Who Said It Was Simple
There are so many roots to the tree of anger
that sometimes the branches shatter
before they bear.
Sitting in Nedicks
the women rally before they march
discussing the problematic girls
they hire to make them free.
An almost white counterman passes
a waiting brother to serve them first
and the ladies neither notice nor reject
the slighter pleasures of their slavery.
But I who am bound by my mirror
as well as my bed
see causes in colour
as well as sex
and sit here wondering
which me will survive
all these liberations.
Audre Lorde, 1973, From a Land Where Other People Live
Audre Lorde, a “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet”, worked her whole life to speak out against injustices of race, sex and class, in her poetry, as a university scholar and in her broader political life. She did not separate those issues but saw them as forces that require a combined, multi-dimensional answer to challenge them and bring about actual change in the world, naming a position that civil rights advocate and feminist scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw later named intersectionality. By reading one of Lorde’s most important works ‘The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House’ (1979) we will explore what intersectionality means and can do. This text was originally a speech that Lorde gave at a feminist conference named after Simone De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, where Black women were underrepresented. In questioning the role of power and who holds it (the master) Audre Lorde wrote: ‘For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.’ For Lorde, letting go of the master’s tools is the way forward. It is to see how the personal is political, to see how, as she says, personal visions help lay the ground for [collective] political action.
During the semester, working in groups, we will build on this starting point, exploring feminist ideas - artistic, theoretical and political - in space. We will look at the relations between the psychic and the spatial, artistic and architectural. Using methods, including silent conversation and exhibiting, we will work on how Lorde’s words, among many other examples, can help develop our own tools to build different worlds to come.