Friday, October 4, 2013

Why I Hate Womanism



Womanism is a branch of second wave feminism designed for black women.  The term was coined by Alice Walker in her 1983 book In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose.  Womanism is predicated on intersectionality, where the feminist movement is divided and analyzed along various demographic lines from class to race /ethnicity.  It is for this reason that I dislike Womanism.

Part of the success of The Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s was the idea of presenting a united front.  Thus there are only three branches of said movement: moderate integrationists led by Martin Luther King, Jr., the militant Black Nationalist movement spearheaded by Malcolm X, and the radical movement of the Original Black Panthers.  Meanwhile, there are at least 22 branches of feminism, including third world, liberal, sex-positive, radical, Marxist, socialist, anarcho-capitalist, French, cultural, individual, and so on.  Womanism adds insult to injury by not even using the term feminism, replacing the prefix fem with woman, as if they’re ashamed to associate themselves with the movement as a whole.  If African Americans present a united front regardless of gender differences, feminism should present a united front regardless of racial differences.  We are women first, black second.  There are no significant differences between the races, but men and women are different.  Therefore being a woman is more significant than being black.  There are universal issues that unite us as women, including abortion, trafficking, and double work.
To make matters worse, Womanism provides equal and viable representation of Black male struggles.  What do black men have to do with women’s rights?  That’s as absurd as representing white women’s struggles in the Civil Rights movement.

With that said, Womanism may have been necessary historically

According to Hudson-Weems (1993) racism ensured that Black men and women assumed “unconventional gender roles” (Alexander-Floyd & Simien 2006: 70). Commonly, Black women worked outside the home, leaving a higher rate of domestic responsibilities to men in comparison to “dominant culture” (Alexander-Floyd & Simien 2006: 70). Therefore, due to the fluidity of gender roles within the Black community “mainstream feminist goal of dismantling traditional roles is, at best, inapplicable and, at worst, irrelevant to them.”

But now:

[Patricia Hill] Collins contends that Womanism “exaggerates out-group differences and minimizes in-group variation by assuming a stable and homogenous racial group identity.”

Womanism is reminiscent of black men saying to me that I’m not a woman, but instead I am a black woman.  Society expects me to put race ahead of gender when I have been much more impacted by gender issues than racial issues and am a woman before I’m black.  It’s a divide-and-conquer strategy on the part of black men, a ploy to make us serve their causes and erase our own issues, subsequently playing second fiddle in the struggle for equality.

There’s even Africana Womanism.  What next: Accra Ghanaian Working-Class Lesbian Womanism?  This problem lends itself to the image of women as catty and just goes to show that maybe we’re meant to be individuals who fend for ourselves.