and female oppression and takes an active role in tackling those issues in her community, Claudia and Vivian start slowly drifting apart due to differences of interests.
And I think this is one of the most important lessons that all people need to learn: just because some don’t fight the way we want them to does not mean they don’t fight with everything they have.
At first glance, Claudia’s character seems irrelevant to the story and purpose of the movie, but this is only the case until we learn her perspective. During a heartfelt conversation between Claudia and Vivian, we learn that Claudia’s mother was an immigrant. As we later understand, this is the very reason behind Claudia’s silence on the matter: she cannot afford to jeopardize her future by rebelling alongside her best friend because her mother had to sacrifice a lot to be able to provide her with a stable and safe life. And I think this is one of the most important lessons that all people need to learn: just because some don’t fight the way we want them to does not mean they don’t fight with everything they have.
This piece was initially dedicated to feminism and women empowerment but ended up going a little deeper than that, diving into the very reasons behind human actions and how some life challenges are harder to overcome for some people. But if anything, this deviation shows how multifaceted feminism is and that it has various roots and unravels many more personal and societal issues.
Edited by: Quynh (Stephanie) Bui