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Anna Frazee
Dr. Parker
ENG 113
September 23rd 2016
The Power of a Name
In her article, WHATS IN A NAME? Womanism, Black Feminism, and Beyond,
Patricia Hill Collins seeks to; as she herself puts it explore some of the theoretical implications
of using the terms womanism and black feminism Specifically, Collins argues that we need
to stop categorizing African American women into groups. As she herself puts it, My purpose
is not to classify either the works of black women or African American women themselves into
one category or the other. Rather, I aim to examine how the effort to categorize obscures more
basic challenges that confront African American women as a group. (Collins 10). Although
some people may believe that categorizing women into such groups is beneficial, Collins insists
that we need to go beyond naming and get at the deeper issues surrounding what African
American women face today. In sum then, her view is that there is no term that exists that
sufficiently represents the substance of what diverse groups of black women alternately call
womanism and black feminism. But we do not need one at this time; what we need is to get
a better understanding of what it means to be a womanist or black feminist.
I have mixed feelings on this point. In my view, a name can be a powerful thing. For
instance, a name gives a sort of meaning and symbol for people to recognize. In addition, it
provides the group with a standard of sorts that can help to motivate the group because it
symbolizes what they stand for. Some might object, of course on the grounds that a name is
superficial and you must look past it to get at the true meaning of something. Yet I would argue
that a name develops from the meaning of what the group stands for. Overall then, I believe that
although focusing on a name can be distracting to what a group actually stands for, it is still
important to have a sort of symbol that can unify the whole group an important point to make
given that many groups today rely on their title or name to draw people into their group.
Today African American women have started the Black Lives Matter movement; a
movement whose title is very important to the group because this symbolizes what their group
stands for. I believe that the Black Lives Matter movement is a good example of an area of
womanism because as Alice Walker states womanists are committed to survival and wholeness
of entire people, male and female (Walker xi). And I believe this concept is represented in the
Black Lives Matter movement. If a title is not too important and it is the values of the group that
really count why then do many African American women prefer the term black feminist instead
of feminist? As Collins states large numbers of African American women reject the term
feminism because of what they perceive as its association with whiteness. (Collins 13). This
idea I believe actually does go deeper than the titles because black feminists do not seem to make
men the enemy rather the idea of sexism itself is what they fight against, despite the stereotype
that feminists are focused on defeating men because they seem to see them as the sole enemy.
Collins quotes Alice Walkers often cited phrase, womanist is to feminist as purple is to
lavender (Walker 1983, xii) and Collins makes the connection that Walkers phrase in her own
words clearly seems to set up this type of comparison women are womanist while white
women are merely feminist. (Collins 10). In her phrase Walker is saying that womanist is
broader and richer than simply feminist and therefore encompasses it. Which is important to note
because of the varying beliefs on what it is to be a feminist, black feminist, or womanist.

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Works Cited
Collins, Patricia Hill. WHATS IN A NAME? Womanism, Black Feminism, and Beyond. The
Black Scholar 26. 1 (1996): 9-16 Print.
Walker, Alice. In Search of Our Mothers Gardens: Womanist Prose. New York: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, 1983. Print.