I am sorry I misjudged Audre Lorde so early on. First glance at the book, and I felt distanced, I felt like she had nothing to offer me. What would a Black lesbian woman offer to a gay man living in India?
I received “Sister Outsider”, a collection of essays and speeches by Audre Lorde as a birthday present from NJSays, who has been a constant companion, and a sister through the difficult and writer-y years of my life. And I decided that making it the first book of the year was only fair.
The first chapter seemed to re-affirm my beliefs too, while I enjoyed the Russian landscapes rolling by my mind, and seeing their social structures, I could feel that her voice was way too harsh for me.
However, throughout the book, I have fallen inexplicably in romance with her writing and her voice. What Lorde encourages is conversation, which I believe is very necessary in this case. Throughout the years it seems that we have forgotten the simple power of conversation, of togetherness between people of the same community. This causes our movements to fail. When you are fighting among yourselves you are definitely losing the war with the oppressors.
This is not a difficult thought pattern to come into. Brotherhood and sisterhood within communities is needed for any movement to succeed and when you exclude someone for being a bit different from you, that means you have ensured a larger loss too.
Then, there is the talk about us and them. How even Lorde feels difficult to converse with white women because no matter how she expresses her opinion, the white woman will be more comfortable if it was by some peer of her own race. How we automatically try to silence some thoughts, because they come from someone who is inherently different from us. This is the distance I felt when I first encountered this book. The understanding of differences is very crucial to our understanding of these issues, of our inspection of these issues.
When Lorde spoke of the power of the erotic it moved me. For, I have been speaking about this as well. We have been made to hate our own bodies, hate sensuality and romance and told that it can only be a certain way. I agree with her stance on pornography, about how it is so completely separate from the erotic.
Sexuality, passion, all these are vital elements of our being, and yet, it has been suppressed much too long. As Lorde speaks of this, I feel a kind of solidarity with her, which, I did not expect at all.
Then again, the topic comes back to sisterhood, to communication and love between people. This book addresses that and I understand it too. Talking of feminism, anger should play a part in it. People should be angry about these things. This is something I say from my place of privilege as a man too. For, talking about this without rage, without passion makes the talks a failure. This is what Lorde is too me, beyond a woman who is an eloquent author, she is a black lesbian poet who is filled to the brim with passion about the movements she is a part of.
I have the same anger, and yet, I am not as vilified as the women who support feminism would have. I could go right into the night with outrage, and it will still be the women who would be painted into memes and posters which mock them.
Lorde’s book is relevant in this context. Far from a preaching it seems to be based on understanding the reasoning behind the movement, the passion that ignites the flame. When she talks of the dynamic between the sisters, where she is rejected for being a lesbian, there is pain in her voice.
She would be pained too, seeing the LGBT community failing to include bisexual people, seeing a lack of representation of colored LGBT people.
We are a voice that is not brought out much and that needs to be changed. Our viewpoints need to bend to include other people, and we need to lend a voice to our feelings, as well, as lend an ear to the voice of others. As Lorde says, silence won’t protect us from the eventual death.