"The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master's House"
By Audre Lorde
This article brings up many different points about the feminist fight, taking on a critical view of the way in which it is being fought in its current stage. While I found all of Lorde's points interesting and important, I was most intrigued by the title of the article and what it means in the context of today's fight for gender equality. I was confused about the title at first, unsure exactly who the Master was and what his/her tools were. The title is only referred to explicitly in one paragraph of the entire article, and I found that I could not decipher it by analyzing only this one section. I began to piece together all of Lorde's points, from beginning to end, and finally it made sense.
The Master that Lorde refers to is the white, heterosexual, patriarchal society in which we live. It is a society in which differences are not accepted, and those who do not fit the mold cannot enjoy the same advantages as those who do.
I was able to figure out the Master analogy fairly quickly, but when I came to the part about the tools, I found myself at a loss. I understood that Lorde was criticizing the methods used by feminists today, arguing that they were not strong enough to bring about change in our society. However, I could not figure out what these methods were. I began to look at the other issues Lorde raises in her article, those of racism and the lack of black representation in the feminist movement. Then it all came together.
In the beginning of the article, Lorde writes:
"What does it mean when the tools of a racist patriarchy are used to examine the fruits of that same patriarchy? It means that only the most narrow perimeters of change are possible and allowable" (36).
The tools that Lorde is referring to are the tools that push away differences. She points out that most of the women who are taking part in the public, academic fight for gender equality are white women, usually middle-class. Poor women and women of color are left out or pushed into a separate group. Therefore, according to Lorde, the feminists of today are pushing away differences, in the exact same way as the society they are fighting against. They are using the tools of the Master, of the society that doesn't accept differences.
This sparked several images in my mind: that of women trying to dress and act like men in order to gain power, that of gay men trying to act "masculine" in order to avoid ridicule, that of black people trying to "act white" in order to be taken seriously. Instead of fighting against the idea of an acceptable way of being that we must all adhere to, we feed into this idea and struggle harder to fit into it. Instead of embracing our differences, we discard them or pretend that they don't exist, all in order to be accepted.
Lorde emphasizes the fact that our differences are extremely important in the fight for change and that we need to understand all different points of view in order to make any real progress. This also incited several thoughts in my mind. Most of all, it reminded me of a book called "The Giver," which describes a world in which everyone thinks and acts the same, and there is no pain or emotion or choice. But one boy decides to break the mold and bring about change. It is difficult and dangerous, but because he stepped away from what was expected of him, he is able to make a positive change in his life and in the lives of others. Like Lorde's article, "The Giver" emphasizes the importance of being different and not conforming to society's expectations. This is an idea that I have tried to incorporate into my own life for many years, ever since I started to recognize the parts of me that do not fit the mold of society. Reading Lorde's article has encouraged me to continue embracing these parts of myself rather than trying to change them. And I suggest that you all do the same!