The Impact of Audre Lorde

by Zarya Shaikh, May 8, 2022

My central guiding question is “how can the impact of Audre Lorde as a catalyst for women’s liberation be itemized?” This question can be answered by examining Poet Audre Lorde’s work in the Women’s Liberation Movement during the late 1960s going into 1980. Audre Lorde (1934-1992) championed equality through her work as a Black lesbian cancer survivor and mother (Brandman, n.d.). She was a daughter of immigrants and was cognizant of issues in systems of oppression including racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia (Poetry Foundation, 2020). Lorde’s early works, including those discussed in the accompanying presentation, were the roots of her cumulative contributions to feminist theory, critical race studies, and commitment to inclusivity. Her words existed as a response to the second wave of the feminist movement during the 1960s and 1970s. This second wave was intended to help women pivot into roles beyond the private sphere and into the public sphere (Kang et al., 2017). This included motions for women to join more predominantly male workspaces and positions. Birth control and reproductive justice were also significant aspects of the second wave. 

Lorde, seeing that the challenges affecting BIPOC women were not at the forefront of (or even close to) the movement’s agenda, decided to empower women of underrepresented and marginalized communities. The women she hoped to help were the same ones who were taught that their needs were not as important as the needs of the white middle-to-upper class women that the second wave embraced (Aviles, 2019). Lorde outright criticized the flagrant discrimination against BIPOC individuals in systems of injustice (Veaux, 2006). Audre Lorde was similar to other Black feminists in that she not only advocated for women’s rights but also fought for equality within the Black liberation movement. She enabled others to change their own futures on a national scale. Lorde is unique in that her vessel of change was her poetry and she focused on her battle with breast cancer as opposed to reproductive health. With respect to her LGBTQ+ advocacy, she was unapologetic for defying heteronormative standards in addition to beauty standards for what was considered feminine. 


References

Aviles, G. (2019, June 3). Pride #50: Audre Lorde – activist and author. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/pride-50-audre-lorde-activist-author-n1007551

Brandman, M. (n.d.). Audre Lorde. National Women’s History Museum. https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/audre-lorde. 

Kang, M., Lessard, D., Heston, L., & Nordmarken, S. (2017). Introduction to 

Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies. Amherst, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

Poetry Foundation. (2020). Audre Lorde. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/audre-lordeVeaux, D. A. (2006). Warrior poet: A biography of Audre Lorde. W. W. Norton.