To consider Nanny and Tea Cake as feminists is to consider how they believe in or work toward the empowerment of women. For Nanny, this comes through her work in empowering herself and Janie. Nanny works and purchases her own property in order to give Janie something to be proud of. As Janie says, "Nanny didn't love tuh see me wid mah head hung down, so she figgered it would be mo' better fuh me if us had uh house. She got de land and everything. ..." Nanny could have married in order to make the financial burden easier, but she supported Janie and herself on her own in order to keep Janie safe. Nanny says, "Ah wouldn't marry nobody, though Ah could have uh heap uh times, cause Ah didn't want nobody mistreating mah baby." Nanny did her best to retain power for herself in the world and establish some power for Janie. As Nanny said, "Ah wanted to preach a great sermon about colored women sittin' on high, but they wasn't no pulpit for me."
Tea Cake appears most to be feminist when you compare him with Joe Starks. Joe doesn't believe Janie should have any power outside of what she gains through being his wife. He says, "Ah told you in de very first beginnin' dat Ah aimed tuh be a big voice. You oughta be glad, 'cause dat makes uh big woman outa you." In other words, Joe believes that women are only as important as the men they are connected with. Tea Cake, however, treats Janie as an equal. For instance, while Joe didn't allow Janie to associate with others on the porch of the store, Tea Cake teaches her to play checkers, asking, "How about playin' you some checkers?" Tea Cake treats her as an equal by taking her to "baseball games and huntin' and fishin'." He teaches her to shoot a gun, and is not bothered a bit when "She got to be a better shot than Tea Cake." Tea Cake is not threatened by Janie's outshining him financially or in skill, and that can be seen as feminist, particularly in contrast with Joe's attitude toward Janie.