Author, poet, activist, sister friend, and much more, I am sure that Audre Lorde was one of the phenomenal women that Maya Angelou references in her famous poem of the same name. If you like inspired indigenous activism and feminism, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (Crossing Press Feminist Series) is a must-read.
In my opinion, the erotic has a key role to play in women coming into their power and connecting in sisterhood. In Audre Lorde’s own words:
“The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling. 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.“
“The principal horror of any system which defines the good in terms of profit rather than in terms of human need, or which defines human need to exclusion of the psychic and emotional components of that need–the principal horror of such a system is that it robs our work of its erotic value, its erotic power and life appeal and fulfillment. Such a system reduces work to a travesty of necessities, a duty by which we earn bread or oblivion for ourselves and those we love. But this is tantamount to blinding a painter and then telling her to improve her work, and to enjoy the act of painting. It is not only next to impossible, it is also profoundly cruel.
. . . Once we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of. Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives. . . .
During World War II, we bought sealed plastic packets of white, uncolored margarine, with a tiny, intense pellet of yellow coloring perched like a topaz just inside the clear skin of the bag. We would leave the margarine out for a while to soften, and then we would pinch the little pellet to break it inside the bag, releasing the rich yellowness into the soft pale mass of margarine. Then taking it carefully between our fingers, we would knead it gently back and forth, over and over, until the color had spread throughout the whole pound bag of margarine, thoroughly coloring it.
I find the erotic such a kernel within myself. When released from its intense and constrained pellet, it flows through and colors my life with a kind of energy that heightens and sensitizes and strengthens all my experience.”
Source: Lorde, Audre. “Uses of the Erotic: The erotic as Power.” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1984. 53-59.
I believe in the erotic and I believe in it as an enlightening force within our lives as women. I have become clearer about the distinctions between the erotic and other apparently similar forces. 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. And when I say living I mean it as that force which moves us toward what will accomplish real positive change.“
Source: Audre Lorde.” Black Women Writers at Work. Ed. Claudia Tate. NY: Continuum, 1983. 100-16.