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  • Response
  • Lee Miena Skye (bio)

This is an Australian Indigenous Christian womanist theological reply to Coleman's soul-searching concerning the "womanist" scholastic label. The data I cite are found in my master's and PhD theses, where Australian Indigenous women's Christian theologies/spiritualities are documented for the first time in academic history.1 I am a Tasmanian Aboriginal (a Palawa), descended from the last "full blood" before the genocide. The annihilation of my people was one of the swiftest acts of genocide in the history of humankind, and I seemed destined to write against what I call quadridimensional oppression, that is, racism, classism, sexism, and naturism (abuse of nature). Of my people there are approximately five thousand descendants, who keep the culture and language alive in spirit. Palawa womanist theology/spirituality is part of the data used in the theses, along with data from the Murri, Nunga, and Koori peoples, who are from mainland Australia. Even though Palawas are a unique Indigenous race (its racial linkage is uncertain), our country recognizes all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Indigenous peoples of Australia. It is important to understand that our mainland Indigenous race is in genocide, and the same fate my people have met is facing all Australian Aboriginals. My work is urgently needed to aid in healing and reconciliation.

Who We Are as Womanists

In choosing the right language to educate others about who we are, to use the name "black feminist" insinuates that sexism is the central oppression in our existence. This is certainly not the case; racism is our central concern. Therefore, the name "womanist" is more appropriate, because it indicates there is more to our life reality than the issues of feminism. Also, as theologians we are tiddas (sisters) who are in solidarity with our black, colored, and white sisters around the world. To state merely that we are black does not indicate clearly that we embrace the diverse suffering of our sisters from other races.

In addition, a certain number of our women, especially those more closely connected to traditional culture, are afraid of the name "feminist." For them it undermines culture. They have a relationship with their men based on partnership, [End Page 119] which one could call their own type of feminism.2 Men and women both have their sacred, secret women's and men's businesses. Each is vital to keeping the universe in balance. The women do not feel oppression to the degree that white Western feminists do, because they have their own sacred space.

There are those of our urban women who are afraid of the name "feminist" because, to them, it seems to imply being in competition with and critical of their men. They find this too difficult when their men suffer racism. To be in competition with them would perpetuate white Western male behavior. They are second-rate men in a hegemonic white male society, and the women are sympathetic, preferring to uplift and encourage their men.3 Hence, the women gravitate more to the name "womanist," because it focuses on the oppressions of racism and imperialism.

Racism can be seen as Australian Indigenous women's greatest suffering, because they share this pain with their men, children, and community. Sexism, by contrast, is a more private pain, gender-oriented and not directly shared by all the community. Australian Indigenous women are the least in our society; therefore, classism is both personal and social suffering.4 Moreover, the closer the women are connected to traditional culture, to nature, the more they are devastated by naturism; it is indeed a community suffering.

The name "black feminist" does not convey the depth of our pain as a people. The name "womanist" allows us to engage more deeply the multidimensional suffering of Indigenous women and peoples around the world who stand against the oppressions that are the product of colonialism and neocolonialism. This is why, as an Australian Aboriginal womanist, I would define as womanist any Indigenous, black, or colored woman who fights the oppressions of colonialism and neocolonialism.5 From my extended reading of scholastic womanist theological and nontheological writings, I can say that all womanists are engaged...


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