Its been 78 days since Trayvon Martin
lost his life had his life stolen and somewhere in that 78 days I went from being a feminist to a womanist. Im not exactly sure when it happened but somewhere between the outrage, the fear, the questioning and the pontificating, it happened. No. Maybe it was the conversations at work, with family or friends that did it. Nope. I dont think that was it either. I think it was walking behind my 13 year old brother in his hoodie knowing that some fearful and deranged racist could see him as a menace that did it. And falling head over heels in love with my then manfriend’s 3 year old son didnt help at all. Not even a little bit.
Yoko Ono once said that “Woman is the nigger of the world.” To which Pearl Cleage asked, “So what does that make the Black woman?… Double Nigger… Nigger-nigger” This dichtomy, or lack thereof is what informed the creation of womanism. Alice Walker defined Womanist as:
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. Usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous or willful behavior. Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered “good” for one. Interested in grown up doings. Acting grown up. Being grown up. Interchangeable with another black folk expression: “You trying to be grown.” Responsible. In charge. Serious.
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 natural counterbalance of laughter), and women’s strength. Sometimes loves individual men, sexually and/or nonsexually. Committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female. Not a separatist, except periodically, for health. Traditionally a universalist, as in: “Mama, why are we brown, pink, and yellow, and our cousins are white, beige and black?” Ans. “Well, you know the colored race is just like a flower garden, with every color flower represented.” Traditionally capable, as in: “Mama, I’m walking to Canada and I’m taking you and a bunch of other slaves with me.” Reply: “It wouldn’t be the first time.”
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.
That is such a beautiful and comprehensive definition to me. And the more I thought about Trayvon, the more womanism made sense to me. Feminism caters to white middle and upper class women whose only oppression is that of their sex. But what about those of us who could compete in multiple events in the “Oppression Olympics”?
Feminism causes one to choose and that is something I simply cannot do. As much as I support equality for women I wouldnt survive without the Black man. Even aside from my own personal and sexual preference, any male child that comes through my body will inevitably be one. So I must stand up for their humanity as well. The lives of my future children depend on it.
So Rest in Power Trayvon. And Thank You.