When Feminism Goes Wrong: The Creation of Africana Womanism
Clenora Hudson-Weems, founder of Africana womanist theory, defines Africana womanism as “an ideology created and designed for all women of African descent. It is grounded in African culture, and therefore, it necessarily focuses on the unique experiences, struggles, needs and desires of Africana women” (Hudson-Weems, 2007). Finding the existing philosophies dealing with women’s issues lacking, Hudson-Weems sought out a new perspective that would reflect the unique experience of Africana women. This paper explores the formation of Africana womanism and how it departs from traditional feminist theory. While Africana womanism claims to better meet the needs of Africana women than traditional feminism, there are a number of fundamental deficiencies in that theory as well. This paper will focus specifically on Black feminism in examining this failings.
Hudson-Weems emphasizes the importance of a theory that examines the plight of Africana women that is created for and by Africana women. This is the only way to ensure that their particular needs would be addressed. This Afrocentric ideology is better equipped to empower the Africana woman and place her fight in her own hands. Even the approach’s name is rooted in African culture. It adheres to the concept of nommo, the proper naming of a thing which calls it into existence. “The terminology Africana womanism…more appropriately fits the Africana woman, who is both self-namer and self-definer. It is true that if you do not define yourself, someone else surely will” (Hudson-Weems, 2007). Naming has played a large role in empowering and uniting Africana people, particularly in the United States, as shown by the evolution of naming conventions for Black Americans, from colored to African American (Ntiri, 2001). Creating a term completely separate from feminism, Black feminism, and Alice Walker’s womanism asserts the Africana woman’s ability to create her own agenda in the academic arena.
This emphasis on intellectual independence is exemplified in Africana womanism’s stance on social justice. Unlike other forms of gender-based ideologies, gender is not the primary focus of the movement. It asserts that race, then class, are more urgent sources of oppression for Black women before gender, thus the issues should be dealt with accordingly. This focus on race stems from Sojourner Truth’s speech “And Aren’t I a Woman,” given at a mostly white women’s convention in 1951, which addresses the discrimination she had experienced there. She comments on the privilege of white women, who receive special treatment that she had never been afforded as a Black woman. White women profit from white supremacy in a number of ways that they refuse to acknowledge. She challenges the idea that for one to be considered a true woman, she must be white, and asks her audience to acknowledge her own femininity (Hudson-Weems, 2007). The choice of the term “womanism” is a...