Author and scholar, Alice Walker, shed light on a discipline that made Black women feel at the center. There are two disciplines, which are broken into two parts, feminism and womanism. Womanism was first coined by Walker in a narrative essay entitled “Womanism: Coming Apart.” In 1983, Walker went into depth further when she explained just exactly who the womanist is.
Each of the disciplines can be problematic for some. For an example, feminism falls into two categories [white] feminism and Black feminism. Womanism is also broken down into womanism, coined by Walker and Africana womanism, which was coined by Clenora Hudson-Weems. Each of the disciplines have stated the problem, as most disciplines do. Feminism is problematic on so many different levels because although there were Black women who were the first feminists, the construct like many others faced a “manifest destiny.” This meaning that the ideology was removed and stripped by white supremacist though or the social construct of whiteness.
When white feminists first began their movement, many of them were abolitionists. Even then, the white abolitionists within the slave period had no understanding that slavery was not the overall issue. Our history has taught us that. Humanity was an even larger issue. Once enslaved Africans were freed they were exposed to another world of problems thanks to what whiteness represented. Black women were not included into the [white] feminist conversation. Why? Black women, the African woman had agency over herself before slavery, during slavery and after slavery. Enslaved Africans viewed their slaveowner’s wives as defenseless creatures. Even in enslavement, the African woman, knew and recognized her role and how important that would be for her people. Slavery, never allowed for her to lose sight of that. Feminism appeared to be more about working, something that African women were already breaking their backs to do, identity, something that African women were consciously aware of because of the extreme trauma that they faced, and being in the white man’s shoes, which was not a desire of the AFRICAN woman. Therefore, in so many ways many both men and women of African descent view feminists who not only identifies the man as the enemy within our patriarchal society, but within the same breath actually desires to wear his shoes.
Alice Walker states in “Womanist” (1983) that the womanist is “committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female.” The question must be asked does feminism do the same thing in both white and Black disciplines? Walker also states that a womanist is “wanting to know more and in greater depth than considered “good” for one.” This means, that the Black woman is concerned about Black people and not just Black women. She values and loves the Black woman “sexually and/or nonsexually,” but also has this same feeling for the Black man. A womanist has an understanding that we have faced so much together as a people, that it would make no sense within a white supremacist society to identify one another as the enemy. Who is the enemy? What white men and white WOMEN represent is the enemy to the discipline of womanism. Whiteness is the enemy. Walker when she coined womanism did have every intention on the attempt to support Black feminists, because they are our sisters. Hudson-Weems felt as though womanism was still too much similar to the discipline of feminism. Africana womanism, chooses to identify the homeplace, which is Africa. Not only is Africana womanism about agency as women, it is about the agency of being African. Womanism and Africana womanism has many differences, but they both target “whiteness” as the ultimate issue, because of the collective social injustices that we face in this world.
-Melanie “CoCo” McCoy