Womanism: Past and Today
First of all we have to explain what womanism is. A black feminist or feminist of color; someone who is committed to the wholeness and well-being of all of humanity, male and female. Main point here is that it is “someone who is committed to the wholeness and well-being of all of humanity, male and female”. Black and white.
Alice Walker introduced the word “womanist” into feminist parlance in her 1983 book In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose. She cited the phrase “acting womanish,” which was said to a child who acted serious, courageous and grown-up rather than girlish. Many women of color in the 1970s had sought to expand the feminism of the Women’s Liberation Movement beyond its concern for the problems of white middle-class women. The adoption of “womanist” signified an inclusion of race and class issues in feminism. Alice Walker also used “womanist” to refer to a woman who loves other women, whether platonically or sexually.
In past, in the aftermath of abolition of slavery, womanism was a necessity for sure in America. It may sound odd to someone who is new to the notion but it is easier to understand in truth. As we know, human being is not good at leaving bad habits behind that fast. Maybe blacks were not slaves but they were almost as badly treated as in slavery. And thankfully, after efforts like Civil Rights Movements this situation did also get better but one thing kept same. Women of color. Yeah, blacks were now almost fully blended into society but then again they started to cause problems to their own people. First of all, most of the blacks had internalized black hate. We could see that in Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God” where Jody chooses Janie as a wife because she’s brown with straight hair, which are white qualities. He thought white qualities are what makes a woman look good. They did stop loving themselves. Their heritage. They wanted to be white. This internalized black hatred also remind me Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn”, where Huck commented about Jim; “He’s a good human, I think he’s white inside”. While it is childish, it still shows another kind of internalized hatred.
Besides the internalized black hatred black women were heavily burdened under patriarchal society. I find it unnecessary to point out “white” or “black” patriarchal society because victimization or victimizer has no color. They were submissed, victimized and almost seized to be exist by patriarchal society. And in my case, it was hard to believe but the same case were available in Africa too. In Alice Walker’s “Color Purple”, we see that African men treated their women just like these victimizers did. In her talk with an Olinka man, Nettie asked as if she wasn’t considered as a woman, she was a missionary after all. Man’s answer was shocking to Nettie, and me too. “If you are not a mother, you are not much.”
So that was why the womanism was necessary. There were no white human right activists at that time who are so eager to be united and willing to defend black women’s rights. They had to speak up, they had to shape up and they had to defend themselves, their rights. Double burden they had was too hard to carry on oneself alone. As Pink Floyd says in one of their songs, “Hey You”, together they stand, divided they fall.
Last thing was something I needed to collect information about. Is womanism still necessary, is there still a need for womanism? Well, of course not in the way of it was when it came into existance but yes.
“Though racism in the feminist movement may no longer be as blatant as in the past, mainstream feminism still often focuses only on the experiences of middle-class white women while neglecting other viewpoints. Whether this is due to racism, ignorance, or other reasons, it marginalizes women who are not part of this demographic.
Womanism focuses not just on fighting sexism, but racism, classism, and ableism as well. Unlike much of mainstream feminism, the womanist movement is also welcoming of LGBT and transwomen and acknowledges their struggles. Women who feel mistrustful due to the history of betrayal and silencing in the feminism are embraced by the womanist community, which creates a safe space for women of color to express their shared struggles and be recognized without having to choose between their identities.”
In her article Kerilynn Engel briefly explains the situation as it is today. There is still a neglection at some degree, which I think is related to the internalized black hatred white people still have deep down inside them. But mostly they are now like civil right activists which is a good thing. It shows the gradual progress in the equality of humanity, the harmony all the good people are yearning and working for.