If you’re on the hunt for an uplifting feminist fiction story that makes you laugh, cry, brim with anger, and jump for joy all at once, then Moxie may be the book for you…
As a young woman, I’ve had my fair share of misogyny and objectification thrown at me. Be it at school, when I hardly noticed it was happening until I became old enough to understand it, or once I reached the age when men of all ages hollered at me in the streets, I’ve been there.
I’m not unique though. It’s scary to think that I can’t name one woman who hasn’t experienced something like this, be it a minor form of objectification, or a stomach-curdling story of horrific abuse. Whatever it may be, we women go through it every day.
Moxie, by Jennifer Mathieu, follows the tale of a group of young girls experiencing this in their own way, in a Southern American high school. But, what did I think of the story, was it a realistic portrayal of the female experience, and would I recommend the book? Find out, here…
Our story is filled with female characters of all different personalities. Each one represents a type of woman, and a type of feminist; women that we know and love in our everyday life. So, let’s introduce our main characters…
- Vivian: Vivian is our protagonist; a quiet teenage girl who is smart, does well at school, and doesn’t want to stand out much. She’s shy to most people, unless she’s with her friends, but has more bite than she lets on.
- Viv’s Mum: the typical suburban mum, with an inspirationally feminist past, as she was part of the underground feminist punk group, Riot Grrrl.
- Claudia: Vivian’s best friend, who is similar to Vivian in her shyness, but is hesitant when things start to change around her.
- Lucy: Lucy is the new girl, of Spanish descent, who becomes really good friends with Vivian. She’s a strong-minded and outspoken young girl, who was part of a feminist group in her previous school.
- Seth: Vivian’s dream boy, and later boyfriend, who stands by the feminist fight, unlike most of the boys in the school.
- Mitchell: one of the football boys, as well as the Principal’s son. He’s the stereotypical popular boy, who seems to be the ring leader of the boy’s club, and can get away with anything.
East Rockport High is a southern American high school in Texas; one of the most conservative states of them all. The conservative nature of the area means that the male-dominated school, led by many male teachers, and championed by the boy’s football team, leaves no room for female voices. So much so that there’s a culture of silence surrounding the way the boys treat the girls, and nothing is done about it.
When the most recent jibe from the boys in the school – shouting “make me a sandwich” at the girls – is aimed at new girl, Lucy, Viv has to do something about it. Inspired by her feminist mother’s youth, Viv creates a Moxie zine, which encourages the girls in the school to fight back.
As the year progresses, the boy’s actions start to get worse; now, they’ve started to band together to sexually assault the girls in school by touching them inappropriately when passing them in the hallway. As the boys’ actions get worse, Moxie starts to get fiercer, and more girls join in.
When allegations of rape and sexual assault start to form, it becomes clear that the school are brushing things under the carpet. Soon, a Moxie walkout is proposed, and it’s down to the girls to band together and do it, despite threats of expulsion.
Viv’s new world of boyfriends, new friends, and feminism, all whilst keeping her involvement in Moxie a secret, is a tricky balancing act. Can she keep it all spinning, and will her ideas to riot and fight back succeed?
What Are My Thoughts on Jennifer Mathieu’s Feminist Fiction?
I have to say that Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie was a fantastic read. Although it was for a younger audience, which meant it wasn’t as sophisticated as some of the books I’ve read recently, it made a nice change. In fact, although it was an easy read, that didn’t make it any less thought-provoking.
With such a real story, which depicted the female experience so well, I was gripped. I just couldn’t wait to hear what Viv did next, and was so excited to finally hear about the boys and men getting their comeuppance. It was a lesson to young boys to act differently to their predecessors, and to young girls to fight back.
Overall, I really, truly related to Moxie. Mathieu tackled some really prominent issues surrounding sexism and misogyny which really hit a nerve. I just wanted to name a few of these here, to let you in on the ways I related to this story…
The Female Experience: Teaching Young Girls to Stand Up for Themselves
When I was at school, I remember being told things like, “you’re forbidden to wear strappy tops and leggings so you don’t distract the male teachers” (no joke, this happened multiple times). However, my internalised misogyny at the time, which was all due to my youth and ignorance, took this in my stride.
Now, as a grown woman, I think back to that time and wonder why we weren’t outraged. It was disgusting that we were being objectified so young by our female head teacher, in 2015! It just goes to show that our attitude towards victim blaming women and young girls is far from over.
Moxie is aimed at teenagers from the age of 14 upwards, and I love this. Having grown up with this internalised misogyny, I look back and think, “what if we’d spoken up?”, and I think it would have taken a book like this to make us think twice.
In my opinion, more young women need to read this. It’s unfortunately down to us to make noise, and this story may just inspire some girls to do just that. Moxie girls fight back, after all.
Genuine Emotions for the Real-Life Female Experience
Moxie was a really thought-provoking and emotive story to read, especially as a 23-year-old woman who feels so passionately about women’s rights. The older I get, the more I realise how our society is still so dominated by male stories and misogynistic values. So, reading a story about young women fighting back really moved me.
The way Jennifer speaks so candidly about how the girls are treated was so emotive for me. Having gone through some similar stuff myself as a teenager, and continuing to experience it as a young woman, I was angry about Viv’s treatment. It was crazy to feel such strong emotions during the read, but it just makes it so much more apparent that we have a long way to go.
It’s funny because I can just hear the disbelievers on Twitter saying, “this is all made up. You’ve made up this story for clout.” Honestly, sometimes the abuse and harassment from some men that I read about on Twitter is shocking. But I know what it’s like, and it enrages me to know that women go through this sort of thing every day of their life still.
Mathieu really hits the nail on the head with her story, especially regarding the silencing of victims, even by women who are influenced by the patriarchy. Well done to her for demonstrating the female experience in full force, and writing about it in a way that brought real emotions to the surface.
A Look Into Feminist Men
I think what was really realistic about Seth’s character was that he didn’t quite understand how important or pervasive this problem was. Yes, he got involved in the Moxie protests, but he still had his reservations about the importance of it.
Seth embodies many of the men we know and love in our lives; the men who stand by us in our feminist plight, but who don’t quite believe everything we say. These are the men who try their very best to be on our side, but can’t quite grasp the pervasiveness of the problem.
I see this time and again, where the men I know are surprised when I explain the sort of misogyny we woman experience daily, and it’s not their fault that they don’t know about it. Why would they, if they’re not contributing to it, and don’t see it firsthand?
Seeing Seth struggle to come to terms with Vivian’s desperation to be heard, and do something about this constant issue was really real. Slowly, but surely, the willing men in our lives will start to realise that there’s still a long way to go before we are truly equal, just like Seth. Mathieu depicts this really well in her story, showing that we still have a long way to go before even the feminist men out there completely understand the gravity of the situation.
Calling Yourself a “Feminist”
Mathieu did also touch on the hesitation many young women, and older women, may feel towards called themselves a feminist. It’s often brandished as a “strong word”, but people need to remember that being a feminist isn’t a bad thing; it’s something we should all strive to be.
This is highlighted in Claudia’s hesitation to get involved, which is something that definitely happens, and I would say this used to be me too. If you haven’t experienced misogyny yourself, or maybe you have but didn’t understand it, then how can you fight for something when you don’t know it exists? Once we all shake off our internalised misogyny, and work together to stamp it out, only then can we band together properly.
The Downfalls of Feminism
One interesting point, which Mathieu tackled well, was the white gaze of feminism. A number of the black girls in the story felt they may have been excluded from Moxie due to the predominantly white nature of it, and this really shone a light on how things need to change. With the BLM movement so strong right now, it seems like the perfect time to mention this; we can’t forget about the black women in our lives, who are often forgotten in the fight for female rights.
What’s more, although I was almost moved to tears when the Moxie riots succeed, this was perhaps a little unrealistic. Not only was the school eventually called out on their behaviour, but many of the girls joined together, across their school cliques, to fight the misogyny. Would this have really happened?
Although I’d like to think it would have done, it’s hard to imagine, due to the internalised misogyny many of us still harbour. I suppose this story teaches us that we women need to stick together if we are to fight the patriarchy. Black women, white women, Asian women… whatever you may be, we must fight back.
Should You Read Moxie?
As you can probably tell, I loved this book. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did, but I found myself joining Viv on her emotional rollercoaster, getting angry at the parts she was angry over, and almost being moved to tears during some parts.
If you’re a woman of any age, who is growing to realise that our fight for equality is far from over, this book is the book for you.
Have you read Moxie, and agree with my thoughts too, or perhaps you’re inspired to read this story now you’ve heard my glowing review? Or, maybe you have some tales about your treatment at school which you want to share down below? This is a safe space, and one where our voices can be heard, so I hope you get involved in the discussion.
Just remember… MOXIE GIRLS FIGHT BACK!