Why I'm A Womanist First, Feminist Second
Alice Walker, you always tell the truth.
When word first came that there would be a Women’s March in Washington one day after the inauguration, I was excited. There was something about being around a community of individuals who, for the most part, wanted the same rights and lobbied behind positive, reinforcing messages for women. Not to mention, key figures in our society like Janelle Monae, Raquel Willis, Janet Mock and the Mothers of the Movement would be in attendance. I just knew my experience would be one for the books. While it was quite a moment in my memory’s Rolodex, I can’t say it was for reasons I anticipated. My idealistic hopes for this sort of “kumbaya” moment with women in my city were admittedly naive.
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In a sea of white women, women of color were truly the minority and so were our voices. What was supposed to be a rally for those who have been silenced so many times before, quickly became another metaphorical wiring of our jaws. As the hours passed and marchers became restless, they acted out, chanting over congresswomen, activists, and celebrity guests. Oddly enough, most of those women were WOC. The moment I heard women claiming to be “for other women” disrespect Angela Davis by complaining and chanting “we want to march” over Janelle Monae’s “Say Her Name” cries, I couldn’t be bothered. I marched for a bit and I headed home shortly after.
I left feeling inspired; it was partially from the invigorating statements from women who looked like me and whose struggles mirrored mine. Moments like the Women’s March just solidified my truth that I am a womanist first and a feminist second.
The term “womanism” has been credited to poet and activist Alice Walker. As with most movements in this country, black women were left out of the narrative. With feminism, groundbreaking legislation and rulings were being made but it wasn’t to our benefit. Racism was still running rampant. As evidenced in the 2016 election, some white women would rather put their race first than the advancement of their gender.
While feminism caters to the belief of equality amongst the sexes, womanism is a bit more specific. It caters to the idea of equity and intersectionality, emphasizing how these things affect black women in particular. Our rights, our morals, our culture, our mission – it’s all protected and prioritized under the womanist lens.
Walker is quoted saying that womanism “is to feminism as purple is to lavender”. Womanism is deeper. It’s more focused. It’s more concentrated. It puts all of my efforts at the forefront. I don’t have to worry about being silenced because womanism is rooted in giving a voice to the voiceless. Historically, it empowers us black women to learn our story, take pride in our trials and tribulations, and force the rest of society to pay attention to our bold voices.
I thank women like Patricia Hill Collins, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Octavia Butler, Patricia Bell-Scott, Warsan Shire and countless others who have used their words to further the message. I thank entertainers like Janelle Monae, Ava DuVernay and Shonda Rhimes for creating avenues for women like myself. I thank my college professor for even introducing me to this concept.
Walker’s words reign true. I am a womanist. I am the lavender. All black women who believe in the power of our narrative are.
I’m a womanist first and a feminist second because I’m for us. I’m for our voices. I’m for our movements. I’m for laws that put our concerns first. I’m not afraid. I’m not weak. I am a magical black woman who loves magical black women. Unapologetically.