Womanist.……..a term coined by the Author and Activist Alice Walker. Best Known for the phrase “Womanist is to Feminist as Purple is to Lavender.” (click for full definition)
I’ve always considered myself an advocate for women’s rights; I’m a woman why wouldn’t I be right?! However I could never identify myself as a feminist. There’s a lengthy history of women being the heart of movements, fighting for justice and equality. Even within politics women have been an influence; where women once were not able to vote is now playing field for both parties. One may pose the question, why wouldn’t I be a feminist? I have a better question…… Why should I be? Have you ever stopped and asked yourself, Does the feminist movement really embody all that black women represent? As I read about feminism, I ran across several feminist and Alice Walker was one of them. Aside from being an Author she was an activist always shedding light on the struggles of African America women. Although she believed in fighting for women rights she too did not identify herself as a feminist.Within the feminist movement there seems to be a struggle to decipher whether or not being feminine was the root of women being oppressed. Redefining what it is to be feminine should be an effort to get women to embrace every aspect of femininity while knocking down barriers. In an interview with The Guardian, Alice Walker was asked a question about her views on feminism; her response is what motivated me to look more into the feminism and its contributions to the African American community.
What are your feelings about contemporary feminism? ( click to see full interview)
The conundrum, in a way, is why, after all the struggle, and all the teaching – teaching was so important: we taught each other, and we taught other women and girls – women, at this point, are comfortable referring to themselves as guys, and basically erasing their femininity at every opportunity. I don’t get it.
The feminist movement worked hard in its efforts to gain equal rights within a patriarchal society; broken into different waves starting in the nineteenth century feminist were eager to fight for gender equality .First wave feminist fought for suffrage rights and as the nineteenth century came to a close, second wave feminist were advocates for social and cultural rights throughout the twentieth century. Cultural……excluding the perspective of women of color; during this time African American women were still facing oppression and discrimination from white women as well as men. The feminist movement is often credited for being diverse, inclusive, and recognizing all women have the same struggle. However the feminist movement did not recognize nor fight for the rights and equality that women of color deserved. The movement also failed to knowledge the harsh realities of slavery and segregation suppressing the thought of encompassing the perspective of African American women.
Aside from feminist over looking women of color;they also contributed to stunting the growth of minority families. Eugenics, or the improving of the human race by controlled breeding and forced sterilization. Many women within the feminist movement were racist and supported the Eugenics movement. Reproduction became the focal for many feminist viewing it as the root of women’s oppression. Women took control of their home and reproductive life with advanced forms of birth control; later becoming advocates and putting family on hold in hopes of conquering the workplace. Eugenics was seen as another avenue to gain respect from men and becoming agents of reproduction sparked the interest of many feminist. Eugenics became a way to have one pure race; sterilizing who they saw unfit to be mothers placing minority women at the top of their list. Often times this lead to a child having mental illnesses, disabilities, and what was often called “feeble-mindedness. However it this act was viewed as putting as end alcohol, drugs, sexually transmitted diseases, and tuberculosis.
The feminist movement seemed to never benefit the African American community which is why many women of color could not relate. I asked myself how could I paint myself in the image of a feminist when it was never meant to represent me as a black woman. Although feminist can arguably be inclusive movement, it can also be seen as separatist because of its broad disconnect from men. With great efforts to gain respect and equality it has drawn a wedge between men and women. Where there should be partnership there is competition; man and women were meant to work together to inhabit the earth. Looking at the concept of Yin and Yang, Sun and Moon,etc there is beauty in opposites because it creates a balance. Black women have always been at the forefront of social movements fighting for racial and gender equality, despite the continuation of oppression we have always beat adversity and supported our male counterparts.
I was able to find a home in Womanism; Rooted in the oppression of black women acknowledging the effects it has on the black woman and family; it gives a traditional and inclusive face to feminism. It emphasizes the importance of the black male and female sticking together and support one another instead of tearing each other down. Understanding a separatist mentality is detrimental to the African American community, shining a light on the black woman’s contributions to society,and embracing all that it is to be a woman. Encouraging women to love themselves and support one another fearlessly as well as uplifting and supporting the black man. It sees the importance of the role that black women play in the lives of black men and vise versa. The essence of family is deep within the womanist movement giving it a traditional vibe.
Committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female ( Alice Walker).…click to see more
Peace and Blessing,
My thoughts my views, Share with me, vibe with me