“Womanism is not exclusive of feminism. Let’s see, how does she put it, she put it so beautifully…womanism is to feminism as purple is to lavender, I mean they are, they are dimensions of the same thing. And it isn’t like one is a parent and this is an offshoot of the parent, these are dimensions of the same entity and it makes sense. (Interviewer: Are you comfortable using the term feminist to describe your identity or your philosophy?) No, no, womanism is more me.” ~Meri-Li Douglas
Meri-Li Douglas is a native of Greensboro, North Carolina. Her father, a Presbyterian minister, was very active in the civil rights movement to desegregate. Her father’s dedication the desegregation meant that fighting for equality was always at the forefront of her mind. Meri-Li moved to Durham when she was 23 years old to attend North Carolina Central University. When she went to North Carolina Central University, she got involved with the YWCA in Durham. She knew from her time in Greensboro that the YWCA was a place where she could find services for women and a women’s community. While in college, she ended a relationship with her then-boyfriend after he told her that she needed to be less involved with women’s things, because she was Black first. Meri-Li often didn’t tell her Black friends about her feminist work, and also kept it from her family. She felt that they would disapprove of it. She was primarily involved with the Women’s Health Teaching Group, a group that formed out of the YWCA and taught medical students how to give respectful pelvic exams by letting the students practice on them. She recalls being the only woman of color in this group. Alice Walker’s writings have greatly influenced her views on feminism, which is why she identifies so strongly with “womanism.” Today, Meri-Li lives in the Triangle area and is a womanist theologian.