This recurring feature, curated by Pilgrim Soul, directs Harpy readers to important feminist thoughts and concepts as spoken by some of her favourite feminists on and off the web. The appraisal of the value of these snippets is, of course, entirely Pilgrim Soul’s, and does not necessarily reflect the views of other Harpies. Feel free to discuss in the comments here.
Today’s Feminist Food for Thought comes to us from the writer Alice Walker, who is undoubtedly most familiar to many of you as the author of the novel The Colour Purple. (I’m Canadian; the “u” belongs there. Screw authorial intent.) In feminist circles, Walker is known as the coiner* of the term “womanist,” which she uses in place of “feminist” in recognition of the sense that feminism as a movement was fundamentally a white women’s movement. Here are her four alternative definitions of “Womanist” in her collection of essays In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens - I have edited them somewhat because they are long, and I wanted to encourage you to buy the book yourselves:
Womanist. 1. From womanish. (Opp. of “girlish,” i.e. frivolous, irresponsible, not serious.) A black feminist or feminist of color. From the black folk expression of mothers to female children, “You acting womanish,” i.e., like a woman. …
2. Also: A woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually. Appreciates and prefers women’s culture, women’s emotional flexibility (values tears as the natural counterbalance of laughter), and women’s strength. Sometimes loves individual men, sexually and/or non-sexually. Committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female. Not a separatist, except, periodically, for health…
3. Loves music. Loves dance. Loves the moon. Loves the Spirit. Loves love and food and roundness. Loves struggle. Loves the folk. Loves herself. Regardless.
4. Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.
I get the sense that most of our readership does explicitly use the term “feminist” to describe themselves, but if you do not, please feel free to say so. Do you see yourself as falling under these definitions? Were the term “feminism” to be abandoned for “womanism,” would that obscure the ways in which womanism has grown out of black culture? Are you in favour of changing the name of the movement if it would make others feel included in its aims?
* I’ve seen this challenged once or twice, but have no sources to send you to on the internet, and it seems generally accepted to attribute authorship to her.