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Lorde, Audre

Page history last edited by Melanie 15 years, 5 months ago




Audre Lorde (1934-1992) is a Black lesbian feminist writer and poet who is famous for critiquing white, heterosexist, upper class feminism.


     In her article, The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House, Lorde writes about the way in which white feminist scholarship presumes the unity of all women and ignores the differencex between women that exist. In this article, the "masters" are those who hold power over others in some respect, be it by gender, race, sexual identification, or any number of attributes. The master's tools are structures that maintain this system of domination such as ideology, capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, and so on.  The master’s house is the structure as a whole (power structure) that involves these things (government, etc). In the context of her article, Lorde admonishes white feminist scholars for not realizing that in their methods of fighting sexism are perpetuating other oppresive structures such as racism. The "master’s tools" in this case refer to patriarchal ideologies that ignore difference and force the oppressed to educate and oppressors, effectively perpetuating inequality within a movement to end inequality.  She argues instead for the creation of new systems of thought, or “tools”, that see differences as a source of great creative energy and strength.  These tools, and only these, can dismantle the master’s house.


     Lorde offers as example of how using the master's tool to try to dismantle his house will never work.  She talks about how white feminist scholars fail to realize that while they are out at conferences and academic events they leave their children at home to be cared for by women of color.  Women who would benefit most from learning about a feminist perspective.  By challenging some aspects of the structures of domination (being feminist thinkers) but allowing other aspects to remain the same (leaving women of color to do jobs that are underpaid and undervalued by society that a white feminist woman would probably never do), Lorde argues they will never be able to bring about real change.


      The principal argument of Lorde’s work is that racism, sexism, and homophobia are not separate from one another; rather they are interlocking systems of oppression based on hierarchy and exclusion. Human liberation and mutual recognition, therefore, will not be achieved if the master’s tools are used to in the name of “equality” because someone will always be excluded. 


      If Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel were around to have a dialogue with Audre Lorde, they would likely disagree. In Hegel's Master-Slave dialectic, the master's tools are eventually sublated in each power relationship to produce change, and the contradictions within the system eventually work themselves out to create something better. Lorde, on the other hand, would rather not wait for the long drawn out historical process of dialectical change. She believes that we can skip the dialectical process of inequality and use our reason to mutually recognize one another without going through a reforming process that is full of contradictions and excluded groups. A practical application of Lorde’s vision would be a social movement that aims to end all forms of oppression and that organizes itself without using tools of hierarchy and exclusion.







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