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The term womanism was used by author Alice Walker in her book In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose (1983). Although the term was in use from the 19th Century , Walker was the first to use the term to describe “black feminist or feminist of colour” (Collins 2001: 10).
Beauboeuf-Lafontant (2005) describes womanism as a “theoretical perspective focused on the experiences and knowledge bases of Black women [which] recognizes and interrogates the social realities of slavery, segregation, sexism, and economic exploitation this group has experienced during its history in the United States. Furthermore, womanism examines these realities and Black women’s responses without viewing them as a variation on or derivation of Black male or White female behaviour and social circumstances” (p.437).
As Hill notes, the definitional dissection of the term womanism undergoes severe deconstruction in academic circles and feminist literature alike (Alexander-Floyd & Simien, 2006). Importantly, Beauboeuf-Lafontant (2005) emphasizes that not all Black women are womanist, just like not all women are feminists. Additionally, from Beauboeuf-Lafontant (2005) we learn how individual Black women form a political and ideological coalition under Black womanism. Through this, they create a space where they can express their exploited struggles and become academically and culturally recognized for being able to articulate their lived experiences.
An important aspect of womanism is the fundamental focus on racial inequalities (Patton, 2001). As Ogunyemi (1985) outlines, “Black womanism is a philosophy that celebrates black roots, the ideals of black life, while giving a balanced presentation of black womandom” (p.72). From Walker (1983), we also appreciate the womanist commitment to wholeness and loving "other women sexually and non-sexually" (p.12). Equally, womanism provides equal and viable representation of Black male struggles (Collins, 2001).
Essentially, womanism encompasses Black gendered struggles (Collins, 2007), while possessing associative commonalities with the separate notions of Feminism, Black feminism, Africana Womanism and secular womanism (Johnon, 2007).
Womanism and Feminism 
Womanism emerged from Black feminist recognition of the ignorance of racial struggles in the first and second wave of feminism due to factors such as purposeful neglect, racism and perpetuation of the ‘white-women’s agenda’ (Alexander-Floyd & Simien, 2006). Several studies have found “that Black women are less likely than White women to identify as feminists…Therefore, although Black women may support the premises of the women’s movement, they may not ultimately identify with being feminist” (Boisnier 2003: 212). Ultimately, womanism purportes a different and more encompassing type of identification for Black women, which separates from traditional notions of feminsim (Boisnier, 2003).
According to Hudson-Weems (1993) racism ensured that Black men and women assumed “unconventional gender roles” (Alexander-Floyd & Simien 2006: 70). Commonly, Black women worked outside the home, leaving a higher rate of domestic responsibilities to men in comparison to “dominant culture” (Alexander-Floyd & Simien 2006: 70). Therefore, due to the fluidity of gender roles within the Black community “mainstream feminist goal of dismantling traditional roles is, at best, inapplicable and, at worst, irrelevant to them” (Alexander-Floyd & Simien 2006: 70). Further, the lack of anti-racist ideologies and doctrines within the first and second wave of feminism made ‘women of colour’ feel severely ‘othered’, painfully invisible and underrepresented (Alexander-Floyd & Simien, 2006).
Womanism and Black Feminism 
In scholarly academia, there exists discerning approaches about whether women and feminism should be assessed as separate or intrinsically linked elements (Alexander-Floyd & Simien 2006). Seemingly, womanism purports a racial framing of Black gendered struggles, whereas Black feminism constitutes a national alignment to gendered Black politics (Alexander-Floyd & Simien 2006).
Africana Womanism 
Africana Womanism can be viewed 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. It critically addresses the dynamics of the conflict between the mainstream feminist, the Black feminist, the African feminist, and the Africana womanist. The conclusion is that Africana Womanism and its agenda are unique and separate from both White feminism and Black feminism, and moreover, to the extent of naming in particular, Africana Womanism differs from African feminism” (Alexander-Floyd & Simien 2006: 67).
Womanist Academicians 
Contributing intellectual women who have significantly contributed to deciphering womanism, in relation to Black identity, include: Patricia Hill Collins, Alice Walker, and Clenora Hudson-Weems (Alexander-Floyd & Simien 2006).
Critiques of Womanism 
Patricia Hill Collins addresses the issue of how focusing on the naming of particular struggles can become a “political distraction” from gendered racist and sexist oppression that Black women face (Alexander-Floyd & Simien 2006: 68). Collins contends that womanism “exaggerates out-group differences and minimizes in-group variation by assuming a stable and homogenous racial group identity” (Alexander-Floyd & Simien 2006: 68). Potentially, this comes with the ubiquitous essentialization of Black women struggles, which denies varied experience of Black women who align with various socio-cultural heritages.
- Alexander-Floyd, N.G., & Simien, E.M. (2006). Revisiting "What's in a Name?" Exploring the Contours of Africana Womanist Thought. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 27 (1), 67-89. doi: 10.1353/fro.2006.0011
- Silva-Wayne, Susan. Feminisms and Womanisms: A Women's Studies Reader, Women's Press, Ltd., 2003.
- Walker, Alice. In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose, Mariner Books, 2003.
- Douglas, Kelly Brown. Sexuality and the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective, Orbis Books, 1999.
- Cannon, Katie Geneva. Katie's Canon: Womanism and the Soul of the Black Community, Continuum, 1998.
- Cannon, Katie G. Black Womanist Ethics (Aar Academy Series), An American Academy of Religion Book, 1988.