Friday Womanist – Alice Walker


1. From womanish. (Opp. of “girlish,” i.e., frivolous, irresponsible, no 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 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. Traditionally 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 for 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.

Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose, 1983


3 responses to “Friday Womanist – Alice Walker

  1. How absolutely wonderful. Love that word. I wonder if she would mind if we appropriated it, cos I know that we is womanist from head to toe.

  2. Yes, you is!

    But “womanist” is used by black women to describe themselves, rather than using “feminist”, in part because many (most? all?) women of colour, working for the end of kyriarchy, say, with huge reason for doing so, that feminism ignores and excludes them. The quotes I’ve put up from bell hooks show this.

    bell hooks 1
    bell hooks 2
    bell hooks 3

    Audre Lorde has got some interesting things to say too…

  3. I love the way my girl has been womanish for the last couple of years.