At a Glance: Audre Lorde, “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining “Difference”


In this essay by Lorde, she seems to make one main point in the text. The point of this piece seems to be that people are complex and cannot be defined by a single, all encompassing identity such as “man” or “woman” and thus cannot experience oppression in the same manner if we are not of the same mix of identities. This is a very relevant idea to Audre Lorde, as she identifies(and by all definitions is) a black, lesbian, woman. However in the context of the feminist movement of the time, she is seen only as a woman, both ignoring her lesbian identity and her black identity , which causes her to experience patriarchal oppression differently than her heterosexual and or companions of other races. However Lorde takes this idea a step further and asserts the following “It is not our differences which separate women, but our reluctance to recognize those differences and to deal effectively with the distortions which have resulted from the ignoring and misnaming of those differences.”(Pg 122) My interpretation of this quote is that the very identities and differences which are often seen as dividing women, are not the dividing factor, but rather the choice to not recognize said differences and the friction this in turn causes between different groups and identities within the label “Woman”.

The ideas presented in this quote are extremely relevant to some of the things discussed in the Taylor Swift music video we viewed in class(music video in question below). These same issues of making a single identity into one streamlined and unrepresentative experience are shown in the way that the anti LGBTQ group are represented as poor, white and rural. Not everyone in a rural, poor and white area has been treated with widespread bigotry, not to mention the LGBTQ people that are living in rural areas and are poor as well as white. By streamlining the LGBTQ experience into the one presented, the music video excludes people with different socioeconomic backgrounds. This exclusion, as Lorde points out in the previously mentioned quote, causes division, animosity, and contempt, rather than promoting unity through shared experiences and ideals. Whether intended or not, this papering over of differences causes many more problems than it solves, and serves no one but the oppressors and inadvertently furthers their goals.

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One can also tie this idea into the modern western online socialist movement and the idea of the so called “Dirtbag left”. The idea of the “Dirtbag left” is that it is both anti-political correctness and for equality within society(in every sense, both social and economic). This seeming lack of care for others feelings and identities has caused friction in the online socialist communities, between those who wish to talk about and embrace the many and complex identities, and those who reject that identities matter beyond physical oppression.(Keep in mind this is purely anecdotal based on my observances and participation in multiple online socialist communities over the past 3/4 years.) However much like Lorde says, by ignoring our very real identities and the differences in experience they cause, we allow those differences and animosities to fester, like a pus filled wound, until eventually it is drained in a painful process.

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