I am Your Sister: Black Women Organizing Across Sexualities (Audre Lorde) – A Critical Reflection Paper – Personal Review

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�PAGE � �PAGE �1� Brennan

Tara Brennan

Student # 3745834

Prof. Marie-Katherine Waller, Ph.D.

FEM 1100 C

24 March 2005

I am Your Sister: Black Women Organizing Across Sexualities (Audre Lorde) - A Critical Reflection Paper - Personal Review

Audre Lorde, in the article I am Your Sister: Black Women Organizing Across Sexualities, provides a clear assessment of the traditional and contemporary difficulties that Black Lesbian Feminists have to deal with everyday. Lorde illustrates, for the reader, among her own personal experiences and stories, the struggles that not only Black women, but Black lesbian women and gay men continuously live with. She explains that we should not try to become identical to each other in order to attempt to solve the differences between us, as different races, colors, genders, and sexualities, but rather understand each other. As her article unfolds, Lorde states that she believes heterosexism and homophobia are two very severe obstacles to the "organizing among Black women" (Lorde, 255).

She defines the two terms as such: "Heterosexism - a belief in the inherent superiority of one form of loving over all others and thereby the right to dominance; Homophobia - a terror surrounding feelings of love for members of the same sex and thereby a hatred of those feelings in others" (Lorde, 255). The clear definitions of these two highly controversial and often misunderstood words are important to the mutual understanding between Lorde and her reader. She continues her story by outlining some early 1960s oppression movements against Blacks. She feels that people should stop judging her and other lesbians through "false judgment", as she calls it. Furthermore, Lorde strongly states that because she is a confident lesbian, does not mean she has developed any hatred for men. She wants to dissolve the miscommunication between the homosexual and the heterosexual Black communities. Lorde explains that lesbians are not abnormal and this stereotype falls under the same idea of racism - when Black and any non-Caucasian race were considered abnormal. She believes that in today's day and age, people must redefine family, for it is normal now for a family to contain a gay couple, a single unmarried mother, or children born out of wedlock. She wants to assure her readers that being a lesbian is not a contagious disease, to which you can give to others, being a lesbian is simply who she is, it is an identity. She explains that homophobia is what creates problems between different communities and keeps them cruelly apart. "What does homophobia mean", Lorde asks? It means fearing the unknown, fearing what you do not know and what many refuse to understand - but this fear only makes us weaker, as a community, as a society, as inter-connected human beings. To stop fearing will mean extinguishing its stereotypes and accepting others around you as you would like to be accepted yourself. Ultimately, to stop fearing, will mean to recognize a woman like Lordes and accept that she is not only a Black lesbian, but also your sister. In my critical analysis paper, I wish to discuss Lorde's main concerns and arguments in the article and critically assess my own viewpoints and opinions on her main points, using my own experience and knowledge in the process. I wish to briefly discuss the article, and thus draw my own personal conclusions and reflections of the article.

Lorde's article is very confident, well-written, and powerful. I enjoy the way she organizes her arguments. Speaking from a Black Lesbian Feminist's perspective, Lorde defines the problems of Black Lesbian women, such as herself. Originally, this article struck my attention, because I have always taken an interest in homosexual minorities and why it is that people fear them and consider them a bad seed in society. Why? A lesbian woman isn't going to attack you because she is a lesbian! Personally being an immigrant, a minority, and a foreigner in this country, I can understand what it is like to be discriminated against and often feared. People fear the unordinary, the unrecognizable. Perhaps, the reason that I chose this article for my critical analysis is because I can relate to it, on a much deeper and personal level than many around me can. As I am able to connect to Lorde's personal arguments, I continue to realize my deep hatred for the stereotyping and discrimination that still so strongly exists within our communities. Look around. Pay attention and observe. You will see. People have become too obsessed with homophobia and homosexual couples. I believe that as a society, as a whole, we must try to dissolve this media-created obsession revolving around lesbians and gays, and we must begin to accept others for who they are.

However, in my opinion, Lorde has a few weaknesses in her article and arguments. Lorde explains that being a Black lesbian woman is not a "communicable disease" (Lorde, 256). She does not comprehend why others around her want to kill or ignore this difference. "You don't catch it like the common cold" (Lorde, 256) she explains. Lorde then continues to confidently state that nothing is more horrid in the public eye than being called or assumed a homosexual. "If someone says you're Russian and you know you're not, you don't collapse into stunned silence. Even if someone calls you a bigamist, or a childbeater, and you know you're not, you don't crumple into bits" (Lorde, 256). This, right here, is perhaps the text only basic assumption, but I feel that it is a great one. I most definitely disagree with Lorde - being called a lesbian is not the worst and only feared name. Personally, I would take great offence to being called childbeater, bigamist, or any of the sorts. I would also take offence in being called a Russian, when I am not. I am a proud Romanian, and being called anything other than I am not, I would take offence to, and I have in the past. Lorde makes an assumption here and it is wrong. I feel that she does not realize that, for example, many nations are rivalries and do no particularly get along. You can see all over the world, especially during soccer and hockey games, fans from different countries becoming hospitalized due to rivalries between countries. Do you think they would mind being called something that they are not? I do not believe so; these are the kind of petty occurrences that begin feuding long-term wars.

Despite some weaknesses that I have found in her article, Lorde presents very strong arguments and unfolds her article very elegantly. As well, her personal experiences and stories that she shares with the reader strengthen and empower her arguments. "That is homophobia…it is a waste…It also serves to keep us isolated and apart" (Lorde, 256). I strongly agree with her statement here. Hatred and fear of others that are different are reasons why human beings create barriers between each other - barriers that sometimes explode into rivalries, wars, and sadly, deaths. People are just starting to realize now how hurtful racism is to our race and how damaging it is to our relationships. So, why can we not look upon sexist and homosexuality with the same sensitivity? As a race, have we not learned from out mistakes already? How many more people need to die in order for all of us to understand? We need to change with the times; we need to redefine family, race, and sexuality. We need to redefine these terms to be able to accept others. I myself, do not understand why so many people violate and discriminate against homosexuality. Perhaps it is the fear of not knowing, not knowing what to expect; something different. It seems that in today's society, fear is a common theme. Everyone is afraid of being considered "different" in the public eye. Personally, I would like to be a unique individual in my community. I do not want to be part of a homogenized society where everyone looks, acts, dresses, thinks and feels the same, and fears to be anything else. Why would you not want to be yourself? Why would you want to be part of a homogenized media brainwashed society? What do you fear so much? Regardless of opinions, I wish to be free and independent.

"What is homophobia" (Lorde, 258)? Lorde poses a very good question that I cannot even begin to answer. It means that we are limiting ourselves. It means that we refuse to organize our differences in a way that would work. Lorde states that the first step to ending homophobia starts with each and every individual. It starts with realizing that Black lesbian feminists are not a disease, they are just "…women who love women. This does not mean we are going to assault your daughters in an alley…It does not mean we are about to attack you if we pay you a compliment on your dress. It does not mean we only think about sex, any more than you think about sex" (Lorde, 258). Whether many will admit it or not, the hatred and fear of the unknown will continue the suffering and degradation among our races. Stereotypes and discrimination do not just disappear. They must be smothered by each and every one of us. The first step is to stop believing in them, to stop thinking them. We then need to stop practicing them. In my opinion, this is the only way. Lorde explains that there is no other way. We cannot bury our hate, otherwise when it resurfaces, it will be even fiercer. We must accept it, comes to terms with it, and resolve it within our selves. I believe it is very important to work as a society and to learn from feminist activists in order to begin to eliminate hatred and fear of each other. Lorde's article is extremely relevant to the issues of today and poses many questions we should all think about, as human beings, as an inter-connected society. "I do not want to be tolerated, or misnamed. I want to be recognized. I am not your enemy" (Lorde, 259).