Interview by Jacqueline Manetta
Name: Hannah Samimi
City you grew up in: Long Island, New York
City you currently reside in: Nashville, Tennessee
Ethnicity: Persian and Israeli
// What was it like growing up as a Persian-Israeli woman?
I remember as a kid––a lot of people would make fun of me because I was Jewish. A few times, specifically, I remember people made Holocaust jokes to me.
// Have you ever felt discriminated against because of your ethnicity?
Yes. There have been times when I was younger that I would cry...People would make fun of me because I didn’t celebrate Christmas. The week before Christmas break, all the kids in school would dress up and would make fun of me when I wouldn’t dress up in red and green. Also, people have made many jokes towards and called me “cheap” because I’m Jewish, and that is a Jewish stereotype.
// Have you ever felt discriminated against because of your gender?
Yes, absolutely. I remember my teachers in elementary school would always say, “Can I have a strong boy to help me carry the textbooks?” I remember thinking, "I was strong enough to carry the books and probably stronger than half the boys in my class." I wondered why people thought only boys were strong. Also, people have made jokes to me––such as women belong in the kitchen. I find [this] extremely disrespectful, and [I feel] discriminated against when these types of jokes are made.
// What is the biggest struggle you have faced as a woman?
I haven't faced a lot; luckily, I have grown up in a generation where people are “woke'' enough to realize women are strong. I think the biggest struggle I have faced as a woman is having to deal with my period. I will go somewhere, and get my period, and be screwed––because I don't have anything on me that can help––such as pads or tampons. A lot of times also, I feel like as a woman––my power is underestimated.
// How did you overcome this struggle?
I found other people who faced the same struggle with menstrual inequality. I learned a lot from meeting other women who have experienced the same thing as me, and it helped me to overcome my struggles.
// Explain a time in your life when you felt strong.
I felt strong during an event on National Period Day because I was surrounded by over 300 people who felt the same way as I did. We were all there for the same reason, and we were all fighting for the same cause––which made me feel inspired, proud, and strong.
// Explain a time in your life when you felt defeated.
I felt defeated when Mike Bloomberg lost his campaign because I put so much effort into the campaign and advocated for him. I just felt like everything I had worked so hard towards came crumbling down.
// How do the obstacles you have faced in your life help build the woman you are today?
The obstacles I have faced have made me realize that life goes on––no matter what. After every obstacle I have been through, I am able to pick myself back up. Although I had a difficult childhood and had to go through my parents’ divorce––it has made me realize that I can get through anything.
// Who is your biggest role model and why?
My mom is my biggest role model because she taught me what an independent woman is and that you don’t need a man in your life.
// Why do you enjoy and appreciate being a woman?
I enjoy being a woman because I love fighting for menstrual equality. I appreciate all that women have done, and that women have worked from the status of being nothing to being equal to if not greater than men.
// What is your biggest goal in life and how will you accomplish it?
My biggest goal in life is to be a Supreme Court Justice, and I will accomplish it by first becoming a lawyer. I would also love to continue to be an activist. Another big goal of mine is to be a mom. Lastly, I would love to live in a time where there are nine women on the Supreme Court. -GGH
CONNECTIVITY CONTRIBUTORS REACTIONS
Just like Hannah Samimi, I am a Persian Jewish woman. However, there is one significant difference; I was privileged enough to grow up in a town that is majority Persian and Jewish. This protected me from a lot of the struggles that she shared about her experience as a Jew. One that particularly stood out to me was how she said that she was bullied for not celebrating Christmas. In my town, it’s the opposite; people here were teased for celebrating Christmas. Parents would complain about how our elementary school chorus, in which all kids were mandated to perform, would sing Christmas carols. Nobody would dress up in red and green as Hannah experienced; in fact, I can actually recall being made fun of for wearing red and green because they’re considered “Christmas colors.” I’ve always been slightly aware that my town is a bubble, and that we experience things differently than others, but it’s so interesting to see how perpendicular it is to Hannah’s experiences.
I think this normalization of Christianity is only what caused children to bully Hannah for not celebrating Christmas. Christmas is perceived as normal, as something everyone celebrates in the media. You can see the lights on everyone's houses, the commercials on television, the abundant decorations in any store you enter. For these kids, it must’ve been very odd to see someone not celebrate a holiday when it seems like the whole world does. I think that's what caused them to attack Hannah; their lack of understanding. All in all, our contrasting experiences really opened my eyes to the different ways the media and the normalization of certain events can affect people due to the majority in certain situations, and I’m definitely going to keep Hannah’s experiences close to my heart when the holiday season begins again.