Womanism: Feminism and Black Women

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The Color Purple is a tale of the struggle of Celie, a poor uneducated black woman who finds her identity and independence as a black woman despite her hardships. In this story, it is a blues singer who makes a way for Celie to come out of a black hole and into a black whole. Shug represents the blues, and in this way, the blues are what deliver Celie from the black hole that she has been put in by nearly everyone else around her. At the beginning, and throughout most of the story, the reader has an image of Celie as an uneducated and passive black woman who is, although abused by her husband and society, somewhat content with her life. If not content, she is unwilling or unmotivated to fight back against the world that is keeping her down. She is beaten by her husband and her step-father. She is not allowed to acquire an education. She is not allowed to have any kind of life of her own. She is stuck in a hole because of her color and sex, and it seems as though there is no way out. When Celie meets Shug Avery, Shug is rude to her. Celie nurses Shug back to health, and she becomes increasingly fascinated by her. She is fascinated by her because of who Shug is. Shug is a black woman who knows who she is. She does not let men have control of her life, and in fact, she is in pretty good control of Celie’s husband. Shug is representative of a black woman who has come out of the black hole into the black whole, and it is no coincidence that she is a blues singer.Shug shows Celie how to come out of the hole she is in. She opens her up to life’s pleasures, not only sexually, but through the example of her self-actualization. The reader sees Celie becoming less and less stuck. Shug helps Celie see that she does not have to be oppressed as a woman nor as an African American. She comes to realize her spirituality differently and herself differently. She has emerged out of the black hole and is now able to do the most important thing she could for herself: fight back.

alice walker womanist The world is too complex to be viewed from any single perspective. Only when the factors which influence an individual are taken into account can a philosophy be developed which defines point of view. African-American novelist Alice Walker has attempted through her body of work, to create a new and powerful voice which reflects the perspective of down-trodden women who struggle to lead their rather unfortunate lives. . Her work consistently reflects her concern with racial, sexual, and political issues-particularly with black woman's struggle for survival. "Womanist" is the term she has coined to describe this rich point of view and by examining The Color Purple, Possessing the Secret of Joy, and You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down a reader can begin to understand the full gamut of her views. Much of Walker's fiction is informed by her Southern background. She was born in Eatonton, Georgia, a rural town where most blacks worked as tenant farmers. At the age eight she was blinded in the right eye when an older brother accidentally shot her with a BB gun, after which she fell into somewhat of a depression. She secluded herself from the other children, and as she explained,"I no longer felt like the little girl I was. I felt old, Alice Walker’s womanist theory about black feminist identity and practice also contains a critique of white liberal feminism. This is the first in-depth study to examine issues of identity and difference within feminism by drawing on Walker’s notion of an essential black feminist consciousness.

Allan defines womanism as a “(r)evolutionary aesthetic that seeks to fully realize the feminist goal of resistance to patriarchal domination,” demonstrated most powerfully in The Color Purple. She also recognizes the complexities and ambiguities embedded in the concept, particularly the notion of a fixed and unitary black feminist identity, separate and distinct from its white counterpart. Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway and Drabble’s The...
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