Unlike feminism, and despite its name, womanism does not emphasize or privilege gender or sexism; rather, it elevates all sites and forms of oppression, whether they are based on social-address categories like gender, race, or class, to a level of equal concern and action. Womanism’s link to gender is the fact that the historically produced race/class/gender matrix that is Black womanhood serves as the origin point for a speaking position that freely and autonomously addresses any topic or problem. Because Black women experience sexism, and womanism is concerned with sexism, feminism is confluent with the expression of womanism, but feminism and womanism cannot be conflated, nor can it be said that womanism is a ‘version’ of feminism.
This is from The Womanist Reader. Here she illustrates how womanism involves a feminist component, but is also concerned with many anti-oppression theories and praxes, not solely feminism. Because feminism—especially among middle class White women—has a long history of not being intersectional, at times the word “feminist” alone is not a sufficient descriptor for someone committed to multiple facets of anti-oppression work. (I also pondered feminisms as plural before..)
For Black women concerned with justice in multiple areas, not solely regarding sexism, misogyny, misogynoir and transmisogyny, but also say…uh racism, classism/poverty, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia, ableism and more, womanism speaks to this praxis. It’s inherently intersectional from the race/gender/class matrix that speaks to many Black women’s lives globally, as she alluded to in the quote. This is why some White feminists have adopted the phrase “intersectional feminism” to illustrate a commitment beyond gender justice alone.
This quote and one I recently blogged on three central points of womanism are really important in acknowledging its similarities to and differences from feminism (which remember, Audre Lorde let us know that differences, in general, are OKAY). The differences aren’t only epistemological or experiential but also kinda…cultural. In Alice Walker’s writing on womanism, connectedness, community and wholeness are alluded to; facets that directly conflict with individualism as proliferated by Whiteness.