Growing up I thought I had to expose only one side of me to the world: one that would be “accepted.” Rather than embracing my multiple identities, I presumed it was easier for the world to see the bubblier side of Aklima and always apologized for anything weird a person of color committed that was blasted on the news. As time flew having family that was never apologetic of their roots, it was Bangladesh when I stepped inside the house and America once I stepped out. Not only did this shape a more complex view of the world around me, it was easier for me to understand others who were in similar situations.
I am a Bengali Muslim, woman of color, wearing the hijab — the more I spoke these words out loud the more my confidence grew. See, I would have never understood it was okay to love myself AND be confident if it had not been for the awesome women around me who were not only excelling in their career paths but having fun in their own skin. Not only did I learn to love the color of my skin, the bigger my mind grew and the more I found the confidence to speak out any weird injustice I saw around me. For example, why were other little girls prevented from going to school, while their brothers went? In most third world countries, women grow up to be the bread winners of their households.
My old aunts would always warn my mother jokingly, that I was too outspoken for my own good. Constantly being told how I “should” be to make it easier on the people around me did not make sense. The desire to please my elders was soon gone once I realized no one is going to speak up for me if I don’t speak up for me. I thank my loud thoughts yearning to reach the tip of my tongue keeping me going against societal expectations.
So goodbye to what or how I am supposed to be, and hello to the fun, expressive, passionate, emotional, caring, loves to vent about everything Aklima. I am a Bengali Muslim with lots of brown skin and a loud hijabi that has a lot to say about what is going on around the world and to speak up for myself, young girls, women, and educate people about my religion, culture and to break the stigmas on women being able to do all and be all.
This is feminism. It’s time to wear it proudly.