3.0 / 5
Intersectionality is a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, which alludes to the plurality of intersecting systems of oppression and discrimination. Although intersectional feminism has become a bit of a buzzword (a problem to be addressed in another blog), it is supposed to recognise the multifaceted nature of people’s experiences and use this knowledge to diversify the white, middle class narratives that often pervade feminist discourse.
Womanism has similar aims in amplifying marginalised voices. It was a movement built in reaction to Black women’s erasure from the feminist movement, which highlighted racialised misogyny and the unique experiences of Black women.
Are the two mutually exclusive?
Some would suggest that the rise of intersectional feminism negates the need for “fragmenting” the feminist movement with alternative concepts like womanism. But, those on the other side of the debate would point out that these two movements are not mutually exclusive – they, in fact, support and reinforce each other. Intersectional feminism’s claim to recognise multifaceted experiences is partly solidified when Black women’s voices are heard. Womanism could be the perfect vehicle for ensuring that the misogynoir Black women face is recognised and addressed. As Alice Walker, founder of the term, reminds us in her famous quote “womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender” – womanism is not counter to, rather it’s complimentary to feminism.
So, perhaps both spaces can co-exist – those that primarily unite solidarity against sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, classism etc. and those that are solely for certain groups, offering a safe space for that community to explore and celebrate their identity.
Today, those spaces may have different facets than they did at the height of womanism in the 70s and 80s. Perhaps tweeting #blackgirlmagic and building an online community that celebrates Black beauty, excellence and sisterhood is an inherently womanist statement but, having been popularised in a less theoretical sphere, is not seen as such.
In carving out a new, inclusive, fourth-wave feminism – let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. We need to continue to have safe spaces for marginalised communities because, as intersectional as we want our activism to be, none of us operate in a vacuum and oppression doesn’t stop at the door of intersectional spaces.
Womanism and the critical lens through which it views feminism is one that we can all learn from – it refused to accept an exclusionary feminism and complimented the movement by constructively filled the gaps that were missing. Alice Walker, you’re the epitome of #BlackGirlMagic.