The legendary and iconic, “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” Audre Lorde continues to inspire many feminists and womanists with her poetry surrounding the pressing topics of her life, from love to racism to empowerment. Due to her unique experience of the world from her various minority identities, her politics and activism embodies the current struggle of the intersectional feminist movement, coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. Whether you feel isolated like an outsider in your community or just feel like nobody quite understands you, these quotes by Audre Lorde should help you find solidarity through a powerful sister like her.
Pain is important: how we evade it, how we succumb to it, how we deal with it, how we transcend it.
It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those other identified as outside the structures, in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make the strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.
Your silence will not protect you.
Silence and invisibility go hand in hand with powerlessness.
We are all more blind to what we have than to what we have not.
I have a duty to speak the truth as I see it and share not just my triumphs, not just the things that felt good, but the pain, the intense, often unmitigated pain. It is important to share how I know survival is survival and not just a walk throught the rain.
What you hear in my voice is fury, not suffering. Anger, not moral authority.
I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.
The true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations that we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us.
When the desire for definition, self or otherwise, comes out of a desire for limitation rather than a desire for expansion, no true face can emerge.
The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings.
I have been woman for a long time beware my smile I am treacherous with old magic
There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.
You are the one that you are looking for.
The fear that we cannot grow beyond whatever distortions we may find within ourselves keeps us docile and loyal and obedient, externally defined, and leads us to accept many facets of our oppression as women.
The sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic, or intellectual, forms a bridge between the sharers which can be the basis for understanding much of what is not shared between them, and lessens the threat of their difference.
And where the words of women are crying to be heard, we must each of us recognize our responsibility to seek those words out, to read them and share them and examine them in their pertinence to our lives.
Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.
We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired.
As a Black lesbian mother in an interracial marriage, there was usually some part of me guaranteed to offend everybody’s comfortable prejudices of who I should be.
We must recognize and nurture the creative parts of each other without always understanding what will be created.
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 will sicken and die of them, still in silence.
In our work and in our living, we must recognize that difference is a reason for celebration and growth, rather than a reason for destruction.
The learning process is something you can incite, literally incite, like a riot.
Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.
Rape is not aggressive sexuality, it is sexualized aggression.
We know what it is to be lied to, and we know how important it is not lie to ourselves. We are powerful because we have survived, and that is what it is all about—survival and growth.
The white fathers told us: I think, therefore I am. The black goddess within each of us – the poet – whispers in our dreams: I feel, therefore I can be free.
If you conquer the bread problem, that gives you at least a chance to look around at the others.
Of course, women so empowered are dangerous. So we are taught to separate the erotic from most vital areas of our lives other than sex.
If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.
You cannot, you cannot use someone else’s fire. You can only use your own. And in order to do that, you must first be willing to believe that you have it.
Life is very short and what we have to do must be done in the now.
What woman here is so enamored of her own oppression that she cannot see her heelprint upon another woman’s face? What woman’s terms of oppression have become precious and necessary to her as a ticket into the fold of the righteous, away from the cold winds of self-scrutiny?
She taught me that women who want without needing are expensive and sometimes wasteful, but women who need without wanting are dangerous – they suck you in and pretend not to notice.
…oppression is as American as apple pie…
When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.
One pays a lot, we all pay alot, for awareness.
Hatred is the fury of those who do not share our goals, and its object is death and destruction. Anger is a grief of distortions between peers, and its object is change.
I am a bleak heroism of words that refuse to be buried alive with the liars.
There is a constant drain of energy which might be better used in redefining ourselves and devising realistic scenarios for altering the present and constructing the future.
Oppressors always expect the oppressed to extend to them the understanding so lacking in themselves.
Oppressed peoples are always being asked to stretch a little more, to bridge the gap between blindness and humanity.
When you reach out and touch other human beings, it doesn’t matter whether you call it therapy or teaching or poetry.
Each time you love, love as deeply as if it were forever.
It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.
Rationality is not unnecessary. It serves the chaos of knowledge. It serves feeling. It serves to get from this place to that place. But if you don’t honor those places, then the road is meaningless. Too often, that’s what happens with the worship of rationality and that circular, academic, analytic thinking. But ultimately, I don’t see feel/think as a dichotomy. I see them as a choice of ways and combinations.
If I cannot air this pain and alter it, I will surely die of it. That’s the beginning of social protest.
Nothing I accept about myself can be used against me to diminish me.
Sometimes we are blessed with being able to choose the time, and the arena, and the manner of our revolution, but more usually we must do battle where we are standing.
Some women wait for themselves around the next corner and call the empty spot peace but the opposite of living is only not living and the stars do not care.
The woman’s place of power within each of us is neither white nor surface; it is dark, it is ancient, and it is deep.
Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You [white women] fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you; we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs on the reasons they are dying.
We must wake up knowing we have work to do and go to bed knowing we’ve done it.
There’s always someone asking you to underline one piece of yourself – whether it’s Black, woman, mother, dyke, teacher, etc. – because that’s the piece that they need to key in to. They want to dismiss everything else.
I find I am constantly being encouraged to pluck out some one aspect of myself and present this as the meaningful whole, eclipsing or denying the other parts of self.
Only by learning to live in harmony with your contradictions can you keep it all afloat.
Unless one lives and loves in the trenches, it is difficult to remember that the war against dehumanization is ceaseless.
For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action
No woman is responsible for altering the psyche of her oppressor, even when that psyche is embodied in another woman.
You become strong by doing the things you need to be strong for. This is the way genuine learning takes place. That’s a very difficult way to live, but it also has served me. It’s been an asset as well as a liability.
We must constantly encourage ourselves and each other to attempt the heretical actions that our dreams imply and so many of our old ideas disparage.
What woman here is so enamoured of her own oppression that she cannot see her heelprint upon another woman’s face? What woman’s terms of oppression have become precious and necessary to her as a ticket into the fold of the righteous away from the cold winds of self scrutiny? … We welcome all women who can meet us, face to face, beyond objectification and beyond guilt.
I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.
I remember how being young and Black and gay and lonely felt. A lot of it was fine, feeling I had the truth and the light and the key, but a lot of it was purely hell.
Once we recognize what it is we are feeling, once we recognize we can feel deeply, love deeply, can feel joy, then we will demand that all parts of our lives produce that kind of joy.
We tend to think of the erotic as an easy, tantalizing sexual arousal. I speak of the erotic as the deepest life force, a force which moves us toward living in a fundamental way.
The oppression of women knows no ethnic nor racial boundaries, true, but that does not mean it is identical within those boundaries.
If I do not bring all of who I am to whatever I do, then I bring nothing, or nothing of lasting worth, for I have withheld my essence.
But the true feminist deals out of a lesbian consciousness whether or not she ever sleeps with women.
Always in the middle of our bloodiest battles you lay down your arms like flowering mines to conqueror me home,
We cannot love ‘our people’ unless we love each of us ourselves, unless I love each piece of myself, those I wish to keep and those I wish to change—for survival is the ability to encompass difference, to encompass change without destruction.
Difference is that raw and powerful connection from which our personal power is forged.
I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.
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 will sicken and die of them, still in silence?
I have always wanted to be both man and woman, to incorporate the strongest and richest parts of my mother and father within/into me — to share valleys and mountains upon my body the way the earth does in hills and peaks.
I am who I am, doing what I came to do, acting upon you like a drug or chisel to remind you of your me-ness as I discover you in myself.
As white women ignore their built-in privilege of whiteness and define woman in terms of their own experience alone, then women of Color become “other,” the outsider whose experience and tradition is too “alien” to comprehend.
Tomorrow belongs to those of us who conceive of it as belonging to everyone; who lend the best of ourselves to it, and with joy.
For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.
Too often, we pour the energy needed for recognizing and exploring difference into pretending those differences are insurmountable barriers, or that they do not exist at all.