WOMANISM: Their Eyes Were Watching God and Murdered By My Boyfriend – Reflections

Picture this: a little bee pollinates a pear tree in the heavy haze of a Floridian summer during the early 1900s, a little girl watches and decides love is the foundation of marriage. Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God” is a beautiful tale of the life of Janie Crawford, a mixed-race girl at the turn of the century, which follows her emotional growth with delicacy and dignity through the protagonist’s three marriages to very different men. She explores relationships and their respective dynamics with a sense of broad understanding, from Logan Killicks, the older farmer who is emotionally stifled for whom Janie fulfils a domestic roll, to her last husband Tea Cake, a man who loves her with all the heart and life he has and offers a fulfilled and healthy marriage.

But between two men, sandwiched almost like an open secret, Hurston tackles a subject so different from love, so far removed and detached, yet one that hides behind its façade.  It is insidious, but it is domestic abuse. Joe Starks comes to Janie in her youth, charming and silver-tongued, the perfect distraction for a bored young woman looking for love: thus they elope.

“From now on until death she was going to have flower dust and springtime sprinkled over everything. A bee for her bloom.” – Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

He is handsome, he is ambitious and later on in Eatonville he becomes powerful as the mayor of the first all-black city in Florida – it seems only natural that she would be in love with him? But Hurston writes the abusive cycle with an omniscient understanding of victim-abuser dynamics. It starts quietly. First, it’s “the way Joe spoke out without giving her a chance to say anything one way or another that took the bloom off of things”, her idea of love being deflowered until he begins striking her, violently, supressing her and pushing her into the corner of the Eatonville general store. He plays on her insecurities. His emotional imprisonment manifests itself physically when he orders his wife to cover her hair, a symbol of her sensuality and black womanhood, “she was in the store for him to look at, not the others” yet he always seems to be “longing for peace on his own terms”. His own terms – the abuser’s manipulative influence forces the once care-free, vivacious Janie into total submission and for a while it seems hopeless.

A chart depicting the cycle of abuse. This typically repeats itself over and over and over, each wave becoming more and more intense than the last.

Janie is only freed of Jody at his death wherein she confronts him, freeing herself of his baggage as he passes away. But Hurston is kind to her character – there are no remnants of her decades-long subjugation when she meets Tea Cake in her personality (not that there always are with victims of abuse which is why it is so pervasive), and moreover she gets to live. Earlier this year, BBC Three released Murdered by My Boyfriend directed by Paul Andrew Williams, a true story about a mixed-race seventeen year old girl who fell for a charming young man. The film is powerfully moving and demands your attention; in particular this scene which in the most morbid sense perfectly encapsulates domestic abuse, the attention to detail and accuracy in the cut of “Ashley’s” screaming mouth in contrast with her soft reply so raw in its depiction of a victim’s internal struggle. And then, like Starks, “Reece” plays on her insecurities, in this case her weight to distract from his own flaws. Unlike Janie, “Ashley” and 228 other women throughout the time-span of the film did not get to live to see their Tea Cake, and even if they do live they are often plagued with mental health problems which linger until the end of their lives.

Ashley, played by Georgina Campbell and Reece, played by Royce Pierrson.

More than this, though, it horrified me: the narrative in Their Eyes Were Watching God is still relevant today. This same story is repeating itself and has been repeating itself for generations now, for what reason? Nobody talks to girls about relationship abuse. Nobody tells us what it looks like, nobody shows us its secret emotional and financial face as opposed to the mark of a black eye and tear-stains (equally important to notice, but this is sort of like finding a cancer in its terminal stages in too many cases as highlighted in Murdered by My Boyfriend). In fact, they do the opposite. They glamourize abuse. Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight have attracted worldwide attention despite the fact that both heroes are explicitly abusive, even if not in a violently physical way, and one can only wonder what effect this has on young girls who will no doubt be conditioned to find these dangerous traits alluring – it’s terrifying.

But moreover, it’s no coincidence I chose to compare these two women of colour’s stories. Although we are at no more or less risk of being subjected to domestic violence, there are cultural factors that stop us from reporting this or rape or sexual assault. The scale of the recent Rotherham grooming issue shook the United Kingdom, but it was a huge mistake on the media’s part to focus mostly on white girls’ ordeals. Girls from the South Asian community are less likely to report sexual abuse, domestic violence or rape due to cultural pressures of maintaining family honour and status as a virgin. In terms of Black women, since both are Black narratives, there seems to be a pressure to maintain solidarity with male counterparts in the face of racism, and too often this means many Black women stay with their partners and the assumption of the “strong Black woman” stereotype means fewer victims report these instances. Women of colour in general are less likely to be taken seriously by the legal system than white women when it comes to reporting instances of rape due to institutionalised racism.

In the UK, 2 women are killed every week by a current or former male partner. Even that statistic is thought to be conservative. Emotional abuse is not considered a crime. The UK prosecutes more women for “false accusations” of rape than any other northern European country, and it frightens victims into silence, for fear of being put in jail in case they’re deluding themselves, which abusers often tell them.

This has not been an easy topic to write about but nonetheless it deeply troubles me, that in an era of supposed sexual liberation and information, young women are still left in the dark about what a dangerous partner looks like. Instead, we’re sold them in packages, and left to deal with the consequences ourselves, and for women of colour this all too often condemns us to a physical or mental doom. We need to change the way we look at these issues in our communities, we need to educate young girls on all aspects of an unhealthy relationship, not just the physical side. This is something I was never taught about in school – why? We had plenty of lessons on how to write a CV but none on how to protect ourselves against something that will end up effecting a third of us.

A wheel chart depicting traits of a manipulative partner.

Start a revolution. Teach your daughters what abuse looks like but more importantly, teach your sons not to be abusive. Teach them before they turn 10. Make it clear to your friends when you get a bad feeling about one of their partners, make them as safe as possible. Make women of colour feel safe in their admissions. Talk to families, talk to parents, destroy taboos. Ensure that they are given proper psychiatric attention, proper healthcare post-incident, real counselling.

Do not let there be another Ashley, make Hurston’s illustrations of the abusive cycle a thing of the past, bury it, destroy rape culture, destroy the cult of silence, bring down the structures and stereotypes which desensitize authority to our pain and our struggles.

Do not let another story of another girl killed by another partner be turned into another film in 50 years time. Instead, picture this: a little bee pollinates a pear tree, and a little girl decides that love is never lethal.

FITNESS: The Pros and Cons of Getting Healthy

This is a quick update post on the fitness side of things, since I have unfortunately neglected it. There are two more hours left until I turn eighteen years old. How did that happen? I’m not really sure!

In other news, however, it’s been about eight months since I started my fitness journey on March 23rd 2014 and since then I’ve lost 50lbs or about 22kg, who knows how many inches and a tonne of insecurities. So that’s a very happy piece of knowledge to accompany me into adulthood, and I can’t wait to see what the next few months bring me. Just to summarise things a little neatly so far, I’m gonna list five pros and cons of losing weight because honestly it’s not all sunshine and rainbows (but I’m not gonna complain either).

Let’s start with the cons just to get them out of the way, and I’m gonna be as brutally honest as possible.

  1. Less cushioning.

This one may break your heart a little bit, but I never realised what it was like to lie down and actually feel my (gargantuan) hip bones sticking out awkwardly and hurting on the mattress. When I was chubby everything was comfortable! Because I was living in a human pillow! They were simpler times, they were better times.

  1. I can’t pig out anymore.

I honestly miss the days where I could stay up until about 2am, drinking half a litre of Dr Pepper (Zero if I was feeling particularly healthy), eating Doritos, Nutella toasties and watching marathons of Game of Thrones. No matter how hard I try, soya chocolate pudding is not gonna taste like chocolate fudge cake. A girl can only dream.

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No one can be this happy about leaves. There’s not even a vinaigrette. It’s all lies.

  1. None of my clothes fit!

I need to buy an entirely new wardrobe, and although I really love baggy clothes – they make for optimum lazing attire – they really hide all of my progress and I don’t have anything nice to wear when I need to go somewhere fancy. Even my shoes are loose! Who would’ve thought you could have chubby feet?

  1. I have to actually move.

As much as I might try and convince myself, I’m not gonna get goddess-like thighs or huntress arms by sitting on my tush all day. Granted, 75% of weight loss is down to eating well, but actually toning the muscle is imperative to get a trim figure. Which means moving around and doing cardio and lifting weights. Sigh.

  1. People really hate fat girls. Really really.

This one was bigger than I realised. Now I’m not gonna sit here and tell you that everyone loves thin women because they do suffer at the hands of prejudice in different ways. Thin privilege is undeniably a thing in the Western first world though, and it works in the same way as white or cis privilege. No one makes cute clothes for big girls, no one takes a second look at big girls, and no one tells big girls they are beautiful (except for maybe MIKA). We’re even likely to be paid less than our thinner sisters. We have to do that all for ourselves, and it was almost like the extra chub I had physically was padding me mentally from all that hurtfulness which I catch every now in then in the voices of people I love making fat jokes or being exasperated at fat women’s “laziness” and “neglect for their health”. Who are they to judge how she lives her life and runs her body, and who are they to say she isn’t trying or there isn’t something clinically preventing her from being thin? Why is it okay to say these things around me now I’ve lost a couple? Is this what they thought of me when I was big? It’s not an easy reality to face but these some of the unfortunate epiphanies that have come with shedding the pounds.

But onto brighter things! Here are just five from the vast plethora of pros that have come with getting healthy!

  1. I can run.

Okay, I know I was complaining about the fact I have to move in the previous list. But running is a genuinely awesome experience when you’re outdoors. In March, I could barely run for thirty seconds and I hated it. Abhorred it. Loathed it. But now I can run for far longer, especially with the HIIT programme I follow. I adore the feeling of being able to move through my town, everyone going about their business around me, without getting (too) out of breath. In fact, it’s amazing not getting out of breath just running upstairs! I can run, I can jump, I can move around freely without my body weighing me down. It’s amazing.

  1. Cute clothes look cute on me.

They don’t make cute clothes for fat girls, and that’s something I really want to change. But at the same time, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t happy about the fact that there is now high-street clothing that caters to my shape and size, that flatters me properly and that includes me.

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This frightening mirror clip art is supposed to represent how I feel when I look at myself in my nice clothes.

  1. Food tastes different.

As a foodie with a sophisticated palate – don’t let the Nutella toasties and Doritos fool you – I love experimenting with food. Changing my diet in order to allow for optimum nutrition has meant I’ve had to be extra creative, and it’s nearly always meant that most food tastes better, not worse. I’ve tried new varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables, like mango nectarines and heirloom tomatoes, so vibrant and delicious that I don’t miss the junk food. Swapping out things like whole cow’s milk for coconut or almond milk, or white bread for wholemeal seeded loaves have not only made things taste better but…

  1. My mood has improved!

All the rubbish I was eating, the refined sugars and flours, the grease, the oil – really, it was a nightmare. And cutting it all out has made me feel better. It may have something to do with the fact I’m getting all my vitamins and minerals now, but my organs feel cleaner somehow. Is that weird? A little bit, but it’s great.

  1. I can fully enjoy my late teens and early twenties. And my thirties. And life in general really.

I’m so glad I started this at age 17, because it means that I can enjoy my university years to their full extent without having to worry about my body and any insecurities that would’ve come with it. Granted, there still are and always will be parts of it that I am a little frigid about but the number of things I fret about is significantly less than it was when I was 98kg/216lbs. Of course, I don’t mean this to say that I didn’t love my body when I was big, because I did, and I will forever be an advocate of body positivity at whatever shape or size but on a more personal level I do feel better in myself. And on a physical level, it means years have been added to my life. It means I’ll be able to run around and play with my kids, it means I’ll be able to run around and play with my grandkids. I won’t be held back by my size and my weight, and I feel physically lighter. I’ve also learnt a shedload of personal lessons from all this: I’ve improved my own discipline, I’ve improved my stamina physically and mentally, and I’ve learnt how to do things in moderation – including moderation.

I am proud of myself. I’ve done so much for myself to love myself and improve myself, I wouldn’t believe where I am if you asked me this time last year.

And what is the absolute best part, you ask?

I’m not even done yet.

REVIEW: Happy Birthday Sunita, a play by Harvey Virdi

Firstly, I want to apologise for being missing in action from this blog – it’s not that I’ve forgotten to write and just carelessly abandoned it, more like I’ve been drowning in a deluge of schoolwork that I’ve finally got under control and so I am returned to you! (Perhaps from now on at a lower frequency, but nonetheless returned). Remember, a blog is for life, not just for UCAS.

Secondly, a review. My family are not frequent theatre-goers, through my childhood we would go to the odd pantomime (Spamalot starring our beloved Sanjeev Bhaskar is a fond memory of mine), but never to any real plays until 20th September to the beautifully restored Watford Palace Theatre in my hometown on the fringes of London. Watford seems a strange place for internationally renowned actresses to grace the stage, but this is exactly what Shabana Azmi, critically acclaimed Indian actress and UN Goodwill Embassador, pulled off with tremendous sprezzatura in Happy Birthday Sunita from Rifco Arts.

The entire cast from left to right: Ameet Chana, Clara Indrani, Shabana Azmi, Goldy Notay, Russell Floyd

The title itself, Happy Birthday Sunita is a Bollywood in-joke of sorts, named after an infamous Hindi song that every Desi household bursts into every time someone celebrates their special day and is usually followed by servings of burfi and cake. The story itself revolves around a contemporary Sikh family, the Johals, on the 40th birthday of Sunita, the sulky, hermit-like daughter for whom her mother Tejpal throws a small family party – however for the first half of the play Sunita is nowhere to be seen. The play stars Ameet Chana, Clara Indrani, Goldy Notay, Russell Floyd, and Ms Azmi.

During this time, both Harvey Virdi (actress of Bend it Like Beckham-fame turned playwright for the RSC) the cast lovingly recreated an accurate portrait of a modern day British Asian family which resonated throughout the audience, the casual interweaving of English and Punjabi like a rich linguistic tapestry, a testimony to the incredible versatility and durability of diasporic South Asians in the UK. Virdi reminds us all the time of our presence in today’s world with a peppering of jokes about social media, yet not without remembering our roots, when a portrait of Guru Nanak, a Sikh guru who had an extensive interest in Hinduism and Islam alike, illuminates at significant turns.

Of course, the play tackles many taboos that still remain in South Asian culture – satirising the reactions to the LGBT+ issues, and inter-racial tension from our community, with a self-awareness that neither belittles nor alienates one from the topics, but engages one to reflect on how we deal with such topics even today. Even the subject of wives abstaining from having children is dealt with in a progressive way during an emotional revelation from Harleen, wife of Nav Johal (Tejpal’s boisterous son). In fact, a series of touching confessions reveal the secrets of each character, all supressed because of the ideas of taboo that are culturally ingrained, at the risk of giving spoilers.

In terms of racial dynamics I feel that Maurice, whom Russell Floyd portrays with finesse and experience, perfectly summarises the duality of changing White British attitudes towards the South Asian immigrant community. He indulges in Tejpal’s cooking, attempts to understand Punjabi and even elopes with Tejpal – or Tej as he calls her – himself, but not without the awkward phrasings: “your people”, “your lot”. Residual influence from the 1960s and 1980s is very much present and Virdi never forgets the hardship and violence that the Desi community endured with the each wave’s influx of immigrants, as it’s revealed Maurice may have had some part in the skinhead movement during this time. Much credit to Floyd for representing the character with just the right amount of awkwardness and attempted understanding and tolerance.

Tejpal (Shabana Azmi) comforts her daughter Sunita (Clara Indrani).

It’s no surprise that Azmi was the big star that attracted my parents – maybe even the entire South Asian population of the Greater London area – and her presence filled the intimate setting as soon as she stepped foot on stage and the entire audience clapped for her. Not just Azmi, but in fact, the entire cast gives a fantastic performance, although at times the younger cast members overact which seems to jar against the small space of the Palace Theatre stage however this does add a naturally comic dimension, whether intentional or not. There also are jokes at the expense of Harleen, who speaks less-than-perfect Punjabi, and this did strike a nerve close to the heart as I understand the inner turmoil of the second-gen immigrant whose mother-tongue they have forcibly Anglicized out of a former self-hatred. Old habits are hard to break. (Thankfully, I’ve broken mine.)

That is a small criticism – despite this there is great optimism without any hint of naiveté for the future of first and second-generation immigrants in the play which is achieved by dealing with the issues that affect Desis openly and loudly. The ending is bittersweet; there are consequences to deal with but the characters end up happy and spiritually refreshed after unloading their burdens. It’s a vibrant, colourful love-letter to the vibrant, colourful British Asian community. There is critique and satire, but there is also affection which Vidri, director Pravesh Kumar, and the cast all dedicate themselves to.

Happy Birthday Sunita opens at Watermans, London on Tuesday 14th October 2014

Before I finish, I want to marvel at Shabana Azmi a little more. Whilst I would never want to define her by her relationships to men, I think it’s important to mention that her father, the Communist Hindi-Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi, had a profound effect on her, prompting her to pursue humanitarian and political efforts which she fulfills in the Rajya Sabhya (the upper house of the Indian Parliament). Her mother, once a stage actress for the Indian People’s Theatre Association and also member of the Indian Communist party propelled her interest in acting, and today Azmi has won: five National Film Awards for Best Actress, four Filmfare Awards, has appeared in over 120 films over four decades and is an advocate for women’s rights and general social justice. Truly an inspirational womanist role-model, Azmi’s 64th birthday fell on the opening night of Happy Birthday Sunita, and I somehow feel that the closing soundtrack of the play was also a secret serenade to Azmi on her birthday. If you don’t quite get what I mean, I’ll leave you with this. Baar baar din yeh aaye…

RECIPE: Healthier Srikhand

 

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Relax! Summer is (nearly) here!

As is Gujarati tradition, I thought that it might be a good idea this weekend to bless this blog with something sweet. For as long as I can remember at the start of any new journey, my mum would feed me a magical elixir of natural yoghurt and sugar into my tiny mouth. Somehow, it brought me luck throughout that whole day and as a child it made me feel like a superhero – as a (kind of) adult in the middle of exam-season, eating this little concoction each morning is an instinct now. It fills me with strength and with good reason.

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Woolfe

Natural yoghurt, in my opinion, should be a superfood. A perfect balance of carbohydrates and good fats, it delivers half your daily requirement of calcium and is also a great source of illness-fighting bacteria. Fat-free natural yoghurt also contains a load of amino acids, making it a complete lean protein which is perfect for building muscle and toning up! However the sugary side of the sweet yoghurt isn’t as sunny as it tastes – refined sugars come with a lot of health risks which is disappointing for a Gujju girl with a sweet tooth.

ImageStrained natural yoghurt, ready to be transformed…

So I decided to re-create my favourite sugar-saturated, yoghurt-based Indian dessert – srikhand – but with a healthy twist in honour of Gujarati traditions. Summery, decadent and fragrant but totally nutritious, this recipe uses a plethora of foods that will nourish your body at only 226 calories per serving.

Prep time: Overnight straining + 15 minutes  | Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg (preferably fat-free) natural yoghurt – full of protein and calcium
  • 1/2 tbsp Manuka honey – a powerful anti-bacterial
  • 2 tsp agave nectar – a natural sweetener that boosts the immune system
  • 1 ripe mango – an anti-carcinogenic skin cleanser
  • 1 apricot – an anti-oxidant fruit that’s great for your eyes
  • 1 tbsp ground nutmeg – a brain stimulant
  • 1 tbsp ground cardamom – can detox and alleviate depression
  • 1 tbsp flaked almonds – lowers cholesterol
  • 1 tsp saffron – aids digestion

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Method:

  1. Drain the yoghurt overnight or for 5-6 hours in a muslin cloth over a colander. It may look like a lot now but it will shrink as the water falls away.
  2. Transfer the strained yoghurt to a mixing bowl and soften it with a spatula until soft but thick. (Work out those biceps!)
  3. Add the Manuka honey and the agave syrup and fold into the yoghurt, followed by the nutmeg, cardamom and almonds.
  4. Peel and cube the mango and apricot and fold these into the srikhand.
  5. Finally, gently fold in the saffron and add a few strands to garnish.
  6. Chill in the fridge or serve straight away either on its own or as a dip for other fruits! Voila.

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Bon appetite!

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Womanism and White Privilege: 101

So this is my first ever blog post. After a lot of researching on how to do this tricky part of starting a blog (actually writing) I’ve come to the conclusion that obviously the best thing to do with this post is to tell my readers what I actually plan on doing with my little allotment of cyberspace. I make a pledge to you readers that I, The Well Womanist, intend to use my blogging powers only for the greater good and that this space will be a safe, educational one both for myself and for you. But in order to make this a safe space in particular I understand that I will have to cover a few things so first things first – lets cover the basic foundations of both white privilege and womanism working with questions I’ve been asked in the past! (Rhyming is fabulous too).

What is white privilege?

“White privilege” is the term referring to a concept that white people benefit from privileges that are systematically denied to people of colour. This is not to say that white people can never suffer hardship – they can be denied other privileges if they fit into other minority groups such as the transgender community, the non-binary community, the disabled community, and white women can be oppressed by patriarchy etc. They can also be victims of poverty and homelessness, mental illness, sexual/emotional/physical abuse, the list can go on. White people can still be victims of racial prejudice but that should not be equated to racism.

White people can’t be victims of racism?

For a good few of you reading this, that will have been the first time you’ve ever heard this information and all I can say is don’t panic. The first thing white privilege teaches everyone is the notion that everyone on Earth is already equal in the eyes of institution and therefore reverse racism is a totally valid concept, right? Well, not exactly. Abandon the dictionary definition of racism for a moment which states “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior” and was most likely written by a biased white man. Yes, that is half of what racism is but what this definition conveniently fails to have given is the other half. Racism is the systematic oppression of an ethnic minority, meaning they are oppressed by the judicial system, the police, the media etc. This is called systematic or institutional racism and it is a real threat that is embedded deeply into global society. It goes far deeper than a few hurtful comments about a person’s appearance. Since white people are not systematically oppressed, they cannot be victims of racism (at least from the hands of people of colour). Why are we told we live in a post-racial society? Because a) it gives people a warm fuzzy feeling of togetherness which means b) people of colours’ vocalisation of their legitimate struggles are silenced by the words “but we’re all members of the human race”.

Don’t people of colour enjoy privileges because of their skin colour too?

Unfortunately, we do not live in a post-racial society and there are many privileges that come with being white, from being well represented in the media (i.e. film, fashion) to the point where they are considered a default and Eurocentric beauty standards become international beauty standards to not being punished for stereotypes (e.g. being less likely to be a victim of police brutality and racial profiling). And contrary to popular belief, affirmative action, in the sense that “they got that university place just because they’re a person of colour”, is a myth. Okay, people of colour have specific niches in media created for them (Ebony magazine, BBC Asian Network in the UK to name a few) but that is because as noted earlier, the issues that relate to their race aren’t properly represented in the mainstream media so people of colour create their own! If we were properly represented in the media then we wouldn’t need those niches.

Are you biased? Should white people feel guilty for being white?

Firstly, objectivity is a myth. Secondly, as a British Asian woman, causing shame about one’s race is the last thing I want to do to anybody – the information above is not intended to make anybody feel ashamed or guilty for being born into the race they were. However, it is important to openly acknowledge people’s races and the unfair privileges/denials of privileges that come with them! It’s our duty to fight against them so we really can have the post-racial society we are disillusioned into thinking we live in. Acknowledging your own privileges – whether you’re cisgender, heterosexual, white, rich, able-bodied, allistic – should not equate to feeling shame because you fit into the privileged group. It does, however, mean you have a social responsibility to society to educate your fellows in that group (in my humble opinion).

What can I do to solve this problem?

Educate as many people as you can. Educate your siblings, your friends, your parents and your children. Read up on how racism affects both people of colour as a group and individuals both locally and internationally and how it affects white people in the same ways. Learn about other cultures but do not appropriate from them as this is also oppressive in nature. If you are white, the process of “checking your white privilege” will be a never-ending one but it will make you a more enlightened individual and help make the world a better place for the generations to come.

What is womanism?

The majority of people who have ventured onto the Internet today will have heard of “feminism”. As a whole it is a movement that strives to create social, economic and political equality focusing on women but can also liberate men from patriarchy too. In fact it can help everyone. However, mainstream feminism has been criticised as it has had a focus, since the Suffragette movement in the early 20th Century, on middle-class white women. Womanism focuses on women of colour, primarily black women, and the term was originally coined in 1979 by Alice Walker in her story “Coming Apart”. Of course, since the movement was originally founded by a black woman it would be ridiculous to not include them in my discussions of equality – in fact it would be anti-black of me to do so.

“A Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.” – Alice Walker

What is anti-blackness?

Anti-blackness is pretty much what it says on the tin – it is racism specifically aimed at black people. As a non-black woman of colour, I have to acknowledge that the society I live in has caused me to internalise notions of anti-blackness and it is my responsibility to unlearn these notions and encourage others to do so too.

Who can be a womanist?

Women of colour can be womanists as long as they continue to acknowledge their anti-blackness – the term for inclusive white feminists (not Clueless White Feminists™) would be an intersectional feminist. Remember, the point of womanism is not to be divisive but to deal with the issues that all women (women of colour in particular) face as mainstream feminism does not do this for them.

What’s a Clueless White Feminist™ and how can I avoid being one?

Clueless White Feminists™ (surprisingly not always white but usually) like to praise white women’s feminist triumphs yet be derogatory about womanist triumphs and often condescend to women of colour. For example, they often try to “liberate” (read: Westernise) women who do not fit their ideals of a strong woman. They are the same people who patronise Muslim women for choosing to wear a hijab/niqab/burkha, ignorantly coming to the conclusion that Islam is a horrible oppressive religion that forces women to cover themselves (which are of course, lies). In order to avoid becoming a Clueless White Feminist™ I would recommend that people listen to the experiences of transgender women and women of colour. Remember: as a white person you have less authority over what constitutes as racism, do not try to tell people of colour about their own experiences.

What’s your name and where do you “really come from”?

My name is Dhruti and I was born in Watford, just north of London. If you mean my ethnicity, I come from Gujarat, a state in the north-west of India.

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Why did you want to start this blog?

There’s actually a part of this blog I haven’t addressed yet! The “Well” part of The Well Womanist will be dedicated to wellbeing, which encompasses healthy living (I’m a vegetarian, apologies to my carnivore readers) and fitness. I’ll be reviewing fitness apps, sharing my own healthy recipes and tips and tricks to nourish your body all whilst giving a critical womanist analysis of the society we live in today! I wanted to start this blog because over the past year and a half I’ve realised I’ve learnt so much about how the world works and I know that the Internet is a fantastic podium for sharing information. I’ve heard from so many voices all around the world sharing stories of their own personal struggles thanks to social media like Twitter, Tumblr and Reddit and I thought if I have any kind of power to change the world for good then I want to use it. So, here I am!

What kind of authority do you have for writing this blog?

This section acts as a disclaimer of sorts: I have no specialist degrees. I’m just a girl with a passion for equality. I’m also no dietician or physician etc. so please don’t take any medical advice from me and always consult your doctor before making any changes to your lifestyle.

Please remember I love to learn and if I have said something to offend you or have misinformed my readers, then please let me know at thewellwomanist@gmail.com and I will do my best to either amend the blog post, apologise, or take it down.

I’m gonna leave you, reader, with some thoughts from the late Dr. Maya Angelou who only passed away this week. It was a tragedy to lose such a beautiful, brilliant soul but she left the world in a better place than she once found it. Rest in peace, Doctor.