I’m interested in language, as you might have noticed from my last post on pro-life/anti-choice semantics. I have a little series on my blog called Language Matters, where I discuss the significance of language in culture, politics, and progress. (Keep in mind that the word “series” is used loosely here, since I’ve only written two posts.) Anyway, this here post can be filed under that category: I want to talk about womanism and feminism.

When I first discovered feminism and came out of the feminist closet, I was amazed and excited by what I naively thought was a perfect, completely inclusive movement. This is probably because I’m very privileged, as women go — cis, currently able, thin, middle-class, white — and my first introductions to contemporary feminism were authored by women within similar demographics. I thought, “Wow! A place where I can totally be myself, and be accepted and respected for my identity!” — and took for granted that all people would feel as comfortable as I did.

So yeah, I’m a bit older and wiser now, have read a bit (though not as much as I need to) about trans people and people with disabilities and people of color’s views on today’s feminism: that it is actually pretty darn exclusive a lot of the time.

I want your insight on how we can acknowledge the ways The Feminist Movement has and continues to fuck up, while still identifying with its goals. Specifically, I’m wondering how I, a white woman, can acknowledge the dire need for womanism without stepping on the toes of women activists of color.

From a Womanist Musings interview with Loryn of Black Girl Blogging:

What is your definition of womanism and do you feel that this applies to all across the board?

To me, womanism brings together the importance of men and family to the struggle for gender equality and the experience of women of color that cuts across class, race and gender lines. While I believe that womanism speaks particularly to the black female experience, it is important for men and women of all races to embrace the principles of womanism.

How would you say that womanism differs from feminism and why is it important to you to identify as a womanist rather than a feminist?

Womanism differs from feminism in that it takes account for the experience of women of color. Feminism has been painted as the movement of white middle class women and has excluded women of color and poor women for a long time. It is important to me to identify as a womanist because it means a greater devotion to causes that effect women of color like myself.

In my bio on Women’s Glib, I identify as a pro-womanist feminist, but I’m shaky on this. I think that it would be inappropriate, as a white woman, to call myself a womanist as one step towards acknowledging the experiences of WOC, and towards acknowledging feminism’s wrongdoings, as such identification infringes upon the right of WOC to have your own label (Melissa McEwan brings this up in the interview comment thread, followed by insight from Renee and Loryn — not sure how to link directly to the comment, but it’s about the fifth one down).

One question, for commenters of all demographics, with particular emphasis on WOC/self-identified womanists: is it fair to call myself a pro-womanist feminist, as a move towards accomplishing these goals? If not, how else can I humbly and respectfully identify myself?

(Sorry if this post is winding and seems to lack purpose. This is a tricky issue, one that’s been marinating in my mind for a while, but I really think dialogue is needed.)

Cross-posted at Women’s Glib.

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52 comments for “Labels

  1. July 13, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    I identify as a pro-womanist feminist,

    I really like that. I’m also white, so I’m coming from that perspective when I say I like it, and would also like to hear what women of color think of that term.

  2. Jadey
    July 13, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    My 2 cents: I confess to also being big on language and words (my old motto: precision of language; clarity of meaning), but I also know from all of the times that that has gotten me in trouble, that sometimes action has to come first. I am also a privileged woman–cis, white, middle class, currently [en]abled–and I have also been working on how to support and be in solidarity with multiple communities, without appropriating their struggles or undermining their self-determination. Right now, I am trying by signal-boosting the voices of others by linking, speaking out within my own circles, and educating myself by taking the opportunities that others provide (and having the time and energy to do any of this is a mark of privilege in and of itself, I must acknowledge). I have used labels like “anti-racist”, but I usually append a “trying to be” to it first. I guess I’m not comfortable wearing a label like that, and I’m not sure I want to be “comfortable” with it either, especially given the history and continuing power of appropriation that comes with my privilege.

  3. Jadey
    July 13, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    By the way, if this wasn’t clear, my comment above is about me, and not an attempt to tell other people what to do. Just my thoughts as they pertain to my experiences.

  4. July 13, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    As a WOC I think saying pro-womanist feminist is a great way to align yourself with the goals/ideals of womanism while acknowledging that womanism has been birthed from a WOC-centric place. I would love to see more dialogue on this, and I think it’s great to think about these things while aiming to push feminism forward and broaden its aperture.

    I will say that I do not think it is necessary for all feminists who aim to support ALL women to also declare that they are pro-womanist, in spite of the movement’s history of excluding WOC and other “types”of women that have been marginalized by feminism itself. Moving forward, it’s my view that because of people such as yourself who are womanism-aware and others who are in touch with their privilege, however little or small, as a feminist, that feminism by default will include WOC and those margins will fade.

    I don’t mean to sound idealistic at all; I say it with language in mind. Pro-womanist is a great declaration to me. I read it and think of someone who is aware of my feminist existence as a WOC and is also aware of her existence as someone that is not a WOC but is also a feminist who pays attention to these intersections.

  5. Pega
    July 13, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    You raise an interesting question, and one I would love to see a definitive answer to. I’m probably not the best one to contribute, I too come from a perspective of certain privilege; white, cis woman and currently abled. And until very recently, I didn’t take part or identify with any particular -ism, not from a lack of desire or because I didn’t see the need, but because I have difficulty in drawing any kind of attention to myself, and I am non-confrontational to the point of anxiety attacks at just the possibility of disagreement – regardless of how civil the discussion might actually be. But I’ve been out of work for quite some time now, and I was starting to vegetate. I needed a way to stimulate the brain cells, and forced myself to start interacting on these blogs rather than just reading, nodding my head and moving on.

    That being said, I’m also very bad with words. I often don’t see that there is a negative connotation to something until someone points it out to me. I also acknowledge that I am clueless enough in this area that when I am corrected, I accept the correction and (to the best of my ability) change my usage to something more acceptable. Another reason why I normally don’t interact and just nod my head from behind the computer screen.

    In other words, I am a babe in the woods right now. But at least I am acknowledging that and willing to be guided by those wiser than I.

    And finally, the point to this windy ramble…yes, I would like to hear the input of others on the best way to identify myself, without appropriating someone else’s identity.

  6. July 13, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Probably makes sense to ask the womanists you support, rather than here at a non-womanist site?

    I’m just sayin’.

  7. Alex Catgirl
    July 13, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Alice Walker coined the term womanism as African-American feminism (somewhat applicable to other African cultures), and has its roots in Black Liberation theology.

    It would appear that those you quoted ascribe to some aspects of the ideology, but like feminism, people have a tendency to redefine the word, adding and subtracting elements which may or may not be consistent with the originator’s intent.

    I don’t know what to call myself these days, I’m partial to “meowist”
    a white, upper class, conventionally attractive,abled, biological female with 47 chromosome pairs ending in XX.

  8. Jadelyn
    July 13, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    I will do something similar, referring to myself as a womanist ally/feminist. Pro-womanist seems a briefer and smoother way to do it, but I like retaining the word “ally”. And I absolutely have Renee of Womanist Musings to thank for my involvement in such, btw…she speaks really eloquently about the difference between feminism and womanism.

    I think either pro-womanist or womanist ally are both good terms for a white feminist to indicate solidarity with the womanist movement.

  9. Miranda
    July 13, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Caoimhe Ora Snow: You’re absolutely right. I’ve emailed Renee of Womanist Musings and Tami of What Tami Said — certainly not the only womanist bloggers, but two of my faves — for input.

  10. July 13, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    Caoimhe, I think this is a fair place to pose the question, though perhaps not the best place to reach a consensus. The site’s own stated goals are not womanist, but I know that many self-identified womanists read and comment here. I think the post is meant for the commenters more than the authors.

    Regardless of location, it’s a question I also grapple with on many levels–at what point do I stop being a friend and start toward appropriation? In my own ramblings I try to make clear the perspective I’m using, which is generally along the lines of ‘this is part of what matters.’ I am, however, aware that most of the labels we use for ourselves have plethoras of meanings that differ based not upon who says it but upon who hears it. I can call myself a feminist and mean that I’m trying to break out of the White Feminist box, but someone who has been prodded by feminists may take that a different way. Yet calling myself a womanist is incompatible with who I am simply because I cannot know the complexities of that movement.

    I think that Miranda’s position of being a pro-womanist feminist is the best idea I’ve come across for promoting the self-awareness necessary to be a feminist without excluding WOC.

  11. Allison
    July 13, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    I know this might seem like a post that aims for nuance and complexity, but in asking for Renee or Tami to give you “input” — you are asking both of them to instruct you on language. It is not their job to teach you or provide you with a consise label for your activism.

    You say that you “have read a bit (though not as much as I need to).” Someone’s who truly invested is going to read and learn. You don’t become an ally because you need affirmation; you do it because that is the right thing to do. A lot of what you’re saying in this post comes across as looking for cookies.

    Also, this question has been examined at great length in numerous posts by Renee, Monica, and Tami, among others. These were just the links I could find, but I’m sure there are more:

    Can A White Woman Be A Womanist?

    The Name Of This Blog Is


    Clean Up Feminism, Then We’ll Talk

    Nobody knows the troubles of a black womanist blogger in the white femisphere

  12. July 13, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    “I’m wondering how I, a white woman, can acknowledge the dire need for womanism without stepping on the toes of women activists of color.”

    I think actions speak loudest. If, as you say, you believe in the goals of feminism but take issue with how some feminists implement them, then IMO, being the change you want, calling yourself a feminist, is best. Why appropriate the term “womanist” in even a positive way with “pro-” added on? Renee has a thread discussing the whether white women should use the term “womanist,” and I agree with the conclusion there, which is (put much more nicely): no.

    I also think Black Amazon’s post here is instructive on the matter of whether adding “pro-” is helpful in any way.

    Of course, I cannot speak for WOC, and possibly am misconstruing the above posts.

  13. July 13, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Allison, just caught your post, guess we made the same connection to Renee’s post. I agree with you about asking for instruction here. Hopefully these links plus BA’s will provide the appropriate inspiration.

  14. July 13, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    I think as white feminist, I can do far better good by trying to actually make space for women of color and womanists, and be inclusive in my language (by speaking of womanism/feminism rather than just feminism), rather than trying to make myself look good by appropriating “pro-womanist” into my image.

  15. NinaG
    July 13, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    Agree w/ what Allison says.
    Language is important but so is action – what are you doing to be pro-womanist?

  16. July 13, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    I got here via twitter expecting something insightful, but I find a white woman’s mini biography. The part about actual womanism is quoting a random Womanist Musings post, which I’ve read before, a long time ago.

    Yes, this post seems to lack purpose, given that Renee of Womanist Musings has already written about this issue and with more depth and complexity.

    I agree with Caoimhe that the location is inappropriate (expecting womanists to come to a feminist site (which is hostile to WOC) to answer your questions), but I also agree with Allison in that it is inappropriate to ask womanists/WOC to educate you. Allison’s links are good, but maybe you could have poked around Womanist Musings a bit more to find them?

  17. July 13, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    Yeah, this whole post is rubbing me the wrong way and for the reasons #16 presents.

  18. Manju
    July 13, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    of all the new-fangled anti-racist rules out there, the one that leaves me the most gobsmacked is the “don’t ask POC for instruction” or its many variants.

    its totally counter intuitive, to the point that anyone who’s outside the narrow echo-chamber of the radical left would find it preposterous. And i suspect that includes the vast majority of POC. Has there been some survey indicating we find this offensive? normally asking for instruction is a totally respectful thing to do.

    the only thing i can think off is maybe its a tad condescending, in the sense that we’re assuming poc posses some sort of wisdom whites don’t. true respect is to go all out and attack someone as if their strong enough to take it, not treating them like their special. but that sounds like a conservative race neutral approach, so i can’t imagine this crew here is advocating that.

    so, as the resident conservative sent here to spy on you, i remain gobsmacked. i’d ask for an explanation but then i’d be violating the rule. its a freakin’ trap, i tell you!

  19. anon
    July 13, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    Eh. Feminism doesn’t address disability issues. Neither does womanism (with the exception of Renee’s blog and that strikes me more a function of the remarkable woman she is rather than inherently from her being a womanist) so as far as I’m concerned, it’s all a game of words at this level anyway. My question is more along these lines: what are you DOING to be this “pro-womanist feminist” of which you speak. Besides musing about its appropriateness on a… white-middle-class centered feminist blog?

    The only way I’ve found is to go and read and learn from other blogs. Not limit yourself to a set of blogs which all happen to be focused on/run by middle/upper class pretty white women. (That’s your answer, gobsmacked. The answer is “Shut up and listen.” Because, all these strange alien beings you look at with such puzzlement have already been telling you everything you need to know all along. Asking them questions merely means you have been walking along in your privileged life with fingers in ears going LA LA LA LA LA.)

  20. July 13, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    I read the post and decided to put my response on my blog, which can be found here for all interested parties.

  21. maevele
    July 14, 2009 at 1:32 am

    @18, the thing is, those who have the patience and inclination at the time to do the educating have already put those hours in, so the information is out there if you take a minute to look for it yourself rather than asking someone else to tutor you or free.

    So it becomes pretty problematic to ask a poc to explain to you what has already been explained over and over.

  22. currently
    July 14, 2009 at 4:45 am

    I’d advise you also start using currentlycis, currently able, currently thin,currently middle-class. And you can even say currently white (because there are all sorts of skin diseases, and who knows)
    I think you currently reek of privilege and are currently full of s**t.

  23. Miranda
    July 14, 2009 at 5:41 am

    Thanks everyone for the feedback. I will return to this post when I get home from work, after I’ve digested these thoughts.

  24. Allison
    July 14, 2009 at 6:00 am


    of all the new-fangled anti-racist rules out there, the one that leaves me the most gobsmacked is the “don’t ask POC for instruction” or its many variants.

    It is a function of privilege to request someone’s input, knowledge, and experience to serve as your guiding post for philosophy. As I stated in my comment above, Renee, Monica, and Tami, among others, have posted on many occasions about white women’s appropriation of the term “womanist.” By her own admission, the OP has failed to do the necessary reading that would have allowed for a reflection on the thoughts of these writers. Instead, she posted here and demanded that *they* come to *her.*

  25. Jadey
    July 14, 2009 at 8:44 am

    Another thought to digest and another reason why this approach of looking for another anti-racist label (which is how I am interpreting “pro-womanist feminist”) may be problematic are these two posts: we don’t need another racism 101 and The White Anti-Racist is an Oxymoron. I really think these are important to read.

    These posts directly speak to the problem of allies and would-be allies (I’m not sure if there’s a difference there — I feel like the latter is more accurate) focusing on how to use language “properly” so as not to get called out on our behaviour (or lack thereof), rather than on how to actively help dismantle the power structure, including relinquishing our sense of entitlement to the privilege of feeling like our identities are beyond reproach because we’re well-meaning white ladies. (Which totally applies to me too — I am not going to pretend to be doing any better at this and I am also not going to pretend that “it’s the thought that counts”, when what I need to do is fail better next time.)

    I think some of the past language discussions were important for figuring out what people are talking about when they use the words they do, but I feel like this discussion is not that and would be better oriented around “what can we here at Feministe do to be better womanist allies, both on the blog and elsewhere?”, rather than on how do we call ourselves as such without demonstrating a basis for that assertion.

  26. Jadey
    July 14, 2009 at 8:57 am

    (P.S., I can’t believe I missed this because I’ve seen it quoted around a lot, but there’s a response from Holly–I believe our Holly here at Feministe, but correct me if I’m wrong–to that first linked post that includes the line, “The work is not the workshop”, which is pretty damned powerful, as well as some suggestions for anti-racist work.)

  27. July 14, 2009 at 8:59 am

    This is what I left on Renee’s blog. I thought it would be equally suitable to post here:

    Well, that’s just it: Renee was being summoned, and, to me that just isn’t the correct approach. Furthermore, in trying to weave myself in and out and around and up and down the mired language of “pro womanism” I had a headache.

    Is it any wonder that women of color maintain their own spaces?

  28. RMJ
    July 14, 2009 at 9:20 am


    Learning is great. But it often takes place in further reading, or in individual and private conversations. But it’s no okay to use a BIG PLATFORM to ask for help, or expect that it be served to you. Starting a direct dialogue would also be much more appropriate. Learning should not be a performance, and it should not be undertaken on a big stage.

    I understand where Miranda’s coming from, since I”m going through some of the same paradigms shifts that she is (as another young blogger of many many privileges). Privilege is blinding. Miranda seems like a very bright and intuitive young woman, and I think judging from her past writing and her comments here, this will be a learning moment for her.

    But this is not okay, and if she’d read a little deeper into Womanist Musings, she’d understand that.

    My favorite of Renee’s posts is Pearl Clutchers, and I think there’s a better answer to your question there, in the last few paragraphs.

  29. July 14, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Hi Miranda,

    As you’ve no doubt realized, you’ve likely asked the wrong question, in the wrong place and of (mostly) the wrong people and in the wrong way – but, hey, live and learn.

    To all the other commentary (and I do recommend that you read all the links so kindly provided, particularly the “we don’t need another racism 101” one) I’d like to add that not all (or, probably, even most) woc identify as womanists. In fact, I believe it’s a rarity among non-Black woc, but even then, not all Black women (or men) identify as such. Me, I’m pretty “ist”less altogether at the moment. So the term “pro-womanist”, even if it made any sense, is itself extremely limited.

  30. ZC
    July 14, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Well, Miranda, sometimes it sucks being young and dumb, but fortunately we got to read some great links as a result of you sticking your neck out, including the fantastic We Don’t Need Another Racism 101. That’s it. Labels don’t matter, actions do. Live your convictions whatever the hell they’re called and learn from everyone. I stopped calling myself a feminist a long time ago, and decided to BE one instead.

  31. anon
    July 14, 2009 at 10:42 am

    Yeah, it somewhat disturbs me that there’s this overall tendency to assume, well if womanism is a reaction to the lack of WOC in feminism, then womanism must apply to all WOC who can thus can be safely umbrella’d under one term. As if. There’s plenty of women who aren’t in either -ism.

  32. Jadey
    July 14, 2009 at 11:13 am

    re: currently @ 23

    Some of those identities are more fluid than others. I think ability status and, yes, socioeconomic status (an interesting point) benefit from the reminder of the potential fluidity of being [en]abled and well-off.

    However, “currently cis” and “currently white”, well… while fluidity of racial identity may have some application for people of multiracial/biracial backgrounds or in situations where a person is misidentified by others in their racial identity… I’m pretty sure going around calling myself currently White would be pretty damned offensive. It seems to suggest that I see myself as just a hairsbreadth away from appropriating someone else’s life experience. I doubt there’s a skin disease out there that could do that.

    As for “currently cis”… no. There is already too much crap out there about “gender is a social construct” and “reifying gender norms” and coded use of “choice” and “lifestyle”. I don’t know what you intended “currently cis” to mean exactly, but it reads all wrong to me.

  33. July 14, 2009 at 11:19 am

    I don’t know, I’m mis-identified as non-white, multiracial, or biracial all the time–to the point of being called out for being “ashamed” of my supposed biracial background– and I would feel pretty damn uncomfortable calling myself “currently white.”

    As for “currently cis”….wha? No, I don’t think so.

  34. July 14, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    *rolls eyes @ 23*

    I dare someone to find a way to be more arrogant and proud of their privilege. Disabled people try to figure out a term that makes sense to them, and someone flounces in to be a “snarky” asshole about it, with no substantive addition to the conversation at all.

    “currently” at 23 — if you want to complain about the term, you can complain about it in MY thread, instead of derailing Miranda’s. Okey doke?

  35. July 14, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Jadey, chava… it seemed clear to me that “currently” was trying to say that the use of “currently able” as a marker for people without disabilities is full of shit.

    Some people just don’t like it when they find their identity being defined, rather than just being “normal.”

  36. July 14, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    Hey Jadey,

    That was a different Holly (clue: she says she’s white, i’m not! heheheh) but I agree wholeheartedly with “the work is not the workshop.”

  37. Jadey
    July 14, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Oh, damn, I’m sorry. :( That was the very definition of foot-in-mouth. Thank you for your correction, because that was a pretty stupid mistake.

  38. Allison
    July 14, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Cross-posted from the comment thread at Womanist Musings

    I take it in good faith that you’re sincere about wanting to use appropriate language — your bio at Women’s Glib has already changed to say “womanist ally” rather than “pro-womanist.” This, to me, shows that you do have an investment in how this plays out.

    It’s been pointed out in comments at Feministe, as well as in this post/comment thread, that there were many already-existing blog sources discussing the appropriation of womanism by white feminists. It was *never* Renee’s or Tami’s or Monica’s or any other WOC blogger’s responsibility to address those issues in the kind of direct dialogue you were attempting to start at Feministe. It was your responsibility, as a guest blogger with a new and large platform, to do the necessary research on this topic before posting and to address those questions in a way that didn’t hold WOC accountable for providing you with the “correct” label.

    If you want to support womanism, there are so many ways to do this without appropriating language (or demanding that WOC provide you with “input” for YOUR dialogue). You can write about WOC in ways that center their experiences rather than your need, as a white woman, for politically-inclusive labels. You can read “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens: Womanist Prose” by Alice Walker. You could even submit a guest post for Renee’s consideration — she has a very open guest-post policy. I think white feminists have a lot to learn in engaging with womanism/WOC blogs, but I do have some confidence in your ability to approach this with a little more understanding than this post at Feministe showed.

  39. Miranda
    July 14, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Again, thank you to everyone who took the time to comment, call me out on my shit, help me learn from this. This has been a serious exercise in identifying privilege and owning up to mistakes, and I will learn from it as a blogger and activist because of you all.


  40. shah8
    July 14, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    While I understand very much about the whole privilege of asking for the signposts as if you were tourists asking for assistance from the native guides, I think this issue can be abused the other way around. I think that context and judgement is really important in deciding how to handle n00b questions.

    I had a much longer post, but deleted most of it since I thought it would only just get me in trouble. Let’s put it like this, I hate insular behavior, and creating “safe spaces” gives you the right be *curt*, not abusive. One of the things that I really like about the womanist community is that they do set aside time and energy for the stupid questions (like writing proper 101s) even while demanding a higher level of knowlege and sophistication for topics that need it.

    We should always judge whether the n00b is an asshole, rather than assume so. The latter is treehouse politics.

  41. Tumbril
    July 14, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    I’m aware of the origins, and, to be brutal, I think it’s a stupid, meaningless, confusing term that describes the absolutely marginal number of women of color who claim that affiliation. What’s worse, it attempts to introduce a destructive division instead of effectively addressing the core problem of the feminist movement in America really being made up of almost exclusively of middle and upper class white women. Feminism started as and remains a white middle class movement, but that’s slowly changing and can continue to change if everyone works together.

    All these syntax games and competing to see who can be the most sensitive, and of course, call out others on their insensitivity, making you their moral superior and in a position to lecture them, are really unhelpful. Do we want people to know what we’re talking about so we can affect change, or do we want to impress each other with an ever-expanding plethora of labels and sub-categories that mean absolutely nothing to anyone other than us?

    • July 15, 2009 at 7:36 am

      Feminism started as and remains a white middle class movement, but that’s slowly changing and can continue to change if everyone works together.

      Precisely. But it’s not WOC’s responsibility to change it. It’s white women’s. Until that is changed, white women can’t complain when WOC join together to make sure they are centered *somewhere.*

  42. Kristen J.
    July 15, 2009 at 12:24 am

    Do we want people to know what we’re talking about so we can affect change, or do we want to impress each other with an ever-expanding plethora of labels and sub-categories that mean absolutely nothing to anyone other than us?

    I vote for the plethora of labels! Labels are personal and flexible. Feminism is a collection of screwed up ideologies that come together under the bright and shiny banner of gender equality (usually, for the most part, except for some people). There was never a “unified” feminism that is now experiencing destructive divisions. Feminism has always been fractured along class, race, ability, etc grounds. And frankly, unifying is not going to happen.

    I’m never going to agree to work with the rad fems on their gender equality agenda any more than I will work with feminists for life or other groups that I believe engage in bigotry.

    You can’t unify feminism because different people have different priorities within the feminist movement and those differences are informed by intersectional oppression. You can’t just concentrate on “women’s” issues, because there are no issues that are simply “women’s” issues.

  43. Dawn.
    July 15, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Interesting post, Miranda. Thank you for examining and owning your privilege, first of all. That’s something we all need to do, regardless of background. I am a black feminist and I’ve gotten into this discussion many times. I have always been hesitant to embrace the “womanist” label, because even though I do recognize feminism has been exclusive at times and has ignored the voices and needs of WOC, queer women, trans people, and people with disabilities, I want to improve the movement, not distance myself from it.

    I’m not trying to belittle other women of color who distance themselves from the feminist label. But if I want feminism to be inclusive, if I want feminism to evolve intellectually, socially, and politically, and if I have a problem with the way feminism is depicted as an elitist, white, middle-class, heterosexual movement, then I will change it. It isn’t, because I’m here. It won’t be, because I will work to change that. For instance, I don’t abandon the gay rights movement because it is occasionally biphobic and transphobic. As a bisexual ciswoman who loves her trans sisters and brothers, I want to work to change that. So I’m here.

    On the other hand, it is not solely my responsibility to help feminism evolve. White, heterosexual ciswomen hold the majority of that responsibility to engage in a serious dialogue about what feminism means to all of us, and how feminism can build up instead of tear down, include rather than exclude. Feminism as elitist, white, hetero, and middle-class is increasingly becoming a stereotype, but we have much work to do. Let’s make it ancient history together.

    Also, I don’t think it’s a problem that you started this dialogue in a feminist space. This is a dialogue that should be happening in both feminist and womanist spaces, in my humble opinion.

  44. Hanna
    July 18, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Dang, we’re starting to run out of words.

    If it’s okay with everyone, I’d like to reserve the term “femaleist” for intersectionalist groups of trans women.

    Also, I’d like to point and laugh at comment #8 and her 40-something chromosomes and encourage others to make comments on it. Or moderate it out as a troll. Either/or.

  45. Azalea
    July 19, 2009 at 10:37 am

    @46. Hanna I thought everyone understood cis to mean exactly what she said, which would make it a waste of typing and probably offensive. And meowist? Seriously?

    @23. Now on currently, yes you are only currently able bodied because it is something you have zero control over and that can change in the blink of an eye. What is your problem with the use of that word?

  46. July 20, 2009 at 8:42 pm


    Some people just don’t like it when they find their identity being defined, rather than just being “normal.”

    That’s true, and I support that completely. The thing is, though, to say that, you have to let everyone (everyone) else say it, too. Some people reject labels that are given to them, even if they are given to them by people over whom they hold privilege, because they do not like anyone but themseves to label them. I think that’s completely valid, and something that’s widely ignored when discussing label like “cis” and “currently able-bodied,” etc. All people have the right to label themselves, and reject a label that is given to them, regardless of who does it.

  47. July 21, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    …I forgot to add something on my last comment: When I used “cis” or “currently able-bodied” as an example of a label that one could choose to reject because it was given to them, I am not suggesting that “normal” would be an acceptable replacement for the terms. I see how that’s obviously problematic.

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