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?

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