1. From womanish. (Opp. of "girlish," i.e., frivolous, irresponsible, not serious.) A black feminist or feminist of color. From the black folk expression of mothers to female children, "You acting womanish," i.e., like a woman. Usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous or willful behavior. Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered "good" for one. Interested in grown-up doings. Acting grown up. Being grown up. Interchangeable with another black folk expression: "You trying to be grown." Responsible. In charge. Serious.
2. Also: A woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually. Appreciates and prefers women's culture, women's emotional flexibility (values tears as a natural counter-balance of laughter) and women's strength. Sometimes loves individual men, sexually and/or nonsexually. Committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female. Not a separatist, except periodically, for health. Traditionally universalist, as in: "Mamma, why are we brown, pink, and yellow, and our cousins are white, beige, and black?" Ans.: "Well, you know the colored race is just like a flower garden, with every color flower represented." Traditionally capable, as in: "Mamma, I'm walking to Canada and I'm taking you and a bunch of other slaves with me." Reply: "It wouldn't be the first time." 3. Loves music. Loves dance. Loves the moon. Loves the Spirit. Loves love and food and roundness. Loves struggle. Loves the Folk. Loves herself. Regardless. 4. Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender. [End Page 45]
From Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose, 1st ed. (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983), xi; reprinted in Katie Cannon, Katie's Canon: Womanism and the Soul of the Black Community (New York: Continuum, 1995), 22; reprinted in Stacey Floyd-Thomas, Mining the Motherlode: Methods in Womanist Ethics (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2006); reprinted in Alice Walker, We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting for: Inner Light in a Time of Darkness: Meditations (New York: New Press; Distributed by W. W. Norton, 2006).