I just finished reading this book yesterday evening, though I don’t know how interested I am in reading the tributes to Audre Lorde which follow the main text. This is a hard text, and the reason why I say this is because it truly is an unswerving example of practicing what you preach, what you say you believe in, and challenging others on their uncritical assumptions and givens.
Again, I am so interested in the various permutations of enforced silences, how clearly she articulates these silences. As a woman post-mastectomy, it becomes more and more obvious how objectified the woman’s body is. We may dismiss the fashion industry and mass media’s Botox’ed, boob-jobbed, anorexic, infantilized women for the images’ shallowness and possible lack of relevance to our real lives (and even here, this is highly debatable), but here, Lorde indicts Cancer Inc. for de-emphasizing, ignoring woman’s literal and spiritual transformation by insisting upon the normal, the aesthetically preferred, in the form of prosthesis and plastic surgery. How are these things, and the cancer industry’s insistence upon them a denial of a woman’s opportunity to heal herself, to re-envision herself, all because women are expected to “look normal in a bikini.” How cheapened, how reduced a woman is by this. This is her true value to society, as an ornament and gaze-able sexual object.
I wanted to write here that it’s in these “extreme” situations that we see the true and pervasive misogyny of our society, but cancer is not an extreme situation but a fact of our everyday lives, a reality or possibility for ourselves and our loved ones. For Lorde and for many, it is/was an opportunity to really take stock of her life and her voice as a woman, a black woman, a poet, a lesbian, a feminist, whether she’d spoken everything that she believed needed to be spoken. And isn’t there something really important to be learned here, about not waiting until we are facing our very real deaths, to start speaking what we need to be speaking, in resistance against any force that means to silence us.
There’s so much more but I’ll stop here for now.