Feminism vs Womanism Scanning Buchi Emecheta’s Oeuvre

Understanding Buchi Emecheta’s ideology in her works around feminism and womanism.

Editor’s note: This essay is available in print in our latest issue on The Life and Legacy of Buchi Emecheta. Buy the issue here.

Womanism came to prominence in the early eighties as a platform that voiced the needs of marginalized women. As a concept, it emerged from the African American community highlighting issues pertinent to Black women. Though the term ‘womanism’ was first used in 1863, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, and connoted ‘advocacy of or enthusiasm for the rights, achievements etc of women’, the term gained popularity with Alice Walker employing it in her 1983 collection of essays, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose.

While feminism is very much woman-centred, Black feminism (the root of womanism) is family and community-centred. While mainstream feminism finds its base in white, middle-class, heterosexual women’s experiences, women of colour find their own culture-specific dimensions of feminism in the concept of womanism. Black feminism focuses on gender discrimination based on race, nationality and sexuality, but womanism speaks of the lived experiences of coloured women and their culture. Culture and spirituality, scholars such as Rose M. Brewer have explained, centre womanist thinking and are fundamental to its conceptualization. As different from feminism as womanism is, it is not a separatist movement but an inclusive concept that promotes the well-being of all humanity, irrespective of gender demarcations...

This essay features in our latest print issue, ‘The Triumph of Buchi Emecheta’ and is only available to paying subscribers. To subscribe, buy a subscription plan here from $1.99 / month (students) and $5.99 / month (non-students). Already a subscriber? log in.