New perspectives in Moxie

By Amazon (local student)

This book has entirely revolutionised the way I feel about feminism. Living in London, and going to a girls’ school, I held the view that it was outdated. I thought that gender inequality (at least in the Western world) had ended with the suffragette movement and couldn’t understand how feminism was relevant to the modern world.

This was possibly because in this school feminism is forced on us. We are expected to passionately agree with the entire ethos (“But you’re a girl! Do you want to be oppressed?”) without anyone telling us what it means first. I do appreciate issues related to sexism being approached but think that it should be done in a different way.

However, Jennifer Mathieu gives an entirely different perspective. By including characters like Meemaw and Grandpa, who are fundamentally “good” people, but not always entirely supportive of Vivian (or Lisa), it allows the reader to have their own opinions without being penalised for thinking something different.

Another thing which I enjoyed about the book was the sense of community that was created through shared belief in feminist ideals, both in East Rockport High and, more widely, in Riot Grrls. This is really important because people are motivated not only be the desire to make a positive change to the lives of others, but also by the need to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

The way that Mathieu subtly manages to incorporate race, class and sexuality into a book predominantly about gender is intelligent and sensitive, and demonstrates a deep understanding of what it is like to be part of a minority. It would be difficult to read this book without feeling understood on the most basic level.

Music is a significant topic, which I enjoyed, particularly as I understood many of the references. “Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill is what Vivian listens to right before doing anything audacious. It is such a powerful song, and including the direct title is a clever way of getting readers to find out more about Riot Grrls and potentially get involved.

As the plot develops and Moxie spreads, there is a shift in the mentality of the protagonist. She goes from being a “sweet, mostly normal girl” who is irritated by Mitchel Wilson and his crew but never stands up against them; to a fully-fledged feminist who fights for her rights and refuses to be stopped by anybody.

As much as anything else, I see this to be a bildungsroman (coming of age novel). The first person narrative flawlessly encapsulates what it is like to be a teenage girl struggling to find a way to rebel against the social boundaries that imprison her, while juggling work and friends and relationships and everything else.

But it is not only Vivian who changes. Claudia is a confusing and complex character who starts off believing that it is better to work hard, keep your mouth shut, and stay out of trouble, and ends up as a strong, confident person who knows what she believes in and is not afraid to speak out about it.

Overall, I am proud to say that this book has turned me into a feminist.