Race and “Feminism”

While some prefer to toss the term “feminism” around as a catch all phrase it can be offensive to those who understand the reasoning behind the creation of the term “womanism.”

Womanism:  Coined by Alice Walker to include those who are African American that are in the fight for women’s right, it isn’t a sort of “catch all” and adds to the conversation of “feminism” in that it addresses the black women who were ignored during movements towards equal gender issues during the 1900s.

So, why is it offensive when a person uses “feminism” as a catch all and not “womanism?”

Well, when the word “feminism” was first established in the early 19th and 20th century it created what was known as the woman’s suffrage movement. This movement was the inclusion of all white women that were suffering under the decisions of their husbands, such as the ability to vote.

White women, at the time, were not allowed to be involved with politics and were beginning to feel the effects of decisions that were made without their input so they began a movement. This movement excluded African American women by a long shot. In fact, black women could not speak up about their feelings towards the participation of the white woman.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that black women began to find their voice after all African Americans were given the right to vote. Their voice became powerful and it was black scholars like Alice Walker, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and even Angela Davis that were involved with this notion of “womanism” and not “feminism.” But, the 70s wasn’t even the beginning, it was a time of notice and spotlight for the school of thought’s teachings to other black women.

Womanism had been around since the early, early 1900s when it was originally created by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, who claimed it necessary for the voice of the black woman to be heard by her ability to vote. Alongside her was Katharine Ferguson who created the first Sunday school for black women to attend in order to learn things that were not being taught to them in regular school, such as the power of God, spirituality, and independence.

With all of these black women taking the time to dedicate themselves to reworking, power, and influence race in conversation there should not be a catch all term of “feminism” being tossed around which discredits them. It strips away their portion of history that was created. It strips away a portion of my history.

As being a black woman, I understand the grounds of what feminism is meant to do for women in that it is empowering to have a movement strong enough to change laws and tolerance for the way that our nation treats the sexes. However, don’t you think that it is more empowering to call yourself a womanist rather than a feminist?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to include a race that worked just as hard, if not harder, than those of the Caucasian race? Don’t you think that womanism is an amazing “catch-all” phrase because of its ability to not imply a double standard physique in which is racist in appearance?

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