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.
– Alice Walker
At age 13, people would rather comment on my body than my intellect. It infuriated me that adults would value my appearance over everything else, especially at an age where I was extremely self-conscious about the way I looked as a Black girl, so I became a Womanist. A Womanist is a term coined by Alice Walker that describes a Black feminist or feminist of color who analyzes the intersections of race, gender and sexuality. She started this movement in response to the prevalence of anti-Black racism that exists within the mainstream feminist movement and misogyny within the mainstream Black Power movement.
Another reason I identify as a Womanist is because at age 14, people tried to stop me from pursuing my dreams of being a programmer because I was a Black girl. I recall being isolated, stereotyped and discredited. When I asked out of frustration I was being treated unfairly, my coaches and mentors accused me of being ungracious and acting out. The only other female programmer was a feminist who showed up for the Women’s March, but not for me while she saw me experiencing racism. I turned that negativity into something positive by starting a coding program for Black girls in my community so they wouldn’t have to endure what I went through.
The third reason I identify as a Womanist is because at age 15, I was heavily stereotyped advocating for gun violence prevention, and faced racist online harassment as a Black female student activist. I was given the opportunity to deliver a speech at the March For Our Lives in Richmond, which led to being quoted in the press multiple times, being invited to write articles for the ACLU of Virginia and to organize with a group of student activists. Conflict occured when I called out two white students for their insensitive comments regarding racism in schools, police brutality and school shootings being intersecting issues. I was accused of “clashing,” “fighting,” “attacking other people,” “not exchanging my opinions peacefully” and “changing the subject of who they’re trying to help”. I was told I shouldn’t be working with them if I was going to address the disproportionately affected demographic, instead of quote, “all lives, American lives and not Black lives”. I was consequently excluded by the organizers from participating in the April 20th Walkout on Brown’s Island. I turned that negativity into positivity by sharing my story on social media, at two youth summits, at two town halls, and one speak-out. That student organizing group in Richmond no longer exists.
In response to the intersecting misogyny and racism I’ve experienced, I launched a publication called Black Feminist Collective, an intergenerational online collective of womanists who advocate for the liberation of all Black folks. I advocate for diversity in S.T.E.A.M by creating safe spaces for Black girls and encouraging them to learn how to code and enter this field. I continue pushing for gun violence prevention by encouraging people to amplify the voices of those disproportionately affected by it, and advocating for restorative justice practices and community non-violence. My call-to-action to white feminists is to start showing up for us by confronting your biases and not only showing up to the events that make you comfortable, but also showing up for causes that challenge issues that may not directly affect you.
Written by Stephanie Younger, a 16-year-old student activist, organizer and writer who advocates for Womanism, diversity in S.T.E.A.M, the abolition of youth prisons and gun violence prevention