Lv 4
Indi asked in Social ScienceGender Studies · 1 decade ago

What do you think of Alice Walker's definition of "womanist"?

Lately there have been a lot of Y/A Q&As that contain the phrase "the feminists." Never positive. Always stereotypical and critical. I know that feminism is diverse. So diverse that many of us, esp. women of color, cannot relate to the stereotype.

Please give me your heartfelt reaction to Alice Walker's definition of "womanist." Though I do not think that this def. applies only to women of color, this is how I would describe myself. The word feminist just does not fit me. The following paraphrase is fr. In Search of Our Mother's Gardens.

Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender. A womanist is bold, universalist, committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female. A womanist is also -- and thoroughly -- erotic: A woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually and exultantly. Loves music. Loves dance. Loves the moon. Loves the Spirit. Loves love and food and roundness. Loves struggle. Loves the Folk. Loves herself. Regardless.


Dear GSXRRider: You are entitled to your opinion, but if you would take the time to understand the question and the quote--maybe google it or do a little research--you would find a whole movement based on this so-called "meaningless crap." This was as honest call for dialogue ab. the ideas in it, not an invitation for insults. Try thinking before you type and spew out your own "meaningless crap." Thank you for playing. Now how ab. a real answer?

Update 2:

Dear Rio M.:

This is a typical criticism of the quote, usu. fr. people who have a narrow patriarchal idea of how women can love other women. Love can be sexual or nonsexual. Please read the entire quote. Although I have nothing ag. lesbians, this is not a promotion of lesbianism. Thanks for your answer.

Update 3:

Dear Special S.:

Thank you so much for your response. To answer your Q, Alice Walker is a poet as well as an an essayist and fiction writer. Her references to the moon and to roundness are both literal and metaphorical. The moon is a beautiful, luminous light in the nighttime sky, and it is also a nearly universal symbol of feminine energy. As for roundness, given a poem I once read of hers, where she writes that any one who wants to be with her will also have to be with her sun, her belly, this may also be a call for the love or acceptance of women's naturally round or curvy bodies. Finally, the moon, the sun, and the earth all round in shape--and all bear near universally symbolic meaning. Hope this helps.

Update 4:

My dearest Bill:

Thanks so much for your answer. "Universalist," right on. Gender distinctions upon close examination often do not hold up. As for the complexity of my questions, what can I say? I am what I am? How can a beautifully complex mind like mine come up with simple questions ab. complex issues in life? (Much love...)

Update 5:

Dear lady_bella, my cyberfriend, I think you are right on the money here. Alice Walker is known for her belief in connecting with the whole. So, she is not with the stereotypical radical feminist agenda of cutting women off from men, or the patriarchal women's agenda of cutting women off from each other.

Ciao bella. :)

Update 6:

Oh yes, lady_bella, in her poetry Alice Walker discusses the need for us to accept our whole selves, our authentic selves. She wouldn't use the word "faults," though. In one of my favorite Alice Walker poems she shares the idea of wrapping our contradictions around us to parry stones. Powerful stuff. Love your interpretation.

Update 7:

There are critics who have cast Alice Walker as a man-hater because of the negative images of men she created in her famous book The Color Purple. What these critics conveniently fail to take into account is the fact that all her characters, male and female alike, learn, change, and grow by the end of the novel. Moreover, Alice Walker's other books, eg Possessing the Secret of Joy, In the Temple of My Familiar, and several books of poetry have a multitude of images of positive male images, and initially negative female images. But I don't see anyone calling her a woman hater. As a writer, performer, and instructor, it irks me to no end when critics base their opinions on very little knowledge couched in a tremendous amount of prejudice and hatred. We do not all have to agree with each other here. As Alice Walker herself has said, "Conformity is not community." But can we all help to make Y/A a hate-free zone?

Update 8:

Al_b: an interesting rant, but have you noticed that you did not answer the question? There is nothing in this post/question asking you or anyone to endorse a label. What I asked was for you or anyone to actually read the Walker statement and respond to it honestly. This is difficult if not impossible to do if you are so hell bent on judging. Peace.

13 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    For me, it sounds like she is stating that a Womanist sees the whole picture, the boldness of everything, while the femenist is just a fraction of that, and yet is a mix of everything else. A womanist isn't afraid to love herself as a whole, and isn't afraid of her gender as a whole. A womanist accepts her faults, and yet sees her potential for greatness.

    Do I have the gest of it? I'm not a college graduate, and this question is a hard one for me, but I still wanted to give it a try. Sometimes I can be off base, and sometimes I can be right on the money. I have never been good at comprehension. I've always had to take 'reading' over again in school, and when I did take a few classes in College, I had to take a basic reading class because my comprehension just isn't that great. Funny because I lack comprehension skills, but yet I can be so intuitive. Is that really possible?

    Let me know if my reaction to Alice's definition was correct, or at least understandable. Thank you. :-)

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  • 3 years ago

    Womanist Definition

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  • Al B
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    I have always hated the need to put a label on anyone, or claim a label for that matter. If we call a stone, a stone, it is just that and nothing more until some outside force picks it up and uses it as a weapon.but to label someone we are attempting to catch a rainbow. A person may endorse the feminist movement as many men do so then do we call them feminist? Gay?

    to have one label, feminist, we then have to have another label, non-feminist, and we are divided and the same would hold true with womanist or non-womanist.

    the same holds true for political parties to some extent, republican or democratic, but then we have the other groups, libertarian and so on which become an attempt to break one group by forming other smaller groups.

    If we divide by sexuality, heterosexual or not, we have to consider the case of Anne Heche, who was in a lesbian relationship before getting married, having several children, divorcing that man and I understand is engaged again to another man.We might call her confused but I think it better if we do not give her a title or label and simply consider her Anne Heche.

    We can say that those who marry too much younger the themselves are in the group of failures at marriage but then we have the case of charlie chaplin who married an 18 yer old when he was 54, had 8 children, and stayed married for 34 years until his death - his wife, Oona, never even dated after that but missed charlie to the point that she became an alcoholic and died some 14 years later

    When we put a label on a person or group of people we do not liberate them but restrict them to that category but once we remove all labels, we have freedom.

    If we label a dish soap as a dish soap, we only wash dishes with it by by removing that label, we have a soapy liquid which can be used to remove grease from a driveway, wash cars or even perhaps our clothes, and we might even be able to entertain children by blowing soap bubbles.

    When we put a label on something it becomes too rigid, too restrictive. We can consider frozen water as ice and we restrict it to that, being ice but when we remove the ice and allow it to warm it becomes something else, water to drink or bathe in.

    If we restrict a caterpillar to being only a caterpillar we can freeze it in a freezer or seal it in some type of plastic perhaps but it is restricted and can never become the more beautiful butterfly and so it is with labels. We do not open doors when we come up with a label - feminist, womanist, gay or lesbian, democratic or republican, soldier or politican, but rather we close the door too often to what we might become without that label to hold us back.

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  • 1 decade ago

    I rather like the description (and Alice Walker, and vividly remember in The Color Purple when she meets her abusive dad again in his very old age, and they reconcile - she comments that he has grown wise, he replies that it can't be helped when you live long enough)

    The definition of feminism isn't the problem. Some people will take a dislike to any description as an excuse to attack what they really don't like - which is the views you have, the person you are or both of those things.

    I like Alice Walker's womanist, I like feminism (probably am a male feminist most days) and agree with equal rights. By all means adopt the term that suits you best, but understand (as Alice Walker understands) that prejudice cares very little for your choice of description, only for who you are and what you stand for.


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  • 1 decade ago

    I think that Walker's definition of "womanist" is almost completely accurate for me. I like to think that I'm all of those things except for a few. I can easily see how some would label her definition and feminists lesbians, but I think it's b/c those individuals like to remain "thinking inside of the box". Existential reflections are not a welcome way of thinking for some people--it makes them uncomfortable. However, I think that in order to truly understand one another and the harmony of being a part of God's creation, that we MUST think beyond what we see and let our minds be limitless in that endeavor.

    I do have a question, though: are the references to the moon and roundness more metaphorical than the other parts of her definition?

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  • Kinz
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    I've seen Walker's definition before, and I always liked it. Walker is a wonderful writer and activist. I think she coined "womanist," which is now widely used. I actually took a "womanist" literature class at the University of Arizona, and it was great. We read Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Edwidge Danticat, and a few others.

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  • Bill
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago


    Finally an easier question. The quote is exactly correct. It does not only fit women of color, it fits most women. If you were to do a universal substitution for woman and replace it with man, it still would be relevant. The most important part of that quote is two words near the end "Loves herself". What more can be said?


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  • Louise
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    From the situation in the color purple. The black women in the America could not read or write. THey were free from slavery, but after slavery had to struggle because they didn't know much. The white people during that time were very hard because they had to free their slaves and they didn't want to do it. The white people were very bitter towards black people. black women were free from slavery, but not really free with their lives. Black women and men still had to live under the rules of the white. people. Sometimes black women did what was necessary to feed their children and to stay out of trouble. They still had to work for white people for little or nothing or they would be punished. As for women in Africa during this time, people were free. The women were educated, they were teaching school and raising their own children. There were some problems, but not like the problems they had in America. In Africa the women were free from slavery and free with their lives

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  • Done
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    I think this is one of the most interesting questions this forum has seen in a LONG time!

    Don't let these guys get to you. They can take the most positive thing and make it negative.

    My reaction to the quote? Couldn't agree more; the quote to me is moving and I found myself nodding my head as I read it (with the exception of the loving women sexually - that's not me).

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  • 1 decade ago

    Better be a womanizer than a womanist or a feminist.

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