The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House by Audre Lorde
Published by Penguin Classics, 2018
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
This slim volume brings together five essays by self-described ‘black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet’, Audre Lorde. Originally published between 1977 and 1982, they are all powerfully yet frustratingly relevant today, focussing on issues of Black identity, womanhood, queerness, and the vital roles that art and community must play in overcoming patriarchy.
The arguments presented in each essay compliment the others beautifully, making this a very well curated selection. That said, each still manages to stand out distinctly and make its own valid points, so I’ll talk about each individually.
Poetry Is Not a Luxury is a brief offering about the power of words in processing, understanding and expressing our innermost thoughts. It felt like a nice setup for the eloquence and intellectual ferocity that was to follow. – 4 stars
Uses of the Erotic draws an important distinction between the pornographic and the erotic, explaining that the demonisation of female sexuality has long been used to oppress women and encourage self-policing. – 4 stars
The title essay is a fiercely perceptive and timely discussion about the need for intersectionality within feminism. Lorde details why it is vital to embrace the reality that different women face their own oppressions (Black or white, queer or straight, etc.), rather than deny it. With the structures of patriarchy existing to deliberately divide communities – and thus reduce the power of their voice – it is only by overcoming internal differences that women (and their allies) will be able to form a truly united front that is strong enough to overthrow sexism. – 5 stars
Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism builds on the title essay, explaining that female anger (particularly Black female anger) has been painted as a negative quality in order to keep women quiet, and thus, oppressed. Lorde goes on to explain that anger can in fact be a powerful tool for positive change when channelled correctly. – 5 stars
Learning from the 1960’s is about the importance of not repeating the mistakes of the past, a message that hits especially hard with everything that’s going on in the world right now. It’s about pushing ahead with the fight for justice even when change feels impossible, and the importance of all oppressed communities (women, people of colour, queers, the elderly, the disabled, the poor, and so on) working hand-in-hand if they are to outnumber the supposed ‘norm’ (straight, cis, wealthy, white men), and thus be able to bring about lasting, systemic change. – 5 stars
This was such a fantastic introduction to Lorde’s work, and I will undoubtedly be seeking out more. I highlighted so many passages; ones that made me see things in a new way, and ones that articulated my existing thoughts to perfection. If you too are looking for a succinct entry point (or a compact refresher) of Lorde’s oeuvre, I cannot recommend this volume highly enough.
You can pick up a copy of The Master’s Tools… by clicking here.