Texas Feminism Part One – Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Strangely enough, in the space of a week, (the same week as I read about twentieth century feminists), I read two books set in small-town Texas which tackled issues of feminism and teenage girls. Both were picked up as proof copies at YALC and both were thoroughly enjoyable. Very different, taking very different approaches to feminism as it affects teenage girls, I highly recommend both of them.

Moxie – Jennifer Mathieu

35383830It’s time to fight like a girl!

Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her high school teachers who think the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mum was a tough-as-nails, punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, and now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates Moxie, a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond and spread the Moxie message. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realises that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

TIME TO FIGHT LIKE A GIRL

A page-turning read with a feminist message, for anyone who has ever had to deal with #everydaysexism

It’s lovely to read several books in quick succession which are funny, frank, and feminist. Moxie and TEOOO are both really excellent, and I thoroughly recommend them both.

Moxie tells the story of Vivian as she discovers feminism, forges friendships, and starts a revolution in her high school – rebelling against sexist dress-code checks, obsession with the football team, and glibly brushing off accusations of improper conduct against football players. There was a lot to unpack in this book, with obviously more than just feminism being an issue here – the small-town obsession with football, classism, homophobia, and racism also rear their heads. This book is largely single-issue, with Viv discovering firstly the power and heady discovery of feminism as a way to fight back against the patriarchal society she lives in. But it does give nice nods to intersectional feminism in several ways, by criticising the Riot Grrl movement that Viv’s mother was part of, by pointing out the racism inherent in the brackets competition in the latter half of the book, and even by casual references to the tendency of the faculty to blame the latina girls for insurrection, rather than white Viv, who is the architect the Moxie zine. There was also a lovely depiction of the insidiousness of the Not All Men reaction in the form of Seth, new boy and love interest for Viv, who falls into the trap of many well-meaning men (and indeed privileged people in all sectors of life), of minimising lived experience. There was a lot which was really praiseworthy in this book, all surrounded by a believable, empathetic story of a girl who’s far from perfect finding a way to kick back against a society which is just as imperfect as she is.

If I had some criticisms of this book it would be: that Viv is bizarrely naive for a high school junior – she grew up in a small town, without much to do, so I’m surprised that she’s only discovering things like boys and feminism at this point. I also sometimes struggle to relate to the American High School experience. Having gone to schools with uniform requirements, the idea of being pulled up for showing your shoulders is completely alien to me, as is the football obsession, and the gloryifying of jocks and jock culture in general. That sort of culture just wasn’t in any of the schools I went to. But having read a large number of books and seen a lot of television shows and films depicting the American High School, and seeing ridiculous stats like the fact that in 2016, 39 states’ highest-paid public employee was a sports coach.

Lastly, for me, since I’m already a feminist, and have been since I discovered what the word meant, I feel like some of the impact was lost. I spent the first part of the book waiting for Viv to catch up with me and realise that of COURSE she should be a feminist, and that feminism isn’t a dirty word.

This book was a wonderful primer to discovering feminism, and the joys which appear when you realise that it’s subversive to advocate for the social, political, and economic equality of men and women.

Also the dedication in the front of the book, which was printed on the back of the proof copy, is wonderful.

Four Stars
****

Moxie publishes in September 2017, and is one of the Zoella book club picks.

Tune in to my next post for my review of The Exact Opposite of Okay, and some thoughts on the two books together!

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Texas Feminism Part One – Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

  1. Pingback: August Roundup | Much Ado About Books

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