Sunday, February 24, 2008

Transforming Silence into Theory

What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you sicken and die of them, still in silence? -Audre Lorde

On my venture to discover an epistemological framework that stems from experiences like my own, I've started to read and re-read some authors by radical women of color. First on my list is Audre Lorde's "Sister Outsider." I've only read a number of selected essays, including "Transformation of Silence into Language and Action," "Scratching the Surface: Some Notes on Barriers to Women and Loving," Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power," "Sexism, An American Disease in Blackface," "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House," and "Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference." (Whew!)

While I took more extensive notes relating to very specific moments and influential people in my life, I am choosing (at least for now) to focus on some broader themes. Below I've listed a few quotes that I think should be considered on this venture. The quotes I chose are focused more on initiating self-reflection and understanding the context of myself in society and myself in the movement. Definition and redefinition.

The future of our earth may depend upon the ability of all women to identify and develop new definitions of power and new patterns of relating across difference... For we have, built into all of us, old blueprints of expectation and response, old structures of oppression, and these must be altered at the same time as we alter the living conditions which are a result of those structures. For the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. (123)

As I reflect on my responses to oppression, it seems that a lot of my inspirational drive is rooted in anger and destruction. I don't attempt to invalidate the existence of anger and the desire to destroy oppressive systems within society and within myself. I believe this drive comes from the desire to eradicate with urgency the injustices we survive each day. Every day is filled with negation- institutional driven negation, self-negation under the guise of self-regulation. But at what point and in what spaces do I really get to experience and understand an authentic self outside of "the master's house"? How am I to build a new "blueprint" for living if what I seem to have at my disposal are the master's tools?

[The master's tools] may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master's house as their only source of support. (112)
To what extent have I been working under the influence of competition? Has my response to oppression been locked in a set of behaviors that perpetuate stagnation?

It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our lives that we must draw our strength to live and our reasons for acting. -Simone de Beauvoir quoted by Audre Lorde (113)

What are the sources of knowledge I have not yet tapped into that stem from my own experiences? How have I been forced/trained/pressured to silence those places where knowledge has been forbidden? If I haven't been reaching into these spaces, where have my sources of knowledge been coming from and what are these other sources rooted in?

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