I am a proud feminist. A black feminist. Oh, I’ve had my moments when, fed up with racial tensions within the movement, I’ve threatened to flounce. But in the end, I refuse to abandon an ideology I think is a foundation of equality and a movement that many black women sacrificed to build. To say that feminism is only for white women, as several have argued when I’ve written about feminism on Clutch in the past, is an affront to Sojourner Truth, Audre Lorde, Coretta Scott King, bell hooks and The Cohambee River Collective.  (Not to mention my mother and husband, who also call themselves feminists.) Black women and other women of color have a right to claim the mantle of feminism. But we are not obliged to.

Of course, many women, of all races, choose to believe in gender equality without donning any labels at all. And some other black women are womanists. Both feminism and womanism are dedicated to establishing equal opportunities and treatment for women, but womanism is specifically focused on black gendered struggles and is steeped in the experiences and histories of black women, men and families. Alice Walker, who coined the term “womanism,” says that womanists are “committed to the survival and wholeness of an entire people.”

Author and activist Walker revealed some of the underpinnings of womanist ideology with her new poem, called Democratic Womanism, performed on the eve of the 2012 Presidential Inauguration.

Many black women, who feel excluded by perceived biases of race, class, ability, sexuality and gender, expressed by some feminists, have found refuge in womanism. In a post about the ideology on the blog, Womanist Musings, Clutch contributor Renee Martin wrote:

Just as feminism speaks to your experiences, Africana Womanism speaks to mine.  It allows me to articulate my spirituality, my connection and love of Black men, a genuine sisterhood with other Black women, a connection to family with a special emphasis on motherhood, a self-defined identity, unconventional gender roles, collective outcomes, group achievement, self love, nurturing, and a recognition that all isms effect women.

(Africana Womanism, by the way, goes one step further in centering the discussion of equality on the experiences of the African Diaspora.)

What about you? If you believe in gender equality, but are uncomfortable with feminism, does womanism seem like a better fit?



  1. Whiteprivilegeterminated

    If feminism, womanism . . whatever exclusivist name they’re giving it now, was about combating inequality it would address the most stubborn inequality in the world, that of economic inequality.

    Harriet Fraad

    “The mainstream feminist movement became a movement for gender equality within the American system of class inequality. Because the women’s movement focused almost exclusively on gender issues, it lost the mass of American women whose struggles for economic survival grow harder each year. Feminism also lost most women of color for whom race and class were as relevant as gender.

    As an almost entirely gender-based movement, the women’s movement excluded men and blamed men for a gender system in which men and women both unwittingly participated. Uniting for common class-based struggles moved outside of the feminist purview. Unity was impossible within a discourse that designated men as the enemy. Once separated, growth for all of us was slower, harder and more easily opposed.”

    Times have moved on, feminism in it’s “gender equality” iteration only pisses most men off and does nothing to improve the condition of the masses of women.. It offers no critique that challenges class inequality from which all other inequalities flow.
    It’s time to cosign feminism and all its brands to the pages of a women’s studies, history of feminism text book. Where no one will ever hear from it again. :-)

    • Um….have you ever read Patricia Collins? Have you read about feminist thinkers in South America and Mexico? Many of these women address economic inequality. You know why? Because most of the poorest people on earth are WOMEN. And many of them are women of color. They often offer searing critiques into the systems that perpetuate class differences. And have you even read this article? This article is not about “mainstream feminism,” it is about the creation of a movement which addresses all the myriad things the mainstream does not, including poverty. So it seems to me that you just read “woman,” and “feminist,” and drew your own conclusions.

    • Whiteprivilegeterminated

      I saw nothing that mentioned class analysis as a core tenet of “womanism”, just some ill-defined ramble about . . .

      “womanism is specifically focused on black gendered struggles and is steeped in the experiences and histories of black women, men and families.”

      that continued in the same vein through out the piece.

      Correcting another half truth offered by femininists . . . . the facts are that women are greater percentage of the population in SOME places, but not a greater percentage of the poor. For example, in some parts of Black America there are more women than men, but men suffer incarceration rates at a rate ten times higher rate than that of women. Mass incarceration is weapon of control unleashed against the poor, making poverty as much an oppression for men as it is for women, if not more so, in that context.

      And yes I’ve read widely from many feminist text, of those I’ve read I find a few have made valuable contributions, but taken as a whole I find feminism of whatever stripe still wanting because of its instistence on presenting an analysis that pitches the struggle for equality and HUMAN rights in man vs woman terms.

      Even when men are not explicitly blamed for women’s suffering the mere idea of woman’s rights is alienating and divisive.

      Women’s rights implies men’s wrongs

      but the only male wrongdoers who seem to incur feminism’s wrath are poor men. Not the the likes of Barack Obama who order the drone killings of children women and men all over the world.

    • If Clutch wanted a one-sided view on issues then they would say so in the policy but as far as I can tell that’s not their objective.

      Maybe they shut him down before for a good reason – that would predate me subs ribing to the site – but so far this time around they let his posts stand.

      Not everything is a personal assault against you. People have different perspectives and last time I looked that in itself is not a crime.

  2. I agree

  3. Feminism, Womanism, more labels used to divide women and categorize us in neat little boxes than unite us in my opinion.

  4. Mademoiselle

    I’m all for equal rights and opportunities, but more and more, I tend to avoid labels and affiliations because I prefer to be bound by my own beliefs, not an organization’s or movement’s doctrines. So I’ll pass on both feminism & womanism.

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