Womxn with Accents

My mom would always ask me to speak on the phone on her behalf when making calls. She depended on me because she was frustrated when people didn’t understand her accent. My dad, on the other hand, never encountered this problem and was generally treated with more respect and patience. Unfortunately, womxn with (non-European) accents are seen as more vulnerable and more easily taken advantage of in American society. I find it incredibly upsetting to witness others disrespect these womxn who have so much wisdom to offer. After all, these womxn are bilingual, which puts them well ahead of millions of Americans.

Thus, I would like to take the time to recognize a few of the inspiring womxn with accents in my life:

1. My mom

Though I already mentioned her, no list of inspiring womxn is complete without my mom. My mom emigrated from Iran with my dad in 1986 as he was earning his masters. With both Iran’s theocratic government and the war with Iraq worsening, my parents decided to stay in America, leaving behind their families for an uncertain chance at a better future. To this day my mom boasts a thick Persian accent (if you’re Persian then you know what I mean). My mom is proudly independent; despite her status as a newcomer, she managed to balance her work with rearing my brother and I. She always made sure we were safe, well-fed, and happy. I hate seeing others diminish her worth simply because they can’t understand her. Instead of earning their contempt or pity, her accent should command their respect, given that she clearly taught herself a second language. 

2. Malala Yousafzai

Malala is a young Pakistani activist for womxn’s with a particular focus on educational empowerment. Malala was (and remains) incredibly brave; despite growing up in a region with a strong Taliban presence, she never hesitated to speak on behalf of womxn in need. Her activism was met by the Taliban with an assassination attempt — however nothing can stop Malala, not even a bullet. She recovered from her wounds and went on to double down on her activism, earning her the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. Malala’s unparalleled drive is best described by Malala herself: “the terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear, and hopelessness died. Strength, power, and courage were born…”

3. Maryam Mirzakhani

Maryam was an Iranian mathematician and professor at Stanford University. She immigrated to the U.S and earned her Ph.D. at Harvard in 2004, where she was recognized for her determination and was remembered for taking notes in Farsi (the main Persian language). Her academic feats included making several contributions to the theory of moduli spaces of Riemann surfaces. Though I have no idea what that means, I know how hard it is to generate new mathematical theories; simply put, Maryam’s a genius. Her work and intellect was honored with the Fields Medal, the most prestigious award in mathematics. Sadly this amazing womxn passed away a year ago after a long battle with breast cancer.

4. My boyfriend's mother

My boyfriend’s mother is from El Salvador and immigrated to the US in the 1980s to flee her country’s civil war.  During the war she had to care for her three siblings; this experience made her tough and determined. After becoming a U.S. citizen she studied to become a teacher a now specializes in teaching English to non-native speakers. She’s amazing at her job because her experience as a non-native speaker forced her to learn the English language inside and out (I’m pretty sure she knows more about English grammar than I do). 

I urge you to look past the accents of immigrant womxn and recognize that their intellect isn’t defined by the sound of their voice. Moreover, be patient! If these womxn can take the time to learn a whole new language, than you can certainly spare a few minutes to give them your undivided attention. It honestly isn’t that hard to use your listening skills; if anything, you might just learn something new.