Why I Call Myself a Feminist and Not a Womanist


feminism-is-for-everyone

It has become a trend for people to call themselves something other than “feminist” despite their identifying as a feminist. One of these other titles is “womanist.” Womanism is also known as Intersectional Feminism. This is because it focuses on the intersections of all the problems that lead to the oppression of women. I find myself drawn more to Intersectional Feminism than I am to any of the other subcategories. However, I don’t like to call myself a womanist. I prefer to call myself a feminist.

Of all the subcategories within Feminism, Intersectional Feminism acknowledges that not all Feminists are cis women, and trans* feminists are oppressed in part because they are trans*. However, to call oneself a womanist in part ignores that oppression. Both Feminism and Womanism can work towards the same end, but Feminism as a title is more inclusive. A lot of people complain that Feminism is an exclusive title because it ignores anyone who isn’t biologically female, but Feminism deals with the feminine, not the female. This means that it can be inclusive to the feminine in everybody. It can be inclusive to those who identify as cis-gender women, but it also includes trans women who are oppressed because of their femininity, it includes all trans* people whether they were born biologically male of female because we are all judged by our femaleness and lack of femininity of our maleness and femininity, it includes cis-gender males who are not straight because their sexuality causes them to be seem as feminine, whether that is true or not, and it includes cis-gender straight men who are forced to hide a part of themselves lest they be seen as feminine. In other words, Feminism fights to make the feminine equal to the masculine in society. This is one reason why Feminism is so divided: some feminists focus on biological sex divisions because having babies and caring for them is the ultimate form of femininity, some focus on gender because women are expected to be nurturing homemakers, which is considered feminine, some focus on getting women involved in politics, because masculine traits are what are valued in politics, etc. In all cases, it is the feminine that is being oppressed, and women/females are oppressed because women/females are supposed to be feminine. But not all women/females are feminine, and not all feminine people are women/female.

Womanism, however, is not as inclusive. Everybody has some femininity in them, but only one type of person is a woman: a person whose gender is woman. This means that only cis and trans women are included in Womanism. I don’t identify as a woman, so I am not included within Womanism, but I’m female, so I’m included in Feminism. As such, I can’t call myself a womanist. I’m all for ending oppression, but I’d prefer to do so in the most inclusive manner possible. And I certainly don’t want to see myself get left behind in the process.

Of course, inclusivity has it’s price too. The movement has to be inclusive without being too inclusive, otherwise it becomes useless. That is why I consider myself a feminist while also calling myself a humanist and an egalitarian. Feminism works towards a specific goal, which is a different goal from humanism and egalitarianism. They are all necessary groups, but they do the most good when they are kept separate.

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17 responses to “Why I Call Myself a Feminist and Not a Womanist

  • angelaroselle

    This article was well written and very thought provoking. As a Black woman, I just prefer the term intersectional Feminism to Womanism. Womanism is just another name for Black Feminism, the type of feminism that acknowledges what Black women go through in society. That being said, I also consider myself a Humanist to a certain degree but I know that it isn’t comparable with Feminism. It is important for other feminists to draw the line between movements that spark our interest because often times it conflicts with the goals that we have in mind. Otherwise, I am impressed with this article.

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  • Timantha Norman

    I find that while what you’re saying about the different forms of feminism in relation to gender identity is interesting, your views on womanism aren’t completely accurate. While the label that one wants to assign to oneself is based solely on the individual and their own viewpoints in conjunction with their own life experiences, it doesn’t quite make sense to say that womanism is not as inclusive as feminism. By its very nature, womanism was more inclusive in that it actually paid attention to the issues that women of color in the US face, women of color in the so-called third world and lgbtqi women of color who were all but ignored during the time of its creation by the mainstream white, female feminist movement. Since the coining of this womanist term, the matriarchs and leading white feminist intellectuals in working with younger women of color have come to their senses, hence the birth of third wave feminism and its long overdue inclusion of the aforementioned groups.

    Liked by 1 person

    • hessianwithteeth

      I didn’t say that Womanism wasn’t as inclusive, I said that the name implies that it is less inclusive. For women of colour, I think Womanism as an ideal is great. For people who identify as women, I also think it is great. I just see the problem existing for those of us who are Feminists but don’t identify as women.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Timantha Norman

        What exactly in the name Womanism alone implies that it’s not inclusive to those who identify outside of the traditional female gender binary? With that rationale, a layperson could say feminism implies the same. Being a womanist or a feminist should be one in the same with minor differences. Modern-day womanism and the various forms of feminism have taken into account the plight of those outside of the traditional gender binary in my opinion.

        Liked by 1 person

        • hessianwithteeth

          Womanism, the name, implies that it is for women. As in people who identify as women. You can be a woman without being within the traditional sex/gender binaries, but you can also be a female and not be a woman. I’m female, but I’m not a woman. My femaleness means that I am affected by the same issues that women are affected by, but I’m not a woman. My implied femininity (which is implied by the female label I was given at birth, and not by my actions or who I am) causes me to suffer the same oppression faced by women, but I’m not a woman. That is where the difference lies.

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  • lauragearydunson

    This is a very interesting take on the term Womanist. Like caelesti, I’ve understood Womanism as a counter-response to feminism, a term mainly used by African American feminists to highlight the fact that classic feminism fails to understand the issues facing minority women who have to deal with a distinctly different set of issues than white women who still tend to be in the privileged majority. I understand your reservations about the word wholeheartedly, but the historical and cultural context of the term Womanist deal much more with race and class than anything else. If anything womanism by doctrine is a response to where feminism is lacking, not an attempt to weaken important feminist values.

    Regardless as always I am a huge fan of your take on gender and always support exploring how engendered words try to fit people into boxes rather than understand sliding scales of gender.

    Liked by 1 person

    • hessianwithteeth

      I know the racial issues surrounding the use of Womanism, and I believe that Feminism has been and still is overly focused on white women. For that reason, I’m fine with the term in general (especially since it is still a type of Feminism). I do still have reservations about the word due to the issues I mentioned, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  • K T

    Excellent points, great post!

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  • Lisa Lo Paro

    I agree completely. Feminism is inclusive and for all people, whatever their self-identified gender is. Womanism is limiting and as offensive as menimism.

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  • Carl at FSJ

    I understand, I think, woman and man, male and female, femine and mascline, but I read an article like this I am lost. I find myself floundering it in a sea of nouns.

    Is it that I am blind to what others see? Is it I care less? Is it that I simply misunderstand your pains and sorrows?

    I am constantly reading a varied of site hoping for some hidden insight into the things I am yet to believe.

    Thanks for writing.

    Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much. Simle!

    Like

    • hessianwithteeth

      Well woman and man, male and female, femine and mascline. All mean different things.

      woman and man are genders,

      male and female are sexes

      feminine and masculine are presentations which a hugely culturally dependent.

      None are independent of one another, but each are different concepts, and have different meanings and you can have many different combinations of each. And those 6 ideas are not exclusive to other terms. There’s a lot more to learn.

      Search though our blog looking an gender and sexuality if your interested, and look around the web. Don’t take any one source of information as absolute truth and these issues are immensely complicated.

      I’s a steep learning curve and expect it to talk you a while to understand many of the concepts, but it is deeply rewarding and will give you insights into your own cultural and personal biases many of which you won’t even realized where biases at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  • caelesti

    Womanist is also a termed coined by Alice Walker by and for African-American women, and women of color in general, so that’s why I don’t use it. But not identifying as a woman is certainly an understandable reason. To me, what’s more important is how people act, not what terms they use. If someone to me acts like a good feminist, even if they’d don’t use that label, then cool. If they call themselves a feminist but are excluding certain types of people then I won’t pull out No True Scotsman on them, but I might challenge their position.

    Liked by 1 person

  • weareallafricans

    Certainly intriguing! Never thought of it like that…but I see where you are going….Thanks especially for the categorical distinctions of feminism: Gender/mothering/the public as political…..

    I, personally, no longer call myself a feminist, not because I do not have feminist elements/traits….because I think some like nurturing are learned once you become a mother by choice or not, or homemaker -again, I have learned my way around….

    Nor, I am an humanist or egalitarian. Usually when I tell people that I am first a Human, some tend to pigeon-hole me as a “Humanist”..No! It is not one and the same. I am human, and believe in Humanity as the greatest defining and dignifying and unifying element of meaning to our social co-existence.

    I left feminism because of its claims and distortion of human reality. Quite often lack of meekness in articulating that, NO! women are not culturally and were not culturally oppressed before capitalism introduced “the male” as “the public” and “the framer of the public space”….Or “western” as the framer of what is good, right, just, liberty, modern, developed, socially acceptable for the goose.. ..all of that..and even more..

    It is a conversation we can continue on and on and on for-ever. For a little insight into my thinking, herewith a link http://www.pambazuka.net/en/category/features/24675 (including a response to it…from one I do not know!)

    Thank you!

    Like

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