Last week, the Women of Color organization at JMU hosted an open discussion called Womanism vs. Feminism. Members discussed the differences between the two terms and the history behind them in both small groups and as a whole.
The three students who led the Jan. 28 discussions were Aliyyah Copeland, Ne’Airra Chisholm and Dajah Berger. After small group discussions, they defined feminism as the “theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” They defined womanism as “a form of feminism focused especially on the conditions and concerns of black women.”
Copeland, a sophomore health sciences, said she wanted to join Women of Color because she wanted to be involved with people of her minority group. She emphasized the importance of having a safe space to talk about experiences and stories with other women of color.
“I hope that they walk away knowing that whether you’re a woman of color or a white woman, all of your rights and your stories are valid and important,” Copeland said. “I’m hoping they walked away knowing that we should come together and try to blend those two together to work for a common good, which is just all women having an equal experience.”
Women of Color credits Alice Walker, the author of The Color Purple, for the first use of the term “womanism.” Copeland said it’s when they have these discussions to “make sure everyone’s heard” and reinforce that everyone’s story is valid.
“I believe feminism, their target was to have equality of both sexes, but in the end, white women of middle-class were fighting for their rights, and that’s a very different fight and experience than for poor women or women of color in poverty,” Copeland said. “Those are two different fights.”
Chisholm, who’s also a sophomore health sciences major, said she always wanted to “have her foot in something on campus” and felt that Women of Color was right for her to join to learn to develop different skills. Chisholm said it’s also important for incoming freshman students of color to have someone to look up to.
“It’s a judgment-free zone,” Chisholm said. “I’m hoping that they will have a better sense of understanding womanism and feminism so that way, what they learn in here, they can take it out and start to change the campus little by little.”
Berger, a senior sport and recreation management major, said she wants the types of issues discussed at Women of Color events to be broadcast instead of pushed to the side. Berger said that this was a “learning experience for her,” as she didn’t know the distinction between the two terms, either, with womanism focusing more on the concerns of black women.
“I think it’s important because I think some people get it intertwined and think it’s like the same thing or that there is no difference,” Berger said. “I think tonight brought out that there is a difference between them, and it should be acknowledged.”
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