The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House
By Audre Lorde
Review by Lydia (History and Politics)
Reading Audre Lorde’s The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House was my first look into the world of personal essays. It had seemed that academic writing centred around the rigid confines of rationality and stoicism, leaving little place for the genuine human experience, and for vulnerability. Lorde, to me, solidified and justified the importance of what was beyond the empirical and numerical.
The collection of essays explores her experiences as a “black, lesbian mother” and how these aspects of her identity intersect in the white patriarchy in a way that delegitimises black, female and lesbian experiences. She portrays emotion as both a tool for empowerment and self-expression. The “erotic” becomes something that is not exclusive to sex – rather, it is a state of emotional freedom. A self-defined truth. Here, I understood that breaking away from the system of oppression – the “Master’s House” – required a break from the metric of “good” womanhood, of “good” rebellion”, of “good” emotion. She projected a powerful message about the importance and supremacy of women’s emotions and desires in a system that facilitates oppression through their repression.
Lorde’s analysis was especially raw when dissecting the relationships between women themselves – how white womanhood, for instance, was inherently different from black womanhood. Exploring the roots of the “angry” Black woman, she stressed the importance of such intense emotions. Those were expressive of repression, of active silencing, of belittling. The depth of this problem was made apparent through her own experience – even as an academic herself. As she was told by a white women to not “say it too harshly or I cannot hear you”, Lorde makes clear that the Black female identity transcends the singular struggles of race and gender, and is inherently defined by the intersection of both systems of oppression.
Overall, this book opened my eyes to a world of genuine experiences, and of raw personal writing. It gave substance and legitimacy to the emotional and the oppressed.
What was especially striking is her concise articulation of the use of anger as a tool of delegitimisation:
“My anger is no excuse for not dealing with your blindness, no reason to withdraw from the results of your own actions.”
The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House by Audre Lorde