The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House | Audre Lorde

“As women, we have been taught either to ignore our differences, or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change. Without community there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression. But community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.

Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference — those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older — know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.

Poor women and women of Color know there is a difference between the daily manifestations of marital slavery and prostitution because it is our daughters who line 42nd Street. If white American feminist theory need not deal with the differences between us, and the resulting difference in our oppressions, then how do you deal with the fact that the women who clean your houses and tend your children while you attend conferences on feminist theory are, for the most part, poor women and women of Color? What is the theory behind racist feminism?

In a world of possibility for us all, our personal visions help lay the groundwork for political action. The failure of academic feminists to recognize difference as a crucial strength is a failure to reach beyond the first patriarchal lesson. In our world, divide and conquer must become define and empower.”

This week’s addition to the Sunday Reading List comes from the mighty pen of Feminist, Civil Rights Activist and Poet Audre Lorde. Published as as part of her book Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, her essay ‘The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House’ was essentially a critical mirror held up to the exclusionary Feminist Theory.

Lorde charged the American Feminist academic circles of being exclusionary and summed up their ignorance by questioning:

“If white American feminist theory need not deal with the differences between us, and the resulting difference in our oppressions, then how do you deal with the fact that the women who clean your houses and tend your children while you attend conferences on feminist theory are, for the most part, poor women and women of Color?

What is the theory behind racist feminism?”

Like most of her other writings, the essay too remains as pertinent as ever – forcing us to self-reflect, question theory, beliefs and our stands.

You can find the full essay here: https://collectiveliberation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Lorde_The_Masters_Tools.pdf

 

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