Check out our episode here! Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
Vivian is in her high school English class and gets called on to answer a question. Vivian hates speaking up in class, so after an incredibly long and awkward silence, the new girl, Lucy, answers, but she's cut off by Mitchell who coughs for her to make him a sandwich. The rest of his football bros of course think this is hilarious and the teacher assigns everyone more homework as punishment for disrupting the class. When Lucy complains that it's unfair that everyone gets punished when only the jerk bro disrupted the class, she of course gets even more homework because, as we have learned in every single high school, football players can do no wrong. After class, Vivian meets up with her best friend Claudia and tells her about what happened with Lucy in class. She's not surprised that Mitchell is using the same old joke and still not getting in trouble for anything. At lunch at the table with the rest of the nice girls, Vivian sees Lucy sitting by herself but doesn't invite her to join her and her friends. Maybe she isn't a nice girl after all.
After school, Vivian goes home and does laundry. As she's putting her mom's clothes in her closet, she pulls down a box from her mom's young adult years. It's called her Misspent Youth box and it's full of grungy photos of punk girls with facial piercings and crazy hair and zines with drawings of Wonder Woman. It's an amazing box and Vivian loves looking through it. She has dinner with her grandparents afterward and tells them about the jerk at school and his stupid sandwich comment. They wistfully remember what their daughter, Vivian's mom, would have done in her shoes. Picketing! Signs! Protests! Good thing you're so dutiful they say to Vivian. You'd never do anything like that! How could her mom, a nurse who comes home from work later wearing pastel purple scrubs, have been that kind of rebellious punk rock girl who loved listening to Joan Jett so much that now she has a cat with the same name?
School is school for the next few days, but then it's Friday. Game day. Everybody in Vivian's small Texas town goes to every football game. Even her and her friends! At the pep rally, Vivian notices a new guy a few rows behind where she and Claudia sit. He is definitely not from this town. He's got dark hair that's longer in the front than in the back. He's wearing black skinny jeans. Vivian thinks he looks like Ralph Macchio as Johnny Cade in The Outsiders. Claudia says his name is Seth and his parents are artists from Austin and they just moved here. Vivian's eyes are taken away from the new guy when the principal, Mitchell's dad, comes out and starts riling up the crowd. Then the senior football captain takes off his jersey to reveal a shirt that reads "Nice legs, what time do they open?" and starts gyrating and pelvic thrusting around. Right in front of Lucy. Yikes. After that, Vivian decides she doesn't feel well and doesn't want to go to the game anymore. She spends the rest of the day in the nurse's office.
That night, instead of going to the game, Vivian eats a pizza in bed and watches punk band documentaries with Joan Jett (the cat, not the person). Then, she gets an idea. Well, the idea had been there for a little while, but now it actually starts happening. She looks through her mom's Misspent Youth box again and then grabs some paper and sharpies and gets to work. After she's finished, she goes to the copy place in town and makes enough copies to put in all the girls' bathrooms at school. She has just created Moxie, her first zine. In it, she implores the girls who are tired of being told to make sandwiches and girls who are tired of the football team getting away with everything to draw hearts and stars on their hands and meet up with each other at the end of the week. She gets to school early Monday morning to distribute her copies and then goes to class. Claudia has one in their first class and she, Viv and another friend talk about it. In English, new boy Seth joins the class. While daydreaming about him, Vivian realizes Lucy has a copy of Moxie on her desk. Mitchell takes it and reads it aloud while the teacher does absolutely nothing. Mitchell and the football bros ``apologize" for winning football games since it apparently makes girls sad. Ugh. After class, Viv offers another copy to Lucy and they have a short conversation. Nothing meaningful, but it's a start.
Thursday night, Viv goes grocery shopping with her mom who is greeted in the parking lot by a guy that she works with. It's a flirty sort of conversation and Viv doesn't really know what to think about it, especially when she sees a Republican bumper sticker on the guy's car. Vivian's dad died when she was only eight months old and her mom hasn't really dated much since then. Surely she's not going to start with the Republican guy! Vivian goes to school the next day with her hearts and stars drawn on her hands. Claudia and her other friends do not have any, so she gets embarrassed. They talk about how those markings aren't really going to do anyone any good, so she goes to wash them off. In the bathroom, she sees a girl she was friends with in elementary school, Kiera. Kiera has a beautiful galaxy drawn on her hands. They talk about Moxie a little and Kiera hopes that the next one has something bigger in it than drawing on your hands. Vivian decides not to wash off her hearts and stars. In English class, Lucy has hearts and stars and swirls all over her hands. Seth has them on his hands, too. At the pep rally, Viv and Claudia talk about Seth and then Lucy asks to join them. They sit together and make plans to go to the football game together that night. Vivian's mom decided to go to the game with Republican John and Viv is kind of a bitch about it at first, but then wishes her mom well. At the game, Lucy fits in seamlessly with the other girls. That night Claudia spends the night with Viv and they talk about Lucy. Viv thinks it's cool that Lucy refers to herself as a feminist, but Claudia just wants equality. That doesn't sit right with Viv and she thinks about it as she drifts off to sleep.
A little bit of time passes. Vivian's mom and Republican John spend more time together, and he even comes over to be properly introduced to her. It's still weird for Viv for her mom to be dating a Republican, but it goes well enough. Before school one day, Seth talks to Viv. He asks her about their English assignment, but it's totally just an excuse to talk to her. She sees a Runaways sticker on one of his notebooks. That's Joan Jett's band, the one she and her mom like so much! She mentions it and he's like, "Yeah, my mom likes them. She used to play that band for me when I was little." Instead of continuing this conversation like a normal human, Viv says something along the lines of "Oh cool, see you later!" and awkwardly leaves. That same day, one of the football bros is wearing a shirt with an arrow pointing toward his junk that says FREE BREATHALYZER TESTS, BLOW HERE. Gross. Then during classes, the assistant principals come into the classrooms and start issuing dress code violations, but only to the girls, in front of their entire classes, and not for good reasons. Your straps are too thin. Your jeans are too tight. Your neckline is too low. Then they are marched out to the office and made to wear giant old gym shirts to cover themselves. One of the girls in Vivian's friend group got in trouble. There was nothing wrong with her clothes, really, except that she's got bigger boobs than most other girls in school. She was told that her clothing could cause a distraction for the boys. Lucy is enraged at this. She says in her old school, the club she was in, GRIT (Girls Respecting and Inspiring Themselves), would not have stood for this kind of treatment. Claudia rudely tells her she's not at her old school anymore and the conversation drops.
The dress code checks keep going throughout the week, and in the morning announcements, the principal talks about how modesty is a virtue that never goes out of style and that girls should be mindful when they get dressed in the morning to dress as a student, not a distraction. All the girls roll their eyes at this, including us. Shortly thereafter, another girl is removed from class. Vivian is starting to get those Moxie feelings again. Lucy invites her over that night, but she can't go because she's having dinner with memaw and grandpa, but maybe another time. Before leaving for dinner, Vivian's mom lets her know she'll be going out with Republican John afterward. Vivian is sour about this but she doesn't really know why. At least she knows she's being a jerk about it. At dinner, when asked about her day, Vivian talks about the dress code violations which makes her mom get upset in the Moxie way too. That night, Vivian gets out her supplies and makes another issue. This one invites girls tired of being shamed and judged to wear their bathrobes to school one day the next week. Why? To play it safe so as not to distract the poor male students.
When secretly distributing Moxie early the next day, Vivian runs into Seth in the hallway and drops her zines. He helps her pick them up and realizes what they are and that she's responsible for them, which he thinks is pretty badass. They carry on a non-awkward conversation this time and go their separate ways. After school, she texts with Lucy who also thinks Moxie is cool and who is definitely going to wear her bathrobe next week, especially since girls keep getting called out for dress code violations all that week. The night before Bathrobe Day, Viv texts with her friends who are a 50/50 split on whether they'll do it or not. Viv suggests bringing a bathrobe in case they get to school and see more people doing it. Claudia texts her outside of their group chat and seems to really think this is a bad idea. When Vivian says Lucy is doing it, Claudia gets defensive. Of course Lucy is doing it. She likes being in the middle of things like this. Claudia also thinks that this is going to draw even more attention to the girls and that they'll be even more distracting, but Vivian says that's exactly the point. There will hopefully be so many doing it that they won't get in trouble. We'll see!
Ha! It works! Not a single girl gets called out of class for dress code violations! One girl is told to remove her bathrobe, but under it, she's wearing a red bikini top, so the teacher changes her mind. By lunch, more girls have added bathrobes, like they brought them from home and put them on later when they saw they wouldn't be the only ones. In English class, they break into groups and discuss The Lottery by Shirley Jackson and Vivian is put in a group with Seth. She wants him to know she's smart, so she actually speaks up for once. After school, she walks home with Claudia, who is disgruntled about the bathrobe stunt, but admits that no one got in trouble in her class, so maybe it was a good idea after all. The girls don't chat too much after that, but when Claudia is inside her house, Viv gets a text from Lucy. They're both so excited and proclaim that "Moxie girls kick ass and take names!" Days pass and no one gets in trouble for dress code violations. It seems the bathrobes actually worked!
One Friday, Seth waits near Viv's locker and asks her to hang out. She was of course going to the football game, but only because that's literally the only thing to do on a Friday night. He picks her up, meets her mom, and then they drive around, talk a lot, and eat fast food. They have a nice time and Viv thinks she's going to get her first kiss when Seth drops her off, but no. She's sad about that, but what are you going to do? Oh yeah, wallow about it and complain to your best friend, that's what. More time passes and one weekend, when she stays the night with Claudia, Viv gets a call from her mom in the morning letting her know that Republican John stayed the night. She wanted to catch Vivian and let her know before she came home and it was really awkward. Uh it's still pretty awkward, but what are you going to do? Oh yeah, wallow about it and complain to your best friend.
A few days later, Lucy texts about Seth and she and Vivian catch up on things and then she gets really excited and tells Vivian she'll see why at school tomorrow. Lucy has used the Moxie name to post flyers about a bake sale to raise money for the girls' soccer team. Vivian feels like Moxie is growing and it's not hers anymore and that makes her happy. The girls and their friend group bake a lot of treats and make about $100 from the sale. Not a lot in the whole scheme of things, but they'll keep doing it. Kiera and a friend of hers ask if Moxie is a club that they can join, if it's not just a club for white girls, which makes Viv uncomfortable, but Lucy says that her dad's a Mexican and she's a Moxie girl, so why not?
In the weeks before winter break, the football bros at school start doing this thing called the Bump and Grab where they "accidentally" bump into a girl and goose her or pinch her and then keep walking, guffawing or shouting fake apologies. It's gross. It happens to Vivian on her way into class but she doesn't do anything about it. She tells Lucy and then tells her about a game the bros played the year before where they took pictures up girls' skirts for points. Yikes. After class and on her way to lunch, she's tapped on the shoulder and she whips around, thinking it's a bro again, but it's Seth, who awkwardly and cutely asks her out, like on an actual date in an actual restaurant. She awkwardly and cutely says yes. Seth leaves and then she is bump and bra snapped by a bro afterward, so she goes into the bathroom, too stunned to do anything else. In the stall, she sees someone has written "Moxie girls fight back" in sharpie and it wasn't her! How cool that there are other girls picking up her Moxie dreams. Seth texts her that night and explains why he hasn't talked to her too much since they drove around that one night. He had kind of been talking to a girl in Austin before he moved and didn't want to be gross and talk to two girls at once, but he ended things with that girl because he likes Vivian and thinks she is cool. Aww!!!
Their date is really cute. They go out to eat and go to the beach and talk about a lot of stuff, like how he broke up with his last girlfriend because, like we learned before, he didn't want to be a dick, but also because it just seemed like they should go out, which he wasn't really cool with. Viv has never had a boyfriend before because most of the boys at her school are assholes, but not Seth. It's very clear that Seth is not an asshole. Then, they kiss. It's Viv's very first and it's wonderful. They kiss several more times on the way back to her house and she goes inside when he drops her off and texts all her friends and they all squee about it. All except for Claudia. She doesn't even respond. Claudia is Viv's best friend. Why isn't she responding? Is she mad? Is she hurt? Is she even alive?! Yes. Yes she is. She comes over the next morning and tells Viv why she didn't respond. She was assaulted at school yesterday. Mitchell did the bump and grab, but then slammed her up against the wall, grabbed her breast and was all over her with a dead look in his eyes. When he let her go (because she was too stunned to fight back and no one blames her at all for this because yikes) she went to the assistant principal who told her that she should take it as a compliment. FOR FUCK'S SAKE. This spurs Viv to make Moxie number three which suggests girls put Moxie stickers on the lockers of boys who bump and grab or grope or do anything unwanted toward them. Moxie girls fight back!
The stickers are a hit the very first day back at school. There are You're an Asshole xoxo, Moxie stickers on all the bros' lockers and more appear all the time. In English, Mitchell starts in on Lucy about being in that queer lesbian Moxie club. She tries to ignore him by saying that there is no club, but he just keeps on. Vivian speaks up for, like, the first time ever in class and asks the teacher to review a grammar concept and Seth chimes in, too. She's not standing up for her friend or fighting against Mitchell, but at least he shuts up. After school, there are tons of people crowded around the principal's truck where four Moxie stickers are shining from a nice neat row on his bumper. The very beginning of the next day, all the girls have to attend an assembly where the principal threatens them all with suspension and expulsion if any of them are found doing anything Moxie related. At the end of the assembly, Lucy is escorted to the assistant principal's office and sent home for the rest of the day. After school, Viv goes to her house and finds out that Lucy isn't in trouble, not really, but that the principals are going to be watching her like a hawk. Turns out, she put her name on a club form when she had the bake sale. If only she hadn't done that! Lucy hopes that Moxie will take a hiatus for a little while until things cool down. Vivian says she is sure it will, but she still doesn't reveal that she is behind it.
Months pass and school is back to Moxie-less school again. Vivian eats dinner at Seth's house the week before Valentine's Day and meets his parents for the first time. They are intense. After dinner, they go for a walk on the beach. Seth is embarrassed by his parents and their intensity, but admits that they are decent human beings, awkward fancily-wrapped birthday condoms aside. They are just really into being themselves. This makes Vivian think about her mom and how she's basically given up everything for her. She decides that Republican John isn't so terrible and that her mom deserves some happiness. Back at home after her date, Vivian and her mom connect for the first time in a while and it's sweet. For Valentine's Day, Viv has a book of Shirley Jackson short stories for Seth and instead of giving her a drugstore bear or cheap flowers, Seth draws a heart tattoo on his arm with her name on the inside and it's really cute and totally the perfect thing to do. They are officially a public item at school now.
Now it's March and that means it's time for March Madness! No, this is not a basketball thing. It's a rating-girls thing to Find the Most Fuckable girl at school. And it's gross. And Moxie needs to fix it. There's finally another issue released that says March Madness is fucked up, especially since it's essentially condoned by everyone at the school. There's no call to action with this one, just anger. Seth tries to calm Vivian down by telling her that not all guys are like this and she'll get to leave school soon enough, but that just makes her mad, too. She tells him that she knows not all guys are like that but it seems like he just wants her to forget about it and move on, even though he is glad she's putting Moxie out again. She explains that that is not what she needs because it's kind of dismissive and he apologizes and strives to do better and then they make out a lot. Kiera approaches Vivian at school a little while later and gives her a flyer for a Moxie Art Sale she's putting together at the local VFW. They have to keep it secret even though it's not at school because the principal would probably expel anyone who has anything to do with it.
The Art Sale is awesome and a bunch of girls go and they raise enough money for the soccer team to finally buy new uniforms. It's perfect. When she gets home, Vivian's mom wants to talk to her about it and it's almost like she seems wistful and wants to relive her Misspent Youth box days, but Vivian doesn't really talk about it. She kind of wants to tell her mom that she started Moxie, but then she doesn't because it doesn't only belong to her anymore. The next school day, girls that don't normally talk to each other are smiling and waving. It seems that Moxie is bringing all the girls together. There are pink flyers posted on the front doors of the school proclaiming that there will be a Moxie Girl Walkout at school on Friday. The flyers also say that Mitchell tried to rape whoever it was who made the signs and that no one at the school did anything about it, so this is a chance for everyone to stand up for all the girls who have been treated that way.
Lucy gets suspended because the idiot principal is sure she's responsible for the flyers. He makes an announcement that any girl who participates in the walkout will get suspended and possibly expelled and that he's going to contact each college they apply to and tell them so they'll never be accepted into any college and their lives will be ruined. It's funny that he is going to all this trouble to keep the girls in class yet does absolutely nothing about the rape allegations against his son. Vivian and Seth get in a fight about it because he wonders if the allegations are even true because that's a terrible thing to accuse someone of if not. She can't believe that he doesn't believe it and they don't talk for a while. Viv goes to Lucy's after school and finally tells her that she is responsible for Moxie and that she doesn't want Lucy to be in trouble. Lucy tells her that she still wants her to do the walkout because if she doesn't, if no one does, she got suspended for nothing. On her walk home from Lucy's, Viv's mom calls and tells her that there was a robocall from the school about the walkout. When she gets home they talk about it and about Seth, but not that Vivian is responsible for Moxie. She just doesn't think her mom can handle it. Her mom tells her that she'll stand with her no matter what she chooses to do. And about Seth? He's still learning. That's what good guys do.
It's time for the walkout. Vivian is nervous, but when perfect, head cheerleader, student council vice president, kind-of-against-all-the-Moxie-stuff-from-the-beginning Emma stands, writes MOXIE down her arm and says a hefty Fuck You! to Mitchell, they walk out together. And they're not the only ones. More than half the girls leave school. And so does Seth and the handful of not-gross friends he's made. The principal and his assistant storm out, telling them to get in a line so all their names can be written down for suspension and expulsion. Emma claims the walkout and the principal tries to pin everything else Moxie on her, too. He told her that the school was taking care of her accusations, but she said no, they aren't. He again tries to put all of Moxie on her, but Vivian says she started it. Then other girls chime in that they did, too. The principal ends up cancelling school for the day but says he's still suspending and expelling them all.
Since Lucy couldn't be there, she asked all her friends to take pictures of the walkout and send them to her, and with them, she makes a viral blog post about Moxie, about the zines and the hearts and stars and the bathrobes and the stickers and the bake sale and the art show and the walkout and about the principal. It gets spread everywhere, even on the news. Vivian's mom finally calms the grandparents down and assures them that Vivian is not going to prison. Then they talk. Vivian finally tells her mom all about Moxie. Her mom is a little upset, not that she did any of this, but that she didn't tell her. She is proud of what she did. Well, she's like 10% motherly upset, 90% proud. And she'd like to see what would happen if that stupid principal tries to expel all the girls. It's like the town hasn't changed at all since she was in school and getting in trouble for having blue hair. Everything is good between Viv and her mom and then, even though it's late, there's a knock at the door. It's Seth. He apologizes for not being able to understand girl things and vows to try harder. Then he and Vivian kiss. A lot.
Now it's the last day of school. The English teacher is retiring and is letting them do whatever they want in their last class. Lucy doodles hearts and stars on her hand and they reminisce about the first days of Moxie. Then there's an announcement from the principal about cleaning out lockers and seeing them all next school year, but don't worry! It's not principal football bro, it's a new principal! The school board found out that former principal, Mitchell's dad, had been secretly funneling all the school's funding into the football team and now he and Mitchell have moved out of town. As school ends, Vivian is invited to a Moxie sleepover at Lucy's and a bunch of other girls are going to be there too. Vivian invites Emma to join in and she's so happy to be invited. Even though she's the head cheerleader and they've never really spent any time together, Emma already feels like one of the Moxie girls and has actually started making plans and spreadsheets for next year. The girls decide to leave school together and grab a bite to eat. Vivian can already tell that they're going to be great friends.