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1979 original tape
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1979
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Difference from base
1979 original tape
Transcription Audre Lorde’s comments at the Second Sex Thirty Years Later Conference, from tapes deposited at the Lesbian Herstoy Archives

Start 41:20-end
of tape Tape 1, side A

Can you all hear me? This microphone
is better? This one? OK Can you hear me in the back? Good! This is not meant as an attack on Manuela. I hope it is a piece of consciousness raising for her and for a number of the other women in this group who are not aware of the what the comment the young woman in green made earlier.

I
would like to point out, and it is an excellent example I think, of the destructive aspect of not intending to what difference means. At this point in time I expect every feminist in this room to realize how offensive to me and to every woman of color such a phrase as “the black beast of dependency” is. [APPLAUSE murmuring]

I think that as I said this is an excample of what I hope will be the core of some of the comments I want to make here starting with these papers.

I
agreed last year to take part in this conference with the understanding that I would be commenting upon papers dealing with the role of difference within the lives of American women; differences of race, dfferences of class, differences of sexuality sexuality, The absence of these considerations weakens any discussion of the personal and the political.

It is a particular academic arrogance to assume any discussion of feminist theory in this place and this time without examining our differences and without any active input on every level from poor women, from black women, third-world women, and from lesbians. The absence of [Applause interrupts next sentence] The absence of any consideration of a lesbian consciousness or the consciousness of third world women leaves a gap in many of these papers and leaves a gap in our treatment of the personal and the political.

The Benjamin paper, while raising provocative points I think Jessia, concerning fear and change, retreats, in my opinion, again and again from the very obvious conclusion that interdependency, interdependency between women, women who are women-identified women and able to provide support for each other, is the only way to that freedom which allows the I to be, not in order to be used, but in order to be dynamic and creative. [whistles ooohhh applause breaks out. It appears here that someone attempts to interrupt Lorde as she says can’t hear the beginning or her response “I ask that you please I ask that you hear some of the things I’m trying to share with you and then perhaps we can have a discussion after”] Furthermore the mere advocating of tolerance for difference is in a sense advocating the greatest kind reformism for this a very denial of the creative function of difference.

We need not to tolerate difference. We need to seek it, recognize how it functions for us and encourage that dynamic dialectic between these differences. Only where difference is not merely tolerated, but seen as necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a diaelectric does the necessity for dependency become unthreatening.

Difference is that security which enables us to descend into the chaos of our knowledge and return with true visions of our future, and that concomitant power to effect those changes that can bring that future into being. Difference in other words is that raw and powerful connection from which personal power can be forged.

In the Fraire paper, I was conscious of an either/or model of nurturing or the ? dependency which totally dismissed my knowledge as a black lesbian.
is no examination here of any mutuality between women, in other words the active [tape ends and a portion of Lorde’s remarks are lost]

Tape 1 Side B )0:00-4:08)


consider how Bristow and Johnson were even asked to do a paper at this conference for instance why weren't other black women found to participate here ? Why were two phone calls to me considered a consultation? Am I the only source of names of black feminists in this country? And although Camille and Bonnie’s paper ends on a very important and powerful connection that of women loving women, what about inter-racial co-operation between feminists who do not love each other? [nervous laughter]

It has been said, in
academic feminist circles, as an answer to some of these questions I am raising, "We did not know who to ask." Now I ask that you consider this very carefully. That is the same cop-out that keeps black women's art out of women's exhibitions, black women's work out of feminist magazines, except for the occasional "black women's issue", and black women's texts off off most of your reading lists. Yet as Adrienne Rich pointed out in a recent talk, white feminists have educated themselves about an enormous amount of material over the past ten years, why is it that you have not also educated yourselves about black women, about the differences between us, about what,for instance, black women are doing, what black feminsits are doing in this country parituclarly when these questions are key to all of our survival?

Women of today are constantly being called upon still, and each one of you in this room knows what I mean whether you associate with men or not. Women in this country are being called upon constantly to stretch across the gap of male ignorance, and to educate a male world as to our needs and our beliefs. Now this is a primary tool of all oppressors to keep the oppressed occupied with the masters' concerns. [applause] However now we hear that it is the task of black and third world women to educate white women as to our existence, our difference, our relative roles in that joint survival and this is a tragic repetition of racist patriarchal thought. Simone De Beauvoir said and I quote “It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our lives that we must draw our strength to live and our reasons for acting.”

Racism is a real condition of all of our lives in this place and this time. I urge each one of us here to reach into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror of any difference that lives there, and then see whose face it wears. It is then that the personal as the political can begin to illuminate our choices. [applause, whistling]


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