Audre Lorde The Master's Tool's Will Never Dismantle the Master's House

Audre Lorde's essay, "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master's House," begins with an account of a conference that Lorde recently attended. A conference to which she was invited at the last minute, on a panel specifically addressing the issues of minorities. "To read this program is to assume that lesbian and black women have nothing to say of existentialism, the erotic, women's culture and silence, developing feminist theory, or heterosexuality and power.... What does it mean when the tools of a racist patriarchy are used to examine the fruits of that same patriarchy?" (98). Just as the women would be confined by the men to "women's issues" and "women's problems," so too are the women now confining those less like them to little academic ghettos. They recreate the structure of the patriarchy even as they claim they want to destroy it, or at least reform (or re-form) it.
As women, we have been taught to either 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. (99)
 How can I begin to express these sentiments any better than Lorde already has? I look at the words, written before I was born, and I see them played out in the world before me. And I don't like it. I don't like seeing the roots of it go as far back as Christine de Pizan's The Book of the City of Ladies, which excludes any women who lack "virtue" from that vaunted city.
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 stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those other identified as outside the structures, in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. 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 mater's house as their only source of support. (99)
Many of the works in This Bridge Called My Back have made me feel uncomfortable. They have made me think and consider and examine myself and how I relate to the world around me. But these words. These words prick at me deeply. The prick is not a pain, but a call to action that I'm not sure how to answer. The words feel true. The mock any fears that I've ever had about putting my opinion out, speaking aloud or even writing fiction.

When I let fear rule my decision to speak, I only shore up the master's house.

"Divide and conquer, in our world, must become define and empower," (100). So how do I define and empower others in my own life? How do I answer this call in my heart when I don't know where to begin? Other than speaking up when I can. Not being so damn polite anymore. And reaching out to learn about differences instead of letting them keep me from others.
I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of my difference that lives there. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices. (101)

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