Welcome to Blackipedia, a new weekly CASSIUS feature that takes a fun approach to exploring Black history, slang and culture. For the month of March, we’ll be focusing on topics related to (Black) women, so we’re kicking things off appropriately this week. Get ready to learn something—and tell a friend!
[woo m-uh-niz-uh m]
- Coined by poet and novelist Alice Walker in 1981—and later elaborately defined in 1983 (see: In Search of Our Mothers’ Garden: Womanist Prose)—”womanism” was created to signify the inclusion of race and class within the emphasis of Black feminism. As Walker herself stated, “womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.” More specifically, it’s “the spiritual, political, social and other empowerment based on female centrality and solidarity that is supportive of the health and well being of everyone.”
- Walker has also used “womanist” to describe a woman who deeply loves other women, whether sexually or nonsexually, with a preference for women’s culture (because #FuckThePatriarchy). Note: this is not to be mistaken as a means to divide women from men. In fact, a womanist is defined as a “universalist,” with a commitment to the “survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female.”
- What womanism is not: the opposite of feminism. Derived from “womanish”—a term used by Black women back in the day to denote when little girls were “acting grown”—one can essentially look at “womanist” as another word for Black feminist (or feminist of color). That said, neither “womanist” nor “womanism” necessitate “Black” as a preface. It carries it on its own.
TO LEARN MORE:
Why Black Feminism & Womanism? (Beyond the Moment)
Alice Walker’s Term for Black Feminist (ThoughtCo)