Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde - Summary

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches is a collection of essays and speeches of Audre Lorde , poet and writer feminist . The book is considered a classic and an influential and pioneering cornerstone in the emergence of contemporary feminist theories. In fifteen articles and speeches written between 1976 and 1984,Lord explores the complexities of cross- identity , drawing from her personal experience with oppression, including sexism , heterosexism , racism , homophobia , class oppression, and old age .The book covers a wide range of topics, including love, war, imperialism , police violence , coalition building, violence against women , black feminism, and various movements striving for equality. Lord's distrust of the dominant value system in the United States, and its analysis of its internalization, is evident throughout the collection.

The articles in the collection are widely studied in universities, and have become a popular topic for academic analysis. The positioning of oppressions as complex and intersecting that Lord made in her work is considered a significant contribution to critical social theory.

The oxymoron included in the collection's name, "Outsider sister" expresses Lord's claim that her identity as black, female, lesbian, mother to daughter and not white, poet, and part of a mixed race relationship places her in a unique position with a unique point of view, both as a nurse and an outsider. Which can serve as a catalyst for change. Lord also emphasizes the use of poetry as a legitimate form of knowledge, which can be an important tool in diagnosing the power relations that exist in a racist and patriarchal society.

In each of the articles in the collection, Lord challenges sexism, racism, ageism, and status. She argues that diversity is a dynamic force and a means of empowerment and that it should be recognized as such and use diversity to produce creative change. Lord seeks to apply her analysis to the idea of ​​diversity to the next stage of feminism, in response to the lack of recognition of the differences between women that is part of the mainstream of the feminist movement. She also explores the isolation that African-American women can feel and the lack of trust and lack of friendship that follows.

Content Summary 

The Lord's articles and speeches included in the book are:

"Notes from a Trip to Russia" -
Excerpts from a diary kept by Lord during a two-week trip to Russia in 1976, when she was invited to participate as a spectator at the African-Asian Writers Conference held by the Soviet Writers' Union.

"Poetry is Not a Luxury"- The article was first published in the journal Chrysalis: A Magazine of Female Culture in 1977, in which Lord argues that poetry is a valuable tool for self and social examination, as well as for change, and can serve as a bridge between unnamed emotions and words and action.

"The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action" - A speech given by Lord at a panel of the Modern Language Association on Lesbian Literature, in 1978, in Chicago . In it she examines the factors that contribute to the silence of some, and to action in others, combining comments on voice, power, violence, sexism, verbal abuse, shame and hostile social spaces. In the speech she also draws from her experience and positioning on the brink of breast cancer

"Scratching the Surface: Some Notes on Barriers to Women and Loving" - First published in The Black Scholar in 1978. Deals with the issue of distrust and hostility in the relationship between black men and black women.

"Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power" -A Mass of Lord she presented at the Women's History Conference at Mount Holyuck College in 1978, in which she argues that eroticism is an emotionally charged state of perception that allows for new ways of understanding situations.

"Sexism: An American Disease in Blackface" -First published in 1979 in The Black Scholar magazine in response to the article "The Myth of Black Macho: A Response to Angry Black Feminists" by Robert Staples. In the article, Lord expresses the threat of hegemonic patriarchal masculinity to black men as well as women.

"An Open Letter to Mary Daly" - A letter she wrote in response to Mary Daley's Gyn / Ecology , challenging women's omission of color from the book and mainstream feminism in general.

" Man Child: A Black Lesbian Feminist's Response" - First published in 1979 in the journal Conditions: Four . Deals with the challenges of raising a lesbian in an interracial relationship.

"An Interview: Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich" - First published in Signs, in 1981. Edited from a three-hour recorded interview from the summer of 1979, commissioned by Marilyn Hacker, guest editor of Woman Poet: The East.

"The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House"- Derived from her comments at the Second Sex Conference at the "Personal and Political" panel from 1979. Includes what will be her most famous quote, and the currency of feminist language: "the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house"

"Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference" - A paper she submitted to the Colloquium at Amherst College in 1980, in which she denies diversity as a source of control and reallocates diversity between individuals and communities as a resource for social change.

"The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism" -The keynote address of the National Association for Women's Studies conference, held in Connecticut in June 1981. deals with the experiences of women of color in sexist and homophobic societies in relation to systems that try to deny oppression and blame the oppressed for their anger.

"Learning from the 60s" - Lecture delivered in February 1982, in honor of Malcolm X Week . It asks listeners / readers to analyze how their practices reflect their ideologies, even the transparent ones, and emphasizes the importance of striving for liberation from many angles of oppression.

"Eye to Eye: Black Women, Hatred, and Anger" - An abridged version of an article originally published in Essence magazine in October 1983. Lord describes her early experiences with negative reactions from whites to her blacks, and explains the negative consequences of internalized racism and sexism on black women's self-worth and relationships.

"Grenada Revisted: An Interim Report" - This chapter was written and added by Lorde at the last minute, and describes the situation in Granada , when Lord visited there after the invasion of the United States. Serves as a critique of United States imperialist and neo-colonial foreign policy .