Archives for posts with tag: Audre Lorde

I am a 22 year old, White, middle class, heterosexual, democratic, cis-gendered woman. Unbeknownst to me, each one of these defining characteristics of my body and mind are continuously working together to affect my experiences, human interactions, and privileges in the world. It is as if we are all marked by a series of certain distinctions; (sex, gender, race, sexuality, age, socio economic and marital status, cultural group, and religion) all of which have their own place in the hierarchy of human difference, some affording us privilege, while others only seem to set us apart from the norm.

With the endless amount of possibilities, it is impossible to assume that any two women have experienced, in the same way, what it means to be a woman in this world. While White lesbian women in the United States are fighting for their right to participate in the institution of marriage, African women are struggling to eliminate the practice of Female Genital Mutilation. Based on our very different personal experiences as women, we have created a variety of agendas all in the name of Feminism.

As explained by Patricia Hill-Collins’ concept of intersectionality, described in her book, Black Sexual Politics, there is no such thing as “just” a woman. Every woman belongs to a certain cultural group, has a certain color of skin and hair, practices some sort of belief system, earns a certain amount of money, ect. Each one of these features cannot be considered singularly, but must be examined in context with all of the others. As women from hundreds of different backgrounds come together at the feminist front, it is crucial that these differences are not ignored! As Audre Lorde, a Black, lesbian feminist, points out, “white women ignore their built-in privilege of whiteness and define women in terms of their own experience alone, then women of Color become “other”, the outsider whose experience and tradition is too “alien” to comprehend”.

This limited mindset of what it means to be a woman has grave consequences and limits the effect of the feminist movement.  I believe the incorporation of intersectionality into feminist theory can bring about great social changes. As women continue to broaden their ideas of “women” while noticing their own privilege and building an awareness of others experiences, the differences that seem so numerous between us will work instead to unite us. Through the confrontation of our own prejudices on a day-to-day basis we can begin to use difference in the way it was intended. It is in this way that feminists can grow and change, claiming and supporting new identities and actively working together to form a better future.

 

Jennifer Peper

I was struck in class by our conversation regarding “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” (Lorde 123).  This, of course, refers to Audrey Lorde’s essay “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference.” The conversation evolved into how people can use the master’s tools in order to get into the master’s house. Do we use the power of one of the groups (age, class, race, marital standing, etc) we belong when it works for us?

I wanted to take it a step further. How do other people use these tools against us, perhaps in less detectible  ways? Microaggressions, defined as “the subtle ways in which body and verbal language convey oppressive ideology about power or privilege against marginalized identities” (microaggressions.com/faq).   This website captures the offhand, overheard comments made in public, moments in conversations that cause a shock and stunned reaction, or moments when discrimination is completely obvious. The point is that, in capturing these moments, we recognize the way in which we notice differences between each other, and at the same time, rank each other as superior and inferior. While some of the moments described on the site are discriminatory (especially to the person experiencing them), I also think that they create a glimpse of our general lack of education regarding groups of people different from ourselves. For example, this post is about the feelings described by an asexual woman. While the general public may be (slightly) more educated about the sexualities described within LGBT, most people are certainly not as educated regarding less widely explained sexualities. This returns to Lorde’s ideas about how most of us understand the groups that we fall into, but do little to understand groups we are not a part of.

Shannon Skloss PhotographyOn Friday morning, I saw an interview with Nancy Upton on the Today Show.  You access that interview here. Nancy Upton entered American Apparel’s XL model search contest. American Apparel is expanding their clothing line (a few select styles) to including XL sizing.  XL? Seriously? It’s 2011 and American Apparel is just now offering a few styles of their clothing in XL?  I think that this is a microagression that affects me. Currently, I don’t think there is a single item of clothing available at American Apparel that would fit me. By including a size XL, to me, American Apparel is saying “Those of you who are on a little on the curvy side, you can come into our club. If you are bigger than a size 14, stay out fatties.” In their attempt to create a clothing line that fits more people, they belittle others.

How do we rearrange our definitions of difference in order to “imitate progress, [but] still condemn us to the same old exchanges, the same old guilt, hatred, recrimination, lamentation, and suspicion” (Lorde 123)? We act like American Apparel and use words like “bootyful” instead of beautiful in order to describe women with larger butts in their XL campaign advertising. Bootyful is clearly less than beautiful.  Why can’t women of all shapes and sizes be called beautiful?

-Jenna Graham

In this week’s reading of Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference by Audre Lorde, Lorde made it clear that the world is made up of binaries.  While these binaries are important in order to define opposition, they also give the idea that that one part of a binary is superior to the other.  “In a society where good is defined in terms of profit rather than in terms of human need, there must always be some group of people who…occupy the place of the dehumanized inferior” (114).  Lorde is making the case that while some people are considered superior, others are considered inferior. In order to be superior in our society, Lorde states that one has to be male, white, and heterosexual.  Therefore all women, blacks, and homosexuals are considered inferior.  These binaries would be considered, judgments, and these judgments keeps groups separate, even when they do not need to be, and gives people the idea that differences must be considered as either good or bad.

                This reminded me of a book I am reading for my class, Movement for the Theatre.  The book is The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey.  While this book might seem to have nothing to do with this class, considering it is about tennis, it actually has very little to do with the technical aspects of tennis, and instead the book discusses how observing and recognizing aspects of the game of tennis, without judging your own performance is the best way improve your own game.  Lorde discusses how “many white women are heavely invested in ignoring the real differences” between black women and themselves (118).Therefore they are viewing their own recognition of difference as a negative thing instead of observing the differences without judgment, and just accepting them.  Lorde goes on to say that after this judgment takes place guilt quickly follows, and the guilt will continue until differences longer mean that someone must be inferior (118).  This goes along perfectly with Gallwey’s thoughts on judgments in the game of tennis.  He states that judgment “perpetuates the process of thinking and self-conscious performance.  As a consequence…negative evaluations are likely to continue with growing intensity” (Gallwey 19). Therefore, one’s judgments about their own game only leads to them over-thinking their game, and not reaching their desired outcome.  So if judgement, positive or negative keeps one from being focused and reaching our goals, then women judging differences makes it impossible for us to unite the way Lorde wants us too.

Even though it is important not to judge differences as good or bad, Lorde stresses that recognizing differences is still important.  “Refusing to recognize difference makes it impossible to see the different problems and pitfalls facing us as women” (118).  Gallwey could not agree more about the importance of recognition and observation.  He says that “letting go of judgment does not mean ignoring errors.  It simply means seeing events as they are and not adding anything to them” (Gallwey 20).  This is exactly what Lorde seems to be asking for in her piece.  She wants all women to unite, but says that making our differences mean that one group is inferior to another makes it impossible for women to unite and reach our desired outcome of equality. 

 

Megan Taub

 

Difference is an all encompassing word. In Audre Lorde’s piece Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference; we read about the complex aspect of difference within western european history and the affects that it has had on social construction and human interaction. Difference can be see simply through binaries like “dominant/subordinate, good/bad, up/down and superior/inferior” (114). Though these binaries give a basic understanding of what difference can circumscribe, the conflict that difference creates is much deeper.

Lorde says, “Too often, we pour the energy needed for recognizing and exploring difference into pretending those differences are insurmountable barriers, or that they do not exist at all” (115). Lorde makes a very valid point stating that the differences of intersectionality are not to be overlooked. Growing up as a white, upper-class, privileged woman, difference was not something that I experienced every day. Because of that, my understanding of racial segregation as well as general hostility between people was minimal. Not until I came out, was difference something that became apart of my every day life. There is a dynamic to difference that perpetuates social interaction as well as the education of society. If we do not continue general education of the differences that we all share, diversity will get lost in the shuffle. It’s not about homogeneity, it’s about having an identity that can be brought to the collective.

When Lorde talks about the ignorance of white women who only focus on their oppression as women and their disregard of race, sexual preference, class, and age , I agree that they are important issues to a point. Lack of intersectional exposure can limit an individuals ability to see oppression outside of their social surroundings. It is hard to understand difference when diversity is lacking in your environment or the generational gap between individuals is seen as a span of time not worth breaching. We can learn so much about race, class, age and sex from the people around us each day. Continuing a relationship with your elders or working to enlightening younger children can help break the disconnect that is shared between generations, classes, sexes, and races which makes difference less consequential. This also allows for intersectional growth so that “we don’t have to invent the wheel every time we have to go to the store for bread” (117).

To recognition difference like diversity would create an opportunity towards a more balanced society. The hostility that is shared across these intersectional barriers is worth being heard. Homophobia, racism, etc is not going to disappear overnight. Like the repeal of DADT, you may be able to openly serve in the military as a homosexual but does that mean you will receive the same respect as others? Can we change decades of behavior and opinions that are so strongly against gays just because a piece of legislation makes it so. As Lorde states, difference is not a subject to be ignored. We need to talk about the differences that we all share or the world is going to keep perpetuating bad habits and hatred towards people that are not apart of the norm. The subjugation of those in the minority reflects complete disregard for the diversity that our nation shares. We would not be the melting pot of the world if we didn’t have the diversity that we do.

-Sarah Klapperich