• Gravity Magazine

The Feminist Movement for People of Color

Men can support women’s rights without being a “simp” or “inferior.” Disregarding the negative stigmas attached to feminism, the underlying intents that are sought out for women by women are amendable. However, feminism falls short, especially in its claim to be equal for all. Consider when the movement for equal rights between the sexes began.

In 1850, women’s movement organizations began protesting the rights for women to vote, work, and earn equal pay, amongst many other injustices. Yet, the end of the nineteenth century is far from a time where all women saw equality in treatment. Black women, known back then by their white counterparts, men and women alike, as slaves, had no rights in America. Indigenous people, let alone Indigenous women, were killed, raped, and fled out of their homes, forced to watch colonizers claim their land as theirs. Japanese-Americans were forced into concentration camps, the Jewish were hunted like dogs, American-Latinos were illegally deported to Mexico regardless of their citizenship or not, the list of injustices goes on. But these acts of terror aforementioned all occurred before, during, and far after the women’s movement. 

The reality is, the feminist movement was created by white women to accomodate white woman. And that movement was exclusive to them. So what about Black women? How have black women risen so grand past the points of even white-womanly oppression, to the point of  self-love, care, and acceptance? 

Although womanism is perceived to be a subcategory of feminism, womanism is quite often given more credit than being under feminism. Seeing as feminism never provided women of color any sense of protection or rights, and womanism does specifically that. Womanism by many, if not all Black women, is mostly considered to be a movement of its own. Womanism is detached from feminism, however, they do share the same ideology of equality. 

Specifically, the term womanism was used by African-American author, poet, and social activist Alice Walker in her short story titled Coming Apart, in 1979. Ten years later, it was coined and made popular by Kimberlé Crenshaw, an African-American lawyer, civil rights advocate, philosopher, and the creator of the theory of intersectionality, the theoretical basis in what creates a certain individual’s views and how that individual may discriminate. Walker shortly describes her way of the womanist usage as black feminism. Alice is also known for her saying:

“A woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually. Appreciates and prefers women's culture, women's emotional flexibility ... and women's strength. ... Committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female. Not a separatist, except periodically, for health ... Loves music. Loves dance. Loves the moon. Loves the Spirit ... Loves struggle. Loves the folk. Loves herself. Regardless…”

“...Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.”

Black women may further recognize American author Alice Walker as the writer of the book and later turned film The Color Purple, as stated in Wikipedia, its a story set in the 1930s about the struggles of African-American women in a time of strict racism, sexual abuse, and status oppression, to name a few other societal strains black women had to endure without a single sense of acknowlegment or justice. 

According to Wikipedia, Triple Oppresion, a theory created by many black activists and socialists, including Claudia Cumberbatch, alias Claudia Jones, a Trinidadian journalist and activist, is the theory that the three types of oppression which are sexism, racism, and classism, all play a part in why discrimination agaisnt what society sees as the lowest of the low for humanity, a.k.a black women, are treated and abused the way they are. And to overcome the abuse of specifically African-American women, we must overcome all three oppressions. 

Alice Walker, now seventy-six, is a winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and Kimberlé Crenshaw, now sixty-one, is a full-time professor at both UCLA’s School of Law and Columbia Law School according to Wikipedia. Her teachings specializes in race and gender issues. Claudia Cumberbatch, who passed away in 1964 at the age of forty-nine, later became the founder of Britain’s first black publication, the West Indian Gazette in 1958.

Womanism, to put into clearer terms, is a social theory that arose from the everyday experiences and history of women of color, especially including the experiences and history of black women. To seek justice and social reform for the betterment of the ethnic treatment in the states. To be put into better terms, womanism checks off all the boxes for women of color that feminism is for white women. 

The two most important factors of life to consider in womanism is the consideration of color and culture. Unlike feminism, where the basic factor of consideration is womanhood in all, womanism recognizes and focuses on the different types of women from different cultures around the world. From the beauty of Buddhist women to Islamic traditions to African fashion trends, womanism touches upon it all. Womanism is more versatile than feminism, even though feminism is recognizable around the world. 

Despite the accredited sense of inclusivity and versatility in womanism, critics bring to light their disdain for the lack of LGBTQ+ representation within womanism, despite their claim that womanism holds ideologies in: “A woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually…” There is very little works of literature that speak on the issues on lesbian and bisexual women of color, and critic Renee Hill, a womanist theologian, claims this is due to the fact that womanism was in fact created around Christian influences, explaining the lack of acknowledgement, or in her ways of seeing the issue, a sense of heterosexist and homophobic tendencies in womanism overal according to Wikipedial. There are also claims of inadvertent colorist and classist results.

Different forms of Black movements arose from and after womanism. Movements such as Black feminism, the Black Liberation Movement, Africana womanism, and the womanist Identity. A lot of forms of justices and movements have derived from feminism, however, the movements for women of color, the confidence to rise higher than the label america has placed upon Black women, and the accomplishments of black, women scholars, were all made possible from the secluded “sub-category” of feminism, womanism. Though the critics expressed the need for further representation leading to much more work needing to be done under womanism, which I agree with, I do believe that black women wouldn ‘t be as successful, strong, independent, and powerfully confident as we are now without the works of womanism and its sub-categories in all regions.

REPORTER: Rachelle Barrett

THE VOICE, Gravity Magazine, 2020

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