A Day Without Women is a Day Without Sotela

Before today, or even this year, I never thought twice about International Women’s Day. Yes, I would briefly think about the courageous women who stood up for their rights, but I thought those were moments of the past. I never thought we’d have to rally today in 2017 for gender equality (among the long list of other injustices).

Growing up, I was acutely aware of the inequality women faced. My mother, a single immigrant mother who became a successful entrepreneur, was questioned on a regular basis for being a Latina woman. Even though my mom owned her businesses, men would still ask to speak with the manager because they wouldn’t take her word. She sometimes would lie and tell them her boyfriend was the owner just so they would believe what she told them.

There was one particular time that I will never forget– we were waiting in the Bank of America business line, as we did on a daily basis, waiting to deposit checks. An older woman who was in front of us asked if we were in the right line because it was solely for businesses. My 10 year old self was bewildered by the question before it hit me, she didn’t think my mom was a business woman simply based on how she looked. This woman had no idea who my mother was other than what she saw- a brown woman.

My mother not only faced obstacles because she was a woman, but also because she was an immigrant. Being an immigrant shaped how she faced inequality. She wasn’t vocal about the injustices she faced. She quietly fought for herself by climbing the ladder and being the best entrepreneur she could be.

I understand that being an immigrant and a single mother, she had to fight quietly. She was worried one bad move could mean deportation, which is the case for many women today. I look at the women in garment factories, especially in Los Angeles, who don’t have the privilege to strike or stand up for what they believe in because they are scared to lose their homes and sole source of income.

I’m painfully aware that my privilege allows me to be more vocal. Being an American citizen and an entrepreneur, I’m not worried about losing my home or job. I can strike and stand up for gender equality.

So today, I will not fight quietly, but actively, by closing down shop and wearing red. I’m standing with all the women who get paid less than men, who are passed up for promotions by their male counterparts time and time again, and women who are objectified on a daily basis. We are forces to be reckoned with.

“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.” – Malala Yousafzai

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