Audre Lorde, sexism and oppression

In “the Master’s Tools….” in “Sister Outsider,” Audre Lorde describes her experience as the one black speaker at an NYU Institute for the Humanities conference. She asks “Why weren’t other women of Color found to participate in this conference?…Am I the only possible source of names of Black feminists?…In academic feminist circles, the answer to these questions is often, “We did not know who to ask.” But that is the same evasion of responsibility, the same cop-out, that keeps Black women’s art out of women’s exhibitions.”

One more general remark of hers is very telling:

Women of today are still being called upon to stretch across the gap of male ignorance and to educate men as to our existence and needs. This is an old and primary tool of all oppressors to keep the oppressed occupied with the master’s concerns.

I am certainly very proud of the many things that a large number of feminist philosophers have done recently to try to improve life as a philosopher for women. I don’t see us tricked into being occupied with the master’s concerns. Further, a lot seems to be working. But I have two questions, and they are both genuine questions. That is, I don’t know the answers, though I have strong opinions on an aspect of the second:

1. Is this work continuing to be one-sided in a way that is by now too one-sided?

2. In “Scratching the Surface” in the same volume, Lorde defines sexism in this way: The belief in the inherent superiority of one sex and thereby the right to dominance. Is there any connection between all of us feminists working on “the master’s discipline/field” and a sense of superiority and right to dominance?

I think that if one’s answer to 1 is affirmative, then we could see 2 as offering a very unpleasant explanation.

One thought on “Audre Lorde, sexism and oppression

  1. “This is an old and primary tool of all oppressors to keep the oppressed occupied with the master’s concerns.”

    Ouch. That smacks of nurse oppression by medicine. We are continually admonished to prove our worth, then when we publish the (ample) evidence of it in the only journals that will accept our science (read: not medical journals), physicians don’t read our science. So it goes on.

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