by Kristine Baffo
“Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.” To the eye, purple and lavender present itself as one in the same color, only divided by minor elements of shade. To the mind, purple and lavender represent two distinct colors. In fact, to liken the purple to lavender is to dismiss the intricacies and nuances of equally as bold purple. Conceptualizing this notion allows for society to begin to understand the intertwined yet distinct relationship of womanism and feminism.
The word feminism can be described as the social, political and economic movement and ideology formulated in order to bridge disparities between men and women. Womanism, a phrase coined by Alice Walker in her book, In Search of Our Mothers Garden: Womanist Prose, expands on this narrative by examining the intersectionalities of women via race, gender, and socio economic status. This paradigm addressed and continues to address the needs of black and brown individuals previously excluded from the feminist movement.
I am revisiting womanism to acknowledge that the very existence of the movement highlights a niche being neglected by feminism. I am revisiting womanism to recenter and reclaim the agency of marginalized groups within and outside of this movement. This is to underline that while feminism focuses on economic inequality as a major source of disparity, it does so without equally bringing forward that black and brown bodies themselves are constantly rendered without value. This is to underline that while feminism brings political disparity to light, it does so without strongly challenging the power dynamics within its own movement. Womanist of color are constantly conditioned into relinquishing non-conforming ideology in lieu of the greater feminist good. The concerns of black and brown individuals is often addressed as an afterthought, rather than in tandem to mainstream feminist concerns. Let us rewrite this narrative to be truly inclusive of all identities. Let’s move away from a one size fits all model acknowledge that with difference there may be a unique set of needs.