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Alice Walker's 1983  definition of a Womanist:

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. “A woman who loves other women, sexually and/or non-sexually. 

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 non-sexually. 

Committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female. 

Not a separatist, except periodically, for health. Traditionally universalist…
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" 

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Womanist Praxis

Womanism is a social change perspective rooted in Black women’s and other women of color’s everyday experiences and everyday methods of problem solving in everyday spaces, extended to the problem of ending all forms of oppression for all people, restoring the balance between people and the environment/nature, and reconciling human life with the spiritual dimension.

Pictured: Gwendolyn Brooks, Toni Cade Bambara, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, and Mari Evans with fellow Black women writers in 1988.

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Womanist methods of social transformation cohere around the activities of harmonizing and coordinating, balancing, and healing. These methods work in and through relationship, reject violence and aggression but not assertiveness, and readily incorporate “everyday” activities. These overlapping methods include, but are not limited to, dialogue, arbitration and mediation, spiritual activities, hospitality, mutual aid and self-help, and “mothering.”

Physical healing and methods of reconciling body, mind, and spirit (including integral medicine and folk healing) are also recognized as methods of social transformation by womanists, based on the notion that physical and psychological well-being provide a necessary foundation for social justice and commonweal."


For womanists, community is conceptualized as a series of successively overlapping tiers, beginning with Black women or women of color (the level of the self or identity), followed by the Black community and other communities of color (the level of “tribe” or “kin”), followed by all oppressed people (the level of similarly situated others), and ultimately encompassing all humanity (the universal level). 

-Layli Phillips, The Womanist Reader

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