Six months ago, I determined that I am a womanist. Though I spent a portion of my undergraduate career at an institution designed to empower and educate black women, I was so entrenched in the misconceptions of feminism that I struggled with embracing the label.
I, and a legion of my peers, was against the concept of feminism. After all, I was insolated in a collegiate environment with hundreds of intelligent, ambitious, and undeterred black women, so we didn’t need to burn bras. I appreciated the struggles of the suffrage movement and respected the women in the trenches of the fight. But, as a millennial reaping the benefits of their sacrifices, I was never denied access to the American Dream based on gender. Race? Yes. Female? Not so much. I did not see how I could be a feminist in a world where the leader of Liberia is a woman.
After I embraced womanism while enrolled in a class that dissected the life and work of Alice Walker, I realized that most Generation Y women shared my former perspective on the concept. Feminism/womanism seems futile. But for my fellow millennial sisters wondering how feminism fits into our new world notions, here are five things to know about the concept in our lives.
We define it for ourselves.
In the beginning, as I developed a discourse and dialogue about this newly constructed identity, I struggled with how my values fit into the “womanist” framework. I started delving into the works of Walker, along with acclaimed black women feminists such as bell hooks and Audre Lorde, and realized their womanism/feminism ain’t like mine.
The puzzle pieces didn’t fit until I finally read Joan Morgan’s When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost. Morgan’s reflections taught me that I don’t have to fit into the traditional confines of womanist principles. I was raised in the “post-Civil Rights, post-feminist, post-soul generation,” so I embrace hip-hop as an outward expression of my inner voice and think Meek Mill is one gorgeous hunk of man meat. And that’s OK. We are entitled to define a functional womanism/feminism for ourselves.
It doesn’t impact independence.
Black millennial women covet our independence. We love having being in a position of power where we can provide well for ourselves. Feminism/womanism wants that for us, too. The practice of the concept doesn’t strip us of that; it just provides us with a framework for establishing ourselves as equals, which informs our independence.
Men, marriage, and motherhood matter now.
Feminism was rooted in the need to secure equal liberties outside of the home. White feminists were fighting for the right to have their voices heard in the workplace and establish their own identities. Times have changed. So the talking points of first-wave feminism are no longer as applicable to our lives. Now, we’re concerned with balancing career, home, and children; these are important issues for us, and feminism has a place for that discourse.
The packaging is different.
Our foremothers had Alice Walker, Helen Burley Brown, and Gloria Steinem. Now, we have FLOTUS, Beyoncé, and, some argue, Nicki Minaj to blaze the trails for millennial womanism/feminism. The packaging of this concept is different, but the foundation remains the same.
You can love Waka Flocka Flame and “Love & Hip-Hop Atlanta.”
Let me be honest here. Like Issa Rae, I adore ratchet hip-hop music. Nothing beats Waka’s Pandora playlist on those late nights when I’m working hard and the to-do list isn’t dwindling. Loving hip-hop and picking apart the basketball wives and the hip-hop lovers in Atlanta and New York doesn’t negate feminist/womanist principles.