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  • Writer's pictureAisha Salaudeen

I love the 'f' word, and you should too.


A poster showing women celebrating their power
Women's rights are human rights.


In my early twenties, I told myself that feminism wasn't for me. I used cultural and religious justifications as a shield. It felt safer to distance myself from a term and ideology rife with prejudice and misunderstandings.


Growing up, many of my beliefs were inherently feminist, even though I didn’t have the words to express them. I frequently found myself questioning the gender roles assigned within our household. Why were tasks like washing dishes, sweeping floors, and cooking assigned primarily to my sister and me, and not to my brothers?


Comments like, "Is this how you'll behave in your husband's house?" frequently echoed around me. Back then, I might not have connected these comments to feminism, but I disliked the reminders that my worth was seemingly tied to my future role as a wife. I wasn't interested in fitting the mold of a "proper woman." I longed for the freedom to simply be a girl, free from the constraints of societal expectations.


Every attempt to challenge gender roles or societal perceptions about women was swiftly rebuffed. I quickly learned that society did not welcome dissenting female voices. To avoid unwanted comments and confrontations, I learned to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself.


Both historically and in recent times, society clings tightly to gender roles and expectations. To challenge these norms is to challenge ingrained traditions. So, for years, I avoided identifying as a feminist, fearing the repercussions. I even recall moments when I ridiculed the very idea of feminism, foolishly thinking that denial would bring me comfort.


Not anymore.


In my mid-twenties, though I can't pinpoint the exact moment or trigger, I began to embrace feminism with pride and conviction. My shift towards embracing my feminism wasn't an overnight event. It unfolded through numerous experiences, through stories shared by women in my life, and recognizing that many of us faced similar challenges.


Every attempt to challenge gender roles or societal perceptions about women was swiftly rebuffed. I quickly learned that society did not welcome dissenting female voices. To avoid unwanted comments and confrontations, I learned to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself.

My perspective was broadened by reading works like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists,” and by observing movements like #ArewaMetoo, where Northern Nigerian women boldly demanded justice for survivors of sexual violence. I also took inspiration from African women who continually pushed boundaries across various sectors, from the arts to technology.


Text defining feminism
Feminism is the advocacy for women's rights on the basis of equality of the sexes (Google)

Now, as I near 30, my identity as a feminist is unwavering. I'm indifferent to societal judgments or any misconceptions the term might attract.


Yet, when I declare myself a feminist, I often receive mixed reactions. Some reactions are so extreme, you'd think being feminist meant confronting the nearest man and lighting his clothes on fire on Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos. For those expecting such theatrics, sorry to disappoint you — I left my lighter at home today.


I’m not writing this to spoon-feed the concept of feminism to those who'd rather critique it than make an effort to understand. If I've been able to continuously question and reconsider 29 years worth of my life's conditioning, trust me, others can too. I wrote this for women who, like the younger me, are hesitant to publicly identify as feminists.


Now, as I near 30, my identity as a feminist is unwavering. I'm indifferent to societal judgments or any misconceptions the term might attract.

While I recognize that the term "feminism" often carries with it a burden of apprehension, and that many women distance themselves from it to avoid labels like “stubborn” or “difficult,” staying silent only reinforces the very misconceptions we hope to avoid.


Feminism at its core centers on equal rights, opportunities, and respect. By identifying as feminists, we not only amplify our voices but also honor the countless women who fought for the rights we cherish today, as well as those who continue to battle in less privileged parts of the world.


History has shown us that progress often comes from those brave enough to stand against the tide. Every time we run away from identifying as feminists due to societal pressures, we miss an opportunity to educate, enlighten, and empower. Feminism is a declaration that, as women, we value ourselves, our rights, and the rights of others enough to stand against inequality in all its forms.


And look, while I deeply wish for every woman to confidently and openly identify as feminist, I recognize the complexities that come with such a declaration. Personal experiences, societal pressures, and various life circumstances can shape one's readiness to wear the label. So, I wholeheartedly respect every woman's individual choice on the matter.


By identifying as feminists, we not only amplify our voices but also honor the countless women who fought for the rights we cherish today, as well as those who continue to battle in less privileged parts of the world.

My hope, however, is that a day will come when every woman feels empowered to embrace the ‘f’ word, to embrace her feminist beliefs publicly without reservation.


Until then, know that I am quietly cheering you on, hoping for a world where all women can stand in their truth without fear or compromise.




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