Review: Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I underestimated Lorde and for that I am sorry. I have a lot of works that invoke Lorde and some of which could be seen as direct offspring from Sister Outsider. In that way, I (wrongfully) assumed that in listening to her book that it would be affirming but not necessarily enlightening. And well, silly me. Now, not all essays are amazing but all are worth reading. For instance, Notes from a Trip to Russia starts the collection and proves intriguing to consider the differences of experiences that Lorde has while in Russia (along with reasonable criticism--it's not all praise). But then we get amazing gems such as Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power, where Lorde discusses the need and relevance of sexuality as a key element in women claiming power. Then, of course, there is the classic, "The Master's Tool will Never Dismantle the Master's House" wherein she takes white feminism to task for their assimilative approaches to feminism and failure to create space for black feminist ideas. I found this particular passage most palpable and still resonant with the current discourse: "Women of today are still being called upon to stretch across the gap of male ignorance and to educated men as to our existence and our needs. This is an old and primary tool of all oppressors to keep the oppressed occupied with the master's concerns. Now we hear that it is the task of women of Color to educate white women -- in the face of tremendous resistance -- as to our existence, our differences, our relative roles in our joint survival. This is a diversion of energies and a tragic repetition of racist patriarchal thought." In total, I'm struck by how much her criticism both rings true to today and how in many ways, she was also having conversations (e.g. the importance of intersectionality--without using that term) that white people are only starting to have, some 35 years later.

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