More on Feminism/womanism

More on Feminism/womanism

In the 1970s and 1980s a new form of feminism emerged that claimed racism, class oppression and sexism were interrelated. This new wave of feminism is often referred to as black feminism and it argued that traditional white based feminism could not address the unique experience of black women, particularly relating to issues such as poverty, conceptions of the body, sexuality, black masculinity and parenting.

This black feminist movement was influenced in the 1970s from the 1970s by African-American women authors, such as Alice Walker and Toni Morrison, whose work established a solidarity among all women of colour. Black women became the central figures in many narratives with texts created in a way that allowed every black woman reader to recognise and identify with issues that were relevant to her emotional and domestic life.

Walker stated that white feminism was only relevant for white women, but that in her opinion, black feminism did not satisfactorily express what she referred to as the ‘spirit’ of black women. Thus a woman of colour is described not as ‘feminist’ but ‘womanist’.

Walker claims that ‘womanist’ is derived from the African-American term ‘womanish’, which describes outrageous, courageous or wilful female behaviour - a person who wants to be regarded as ’grown-up’. Walker goes further in suggesting that a womanist can also be someone who:

  • Loves both men and other women, sexually and non-sexually
  • Celebrates the joy of being female
  • Appreciates women’s emotional strength
  • Is responsible, capable and able to take charge of situations
  • Recognises the importance of male and female ‘wholeness’
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