Authors Posts by Ally Ang

Ally Ang

Ally Ang
Ally Ang is a Wellesley College Junior and intern at the Women's Foundation of California. She's Editorial Assistant at AS[I]AM and Social Media Chair at Wellesley Asian Alliance.

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How many times have you been harassed by men you didn't know as you walked down the street? If you are a woman, the answer is probably more times than you can count.

Woman walking down the street.
Photo by Luis Hernandez.

This morning as I was walking to the bus stop, a man stopped me to say, “You’re absolutely gorgeous. Have a great day.” Avoiding eye contact, I muttered a quick “thanks” and walked faster, hoping that he wouldn’t follow me or try to continue the conversation. Luckily, he didn’t, but that doesn’t mean the incident was innocuous.

To some, my fear may seem misplaced. Was this man just trying to be nice? Probably. Did he intend to harm me? Most likely not. But as I continued my morning commute, I felt an overwhelming sense of shame that was difficult to explain.

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Although all women are disadvantaged by the gender wage gap, the extent to which they are affected remains inextricably tied to race.

Although the wage gap negatively affects all women, women of color are hit the hardest and it is critical to examine the issue of economic justice through an intersectional lens. Illustrator: Marissa Klee-Peregon
Although the wage gap negatively affects all women, women of color are hit the hardest and it is critical to examine the issue of economic justice through an intersectional lens. Illustrator: Marissa Klee-Peregon

One of the most pressing women’s rights issues today is the gender wage gap. Even though the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, rendering gender-based pay discrimination illegal, the truth is that women are still paid less than men.

Today, the gender wage gap is one of the biggest barriers to economic justice for women. Most people have heard this statistic: women make 78 cents for every dollar a man makes in the workplace.

It’s a shocking fact, but it only tells part of the story.

In reality, this figure holds true for white women in relation to white men. For women of color, this gap is much wider. Black women typically make 64 cents to every white man’s dollar, while Latina women only make 54 cents. Asian American women make 91 cents to every dollar earned by a white man, but even this figure is misleading: It’s true for Indian American and Chinese American women while Cambodian American and Hmong American women, for example, make a much lower figure.

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Ever notice how the classic books that you read all throughout high school and college are almost entirely written by white men, while literature by women or people of color is relegated to elective courses that hardly anyone takes?

Audre Lorde

Inspired by K.T. Bradford’s challenge to readers to stop reading books by straight white men for a year, I compiled a list of my ten favorite books by women of color that aren’t usually taught in schools. Of course, this is only a small introduction to the vast breadth of literature out there, but these books are must-reads for everybody, especially those who consider themselves feminists.

1. This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color edited by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua

There’s no way I couldn’t put this book at number one on my list, given how much it impacted me. First published in 1981, this anthology includes powerful poems, stories and essays by Black, Latina, Native American and Asian American women. This Bridge Called My Back touches on many topics, including intersectional feminism, queerness and womanhood.

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“This whole policy thing is very new to me. I have an organizing background. I know how to talk to people, listen to their stories and make them understand that they’re leaders. I know how to help people see the power that they have within themselves."

Olivia Guevara is taking her city’s public policy into her own hands. Photo: Tree Mortality via photopin (license)

After attending city council meetings in Corona, Riverside County and feeling underrepresented, Olivia Guevara decided to apply to our Women’s Policy Institute-Riverside fellowship. She decided to support her community by getting involved in policymaking, implementation and advocacy.

How did you get to where you are today?

I am here because of my parents, who were heavily involved in the labor movement. It’s an understatement to say that I have a long history of involvement with labor organizing: Some of my very first memories are of picket lines.

Early on, my mother, who worked in the public school system, and my father, who still works in the hotel industry, exposed me to what was right and what was wrong and taught me that I must fight for change. I was the first in my family to go to college and now I’m working towards my master’s degree. I am an organizer: I work for UNAC, the United Nurses Association of California.

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In the era of mass incarceration, what happens to the women who are left behind?

Anita Wills of Essie Justice Group, whose son has been incarcerated since 2001, leaving her to raise her grandson alone.
Anita Wills of Essie Justice Group, whose son has been incarcerated since 2001, leaving her to raise her grandson alone. Photo: Dijon Bowden

Mass incarceration is beginning to gain recognition as the serious problem that it is.

Although the United States has only five percent of the world’s overall population, it holds 25 percent of the world’s prison population, making it home to the world’s highest incarceration rate. A disproportionately high number of America’s prisoners are Black and Latino men imprisoned for petty drug crimes, systematically disadvantaging communities of color.

In her groundbreaking book on the prison-industrial complex titled The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander writes, “The nature of the criminal justice system has changed. It is no longer primarily concerned with the prevention and punishment of crime, but rather with the management and control of the dispossessed.”

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The kiss that said it all on Thursday, June 26. (Nati Harnik / Associated Press)
The kiss that said it all on Friday, June 26, 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled that all states must allow same-sex couples to marry and must recognize these marriages. Photo: Nati Harnik / Associated Press.

It was a simple kiss between two married women, candidly captured by a photographer on a cold winter morning. Yet within months, it had spread like wildfire. Featured in the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, MSNBC and the Huffington Post, this photograph quickly became a symbol of love and the fight for marriage equality. Who were these women and what was their story?

Marj Plumb and Tracy Weitz were married on August 20, 2008 in Quincy, California. After several years of being married, the couple decided to move to Omaha, Nebraska when Tracy got a job offer she couldn’t refuse. However, this move came at a price: once the couple became residents of Nebraska, they were no longer legally married.

“The first thing we did when we moved to Nebraska was buy a house and we were required to list ourselves as single women on the title of the house,” explains Marj, “and that is incorrect. We shouldn’t have had to lose our marital status just because we moved.”

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“I want to help people. I know that I didn’t go through all the struggles in my life for nothing. I can’t cry over it for the rest of my life, but I can do something with it.”

Photo: Sillouettes of tomorrow via photopin (license)
Change is possible, but it takes a community. Rosie Flores become sober because a community of women supported her along the way. And today she’s part of our Women’s Policy Institute community, advocating for the rights of formerly incarcerated women. Photo: Sillouettes of tomorrow via photopin (license)

Rosie Flores’ journey is truly remarkable. Surviving homelessness, addiction, incarceration and domestic violence, Rosie is now a dedicated mother, student, organizer with the California Partnership and a policy fellow in our Women’s Policy Institute-Riverside Class of 2015.

Along with other passionate organizers, Rosie helped pass Senate Bill 1029 last year, which repealed the lifetime ban for people with drug-related felony convictions from receiving public assistance through programs such as CalWORKs and CalFresh.

That was a groundbreaking victory for California. But just a few years ago, Rosie was in a completely different place in life. It took a lot of inner strength, unconditional love for her son and a beloved community lead by attorney, activist and WPI-graduate Vonya Quarles, to turn her life around.

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When we frame domestic violence as an issue that only occurs in heterosexual relationships, we erase the very real issue of intimate partner violence within LGBT communities.

Photo: jinguo zhang on Flickr

Seventeen-year-old Julia has been with her girlfriend, Audrey, for over a year. Recently, they’ve hit a rough patch in their relationship—Audrey gets jealous whenever Julia goes out with her friends and constantly accuses her of cheating. Whenever they get into an argument, Audrey threatens to tell Julia’s family that she’s a lesbian, which could mean that Julia would be disowned and left homeless.

When Julia confides in a friend about her relationship problems, her friend explains that she’s not experiencing abuse because Audrey is a woman and there’s never been any physical violence.

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From domestic violence survivor to human rights activist, Women's Policy Institute-Riverside fellow Nancy Valenzuela has overcome insurmountable obstacles in order to become the formidable champion for women that she is today.

Stop by Monica Antonelli.
Women’s Policy Institute-Riverside fellow Nancy Valenzuela is a member of Con Lideres Campesinas, a grassroots organization that supports women farmworkers who are experiencing abuse. Photo: Stop by Monica Antonelli.

After witnessing her husband murder her oldest son, Nancy Valenzuela found the courage to leave. In 1993, she fled Mexico with her two boys and started a new life—a free life—in Riverside County.  Once there, she dedicated herself to educating women and families about abuse. She channeled her unspeakable experience into unbelievable strength and joined Con Lideres Campesinas, a grassroots organization that supports women farmworkers who are experiencing domestic violence. This year she’s part of our Women’s Policy Institute-Riverside policy advocacy program and is learning how to use policy to affect system-level change.

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Reproductive rights are essential to the safety and wellbeing of all women. However, the specific reproductive issues faced by women of color are often left out of the mainstream reproductive rights movement.

End Forced Sterilization
Photo by End Forced Sterilization on Flickr.

Along with economic inequality and domestic violence, reproductive rights are one of the central issues of the women’s rights movement. The ability to decide when, if and how a woman gives birth is essential to her bodily autonomy and financial independence. But although this is often thought of as solely a women’s rights issue, it is a race issue as well.

Women of color are uniquely impacted by reproductive justice issues. Although all women are affected by policies and practices surrounding reproductive health, women of color have been disproportionately targeted by state-sanctioned reproductive violence such as forced sterilization.

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