Monday, May 5, 2008

Womanist of the Week - Alice Walker

Alice Walker's _The Color Purple_ is pretty amazing, as is the woman herself. I didn't know this, but apparently she was in the first multiraical marriage in Mississippi. She also coined the term womanist which, as a movement, has had profound effects on individual lives and the naming and reclaiming the experience of women of color.

But I'm going to let her speak for herself.

How simple a thing it seems to me that to know ourselves as we are, we must know our mothers names.

It's so clear that you have to cherish everyone. I think that's what I get from these older black women, that every soul is to be cherished, that every flower is to bloom.

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.

The quietly pacifist peaceful always die to make room for men who shout.

No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.

Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.

I think we have to own the fears that we have of each other, and then, in some practical way, some daily way, figure out how to see people differently than the way we were brought up to.


Amelia said...


La Pobre Habladora said...

What wonderful quotations from a great woman and author. I have to admit, though, I have never really taken time to consider the term 'womanist' - how does it differ from feminism (other than apparently being bolder)?

Lindsay said...

Walker first used the term in In Search of Our Mother's Gardens: Womanist Prose. It's in reaction to the feminist movement that is primarily focused at middle-class white women's issues and instead refers to the experience of women of color as entirely different from that of the white women Walker saw in the feminist movement. It's a cross-cultural look at how sexism, racism, classism, etc oppress the lives of women of color. Womanism refers to all women of color, but most often it's used to describe African-American experience. I first encountered the term in relation to womanist theology, which is a growing field.

One of my professors, Emilie Townes, has written many, many lovely books on womanism. I've read Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil (it's good) and she intertwines theology, ethics, stereotypes of African-American women (Mammy, Jezebel, Topsy), political issues such as the legacy of the Bush administration and reparations for black folk, her own history... It's a good read if you're interested in the subject. Dr. Townes is also the first African-American woman president of the American Academy of Religion, so that's pretty cool.