Womanism, Women And The World

TransGriot Note: This is a 2010 post from the brilliant editrix for Womanist Musings but needs to be seen.  There is still way too much misinformation and attempted erasure of womanism and Renee and other womanists have been helpful in my own personal evolution toward embracing it. 

I started out being a feminist.  I learned very early in life that
sexism greatly affected how people chose to interact with me and the
limits that I was given.  As I searched for answers, feminism felt like a
natural fit, but the more that I explored, the more that I realized
that though gender is a site of oppression for me, my race complicated
my interaction in feminist spheres.  I could not forget for one moment
that as a Black woman I faced unique challenges that feminism seemed
determine to ignore, or cheapen when it did bother to address them. 
Though I found the works of feminists like bell hooks to be fascinating
and affirming, in the end, it was not enough to heal the chasm that
White feminists had created with their absolute desire to maintain their
privilege. Once again I found myself searching for a label that would
best describe my desire to work for change and properly support my
political beliefs.  Africanna Womanism is a natural fit for me.

Over time I came to know more women that identified as womanists and
not all of them have been Black.  I have also seen the backlash aimed
at these women for choosing to identify as womanist by those who seek
to keep a womanist identity as completely Black.  This is policing and
privileging one group over another and it is no different than the
White feminists who sought to exclude us from their organizing drives. 
There can be no doubt that Black women face unique trials and that we
have no institutional other, but that does not mean that race does not
negatively effect the life chances of other women of colour.  Can we
really afford to reduce racism to something White people do to Blacks,
when it has become an institutional part of our communities, effecting
every single Brown/Black and Asian woman on the planet?  Simply because
the racism that other WOC experience manifests differently than when
Black women are on the receiving end, does not make it any less soul
destroying.

First Nations women are dying.  There are over 500 missing and murdered
Aboriginal women in Canada alone.  Indigenous women are 5x more likely
to die as a result of violence and 60% of the known perpetrators are
White men.  Race and a history of colonialism very much effects the life
chances of Indigenous Women.  Their presence in the media is
minuscule, making the crimes against them that much more invisible.

Though Latina women are more visible in the media, (Note: preference is
often given to those that pass as White) they are typically
constructed are played as spicy hot women who breed like rabbits to
attain legitimacy. They are often perceived socially as wanton sluts
whose very wombs signify danger to White society, that is when they are
not picking fruits, or working as maids. They exist to raise the
children of White women but certainly not have any of their own to love
and cherish. Think of the Latina women that you have seen in the media
recently, what messages did their characters send you?

There is also the lie that Asian women are a special class who have
completely been elevated to the status of honorary White women.  They
are servile to a fault and desperate to correct so-called flaws, like
their eyelids, which remind society that they are indeed Asian. The good
Asian woman is a wilting lotus flower waiting for a White man to
command her and the bad one is the evil dragon lady who refuses to
fulfill her so-called natural submissive role.  Even who we call Asian
is specifically designed to ignore those that are Brown creating yet
another hierarchy within a group of marginalized women.

No matter where you go in the world, WOC must directly confront race
and gender.  Even in countries like Japan, which is largely filled with
indigenous people, western ideals (read:Whiteness) permeates the
culture, creating false images of what constitutes desirable and
acceptable. As long as one is outside of Whiteness, womanhood is
complicated by race.  What does it mean given the pervasiveness of
Whiteness to decide that the term WOC implies Black and that womanism is
a movement meant to serve as a liberatory vehicle solely for Black
women?  Are we not then employing the masters tools to recreate a hierarchy because it benefits us, even though the cost is a loss of solidarity with other WOC? 

We have been trained to distrust and abuse each other by Whiteness
because such a division helps support White supremacy. We sin against
one another, appropriating and shaming with will and determination,
because we believe the lie that our elevation depends upon the cultural
demise of another.  Hierarchy, hate, jealousy, fear — this is what we
have been taught — and this is what we live. The blood that results is
our own but we ignore the knife as it slides between our ribs and comes
to rest in our breast, because what we truly need to kill, what we truly
need to maim with our righteous rage remains ever illusive hidden
behind the walls of so-called normalcy.  This is the evil of Whiteness;
it divides even as it conquers.  It is the evil of patriarchy, because
it teaches women to see each other as competition, even as it tell us
that we are incompetent to pursue our life’s aspirations.

I recognize that groups need private spaces where they can be free to
discuss their various marginalizations, but if we place this kind of
border on womanism, we risk recreating the very same conditions that
have soured so many women on feminism.  WOC must incorporate all those
who identify as non-White and womanism must be our activist arm, which
we reify to fight for the justice that has been so long denied.  There
are always going to be those that seek to fight the battle on behalf of
patriarchy and Whiteness and we must not aid them in this mission by
creating more walls, more barriers — that is the job of the oppressor.

Scroll to Top