Moxie (2021) : A Feminist Education
Moxie follows Viv, a shy teenager, who starts a feminist fan zine 'MOXiE!' to fight against sexism and sexual harassment at school. The fanzine turns the high school upside down and starts a feminist revolution among the students.
Amy Poehler's directorial debut is a film I wish I had at 16. Sexism is systemic so you can know something is wrong but, when you are a teenager and everybody tells you you are overreacting, how are you supposed to know how to stand your ground ? And how to do it ? Where to get the support ?
Viv's mum, Lisa - brilliantly played by Amy Poehler- is a feminist who, in her own words, has protested against everything when she was young. When Viv asks her what 16-year-olds are interested in, Lisa answers "all I cared about was smashing the patriarchy and burning it all down". Viv has the support of her mum and the chance to talk it out which is key to Viv's evolution.
At the beginning, Lisa and Viv are packing up their groceries at the checkout. A male employee tries to mansplain them how to pack their groceries and force his help on them when Lisa has refused it. Without losing a beat, she says "I can pack my own suitcase. I can pack my own grocery bag". We understand it's not the first time this employee has tried to do that.
Viv is quite embarrassed by her mum's feminist stance in public. It's the same at school. She is so used to sexism that she has accepted it although it bothers her. She doesn't want to rock the boat but Lucy, a new student, arrives and stands up to it. She calls out Mitchell on his harassment, reports him to the principal and is told that this is not a big deal.
I discovered that in the book, the principal is a man while in the film the principal is a woman. I think it is good to show that women can be sexist too. Some generations of women have integrated it so much that they don't want to question themselves and challenge their perceptions. Being a woman doesn't prevent you from being sexist. It is important that Moxie shows it.
Viv needs the outspoken Lucy to get to grips with her own feminist ideas. Seeing Lucy speak out makes her want to do the same. Lucy reports the list made by the boys ranking the girls. When her friend Emma is sent home because her clothes might distract boys tips her over the edge.
She dives into her mum's feminist archives and makes Moxie, a fanzine denouncing all the sexist behaviours at her school and encouraging girls to take action. She starts small with stars and hearts on hands and builds up from there with protesting the dress code by wearing the tank top that got Emma sent home to organising a walk-out. The status quo of the school is challenged which of course leads some of the male student's to react. They reject girls' claims because they are obviously afraid the privilege they have benefited from up until then might be taken away from them. It has been going on for so long they are unable to see the problem and more importantly that they are part of the problem.
Moxie shows that being afraid of change doesn't mean the people driving it are wrong and that society should stay the same but on the contrary that society was wrong all along. It is the male student's job to challenge themselves and understand why they feel threatened. It is not the girls' job to protect their egos or take as little space as possible. It is perfectly illustrated by the nomination of Kiera for the student ambassador scholarship. Mitchell is so used to running unopposed that he can't see he has benefited of unfair privilege.
The girls realise that if they unit, no one can stop them. In Moxie's supporters, you can also seem some guys which is a really nice touch. It shows some men are allies and encourages men to be more like that. Equality is not a fight that will be won without them. It is about women and men working together. It also shows teenagers that feminism is not against men which is still a claim many misogynists try to make. In many ways, Moxie is the feminist coming of age film all teenagers need. It is diverse in its cast, Claudia, Viv's best friend, is Asian and Lucy is black. The main love interest Seth is Asian and a feminist. You can see in the high school crowd all the parts of society represented. Not all of them are in the spotlight but they are there and their existence is acknowledged.
Their problems are talked about too. Claudia tells Viv that she can not always do what Viv does because she is Asian. She calls Viv out on her white privilege and her lack of consideration for problems Claudia might have had.
It is well deserved since Viv had judged Claudia for not taking as much action as other girls and failed to take into account the pressure that is on Claudia coming from a family of immigrants. It is incredibly powerful because we all need to be intersectional and consider other forms of oppression other people might be victim of.
The film is an incredible empowerment tool. As Viv builds up her confidence to own her activism, any teenager can look up to her and learn they have the right to stand up for what is right even if it means disrupting the status quo. More than ever, we need to disrupt the status quo. If not us, who ? Watch Moxie, it will give you the courage and inspiration you need ! I am incredibly excited to see what Amy Poehler does next. Her feminist engagement has always been inspiring and seeing these kind of films made now shows how the world is changing. Teenagers are encouraged to be part of change instead of finding ways to live with unfair treatment.