Use the handout as a guide to summarize the story “Scratching the Surface” by Audre Lorde.

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Use the handout as a guide to summarize the story “Scratching the Surface” by Audre Lorde.

Use the handout as a guide to summarize the story “Scratching the Surface” by Audre Lorde.
Karen Pitt English 112/150 An objective summary is one-third the length of the original essay foregrounds the main ideas (the thesis statement) includes key words and phrases mentions the supporting points the writer uses is in your own words, thereby avoiding plagiarism follows the author’s pattern of organization uses the information in the original essay avoids coloring the information with personal opinion lists the source or the original essay—the title and the author’s name Note: an objective summary conveys information, not opinion Selected from The St. Martin’s Guide to Teaching Writing 5th ed. by Cheryl Glenn et al.
Use the handout as a guide to summarize the story “Scratching the Surface” by Audre Lorde.
SCRATCHING THE SURFACE: SOME NOTES ON BARRIERS TO WOMEN AND LOVING Author(syf $ X G U H / R U G e Source: The Black Scholar, Vol. 9, No. 7, BLACKS & THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION (April 1978yf , pp. 31-35 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/41066481 Accessed: 28-09-2018 17:25 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms Taylor & Francis, Ltd. is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Black Scholar This content downloaded from 128.228.0.61 on Fri, 28 Sep 2018 17:25:05 UTC All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms SCRATCHING THE SURFACE: SOME NOTES ON BARRIERS TO WOMEN AND LOVING by Audre Lorde Racism: The belief in the inherent superi- ority of one race over all others and there- by the right to dominance. Sexism: The belief in the inherent superi- ority of one sex and thereby the right to dominance. Heterosexism: The belief in the inherent superiority of one pattern of loving and thereby its right to dominance. Homophobia: The fear of feelings of love for members of one’s own sex and there- fore the hatred of those feelings in others. above forms of human blindness stem from the same root- the in- ability to recognize or tolerate the notion of difference as a beneficial and dynamic human force, and one which is enriching rather than threatening to the defined self. To a large degree, at least verbally, the black community has moved beyond the “two steps behind her man” mode of sexual relations sometimes mouthed as desirable during the sixties. This was a time when the myth of the black matri- archy as a social disease was being pre- sented by racist forces for an excuse or diversion, to redirect our attentions away from the real sources of black oppression. For black women as well as black men, it is axiomatic that if we do not define ourselves for ourselves, we will be defined by others- for their use and to our detri- ment. The development of self-defined black women, ready to explore and pur- sue our power and interests within our communities, is a vital component in the war for black liberation. The image of the Angolan woman with a baby on one arm and a gun in the other is neither romantic nor fanciful. Black women in this country coming together to examine our sources of strength and support, and to recognize our common social, cultural, emotional, and political interests, is a development which can only contribute to the power of the black community as a whole. For it is only through the coming together of self- actualized individuals, female and male, that any real advances can be made. The old sexual power-relationships based on a dominant/subordinate model be- tween unequals have not served us eis a people, nor as individuals. Black women who define ourselves and our goals beyond the sphere of a sexual relationship can bring to any endeavor the realized focus of a completed and there- fore empowered indivi dual. Black women and black men who recognize that the development of their particular strengths and interests does not diminish the other, do not diffuse their energies fighting for control over each other. We focus our attentions against the real economic, po- litical and social forces at the heart of this THE BLACK SCHOLAR APRIL 1978 PAGE 31 This content downloaded from 128.228.0.61 on Fri, 28 Sep 2018 17:25:05 UTC All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms society which are ripping ourselves and our children and our worlds apart. Increasingly, despite opposition, black women are coming together to explore and to alter those manifestations of our society which oppress us in ways different from the oppression of black men. This is no threat to black men, and is only seen as one by those black men who choose to embody within themselves those same manifestations of female oppression. For instance, enforced sterilization and un- available abortions are tools of oppression against black women, as is rape. Only to those black men who are unclear as to the paths of their own self-definition can the self-actualization and self-protective bond- ing of black women be seen as a threaten- ing development. Today, the red herring of homo- phobia and lesbian-baiting is being used in the black community to obscure the true double face of racism/sexism. Black women sharing close ties with each other, politically or emotionally, are not the enemies of black men. Too fre- quently, however, an attempt to rule by fear tactics is practiced by some black men against those black women who are more ally than enemy. These tactics are sometimes expressed as threats of emo- tional rejection: “Their poetry wasn’t too bad but I couldn’t take all those lezzies (lesbiansyf 7 K H P D Q Z K R V D V W K L V L s warning every black woman present who is interested in a relationship with men- and most black women are- that (1yf L I V K e wishes to have her work considered she must eschew any other allegiance except to him and (2yf D Q Z R P D Q Z K R Z L V K H s his friendship and/or support had better not be “tainted” by woman-identified interests. If such threats of labelling, vilification and/or emotioned isolation are not enough to bring black women docilely into camp as followers, or persuade them to avoid each other as political or emotional sup- port for each other, then the rule by ter- ror can be expressed physically, as on the campus of a New York college recently, where black women sought to come to- gether around feminist concerns. Vio- lently threatening phone calls were made to those black women who dared to ex- plore the possibilities of a feminist con- nection with non-black women. Some of these women, intimidated by these threats and the withdrawal of male approval, did turn against their sisters. When threats did not prevent the attempted coalition of black feminists, the resulting hysteria left some black women beaten and raped. Whether the threats by black men actually led to these assaults, or merely encour- aged the climate of hostility within which they could occur, the results upon the women attacked were the same. Wars and jails have decimated the ranks of black males of marriageable age. The fury of many black heterosexual women against white women who date black men is rooted in this unequal sexual equation, since whatever threatens to widen that equation is deeply and articulately re- sented. But this is essentially unconstruc- tive resentment because it extends side- ways, and can never result in true progress on the issue, because it does not question the vertical lines of power or authority, nor the sexist assumptions which dictate the terms of the competition. And the racism of white women can be better ad- dressed where it is less complicated by their own sexual oppression. In this situa- tion it is not the non-black woman who calls the tune, but rather the black man who turns away from himself in his sis- ters, or who, through a fear borrowed from white men, reads her strength not as a resource but as challenge. All too often the message comes loud and clear to black women from black men: “I am the prize and there are riot too many of me and remember I can PAGE 32 THE BLACK SCHOLAR APRIL 1978 This content downloaded from 128.228.0.61 on Fri, 28 Sep 2018 17:25:05 UTC All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms always go elsewhere. So if you want me you’d better stay in your place which is away from each other, or I will call you lesbian and wipe you away.” Black women are programmed to define them- selves within this male attention and to compete with each other for it, rather than to recognize their common interests. The tactic of encouraging horizontal or lateral hostility to becloud the real and more pressing issues of oppression is by no means new, nor limited to relations between women. The same tactic is used to continue or exacerbate the separation between black women and black men. In discussions around the hiring and firing of black faculty at universities, the charge is frequently heard that black women are more easily hired than are black men. For this reason, black women’s problems of promotion and tenure are not to be con- sidered as important, since they are only “taking jobs away from black men.” Here again, energy is being wasted on battles which extend horizontally, over the piti- fully few crumbs allowed us, rather than being used in a joining of forces to fight for a more realistic representation of black faculty. This would be a vertical battle against the racist policies of the academic structure itself, one which could result in real power and change. And of course, it is the structure at the top which desires changelessness, and so profits from these apparently endless kitchen wars. Instead of keeping our attentions fo- cused upon the real enemies, enormous energy is being wasted in the black com- munity today by both black men and heterosexual black women, in anti-lesbian hysteria. Yet women-identified women- those who sought their own destinies and attempted to execute them in the absence of male support- have been around in all of our communities for a long time. As Yvonne Flowers of York College pointed out in a recent discussion, the unmarried aunt, childless or otherwise, whose home and resources were often a welcome haven for different members of the family, was a familiar figure in many of our childhoods. And within the homes of our black com- munities today, it is not the black lesbian who is battering and raping our under-age girl-children, out of displaced and sicken- ing frustration. The black lesbian has come under in- creasing attack from both black men and heterosexual black women. In the same way that the existence of the self-defined black woman is no threat to the self- defined black man, the black lesbian is an emotional threat only to those black women who are unsure of, or unable to, express their feelings of kinship and love for other black women, in any meaningful way. For so long, we have been encour- aged to view each other with suspicion, as eternal competitors, or as the visible face of bur own self-rejection. But traditionally, black women have always bonded together in support of each other, however uneasily and in the face of whatever other allegiances which militated against that bonding. We have banded together with each other for wis- dom and strength and support, even when it was only in relationship to one man. We need only look at the close- although highly complex and involved- relationship between African co-wives; or at the Amazon warriors of ancient Dahomey, who fought together as the Kings’ main and most ferocious bodyguard. We need only look at the more promising power wielded by the West African Market Women Associations of today, and those governments which have risen and fallen at their pleasure. In a verbatim retelling of her life, a 92-year-old Efik-Ibibio woman of Nigeria recalls her love for another woman: I had a woman friend to whom I revealed my secrets. She was very fond of keeping secrets to herself. We acted as husband and THE BLACK SCHOLAR APRH. 1978 PAGE 33 This content downloaded from 128.228.0.61 on Fri, 28 Sep 2018 17:25:05 UTC All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms wife. We always moved hand in glove and my husband and hers knew about our rela- tionship. The villagers nicknamed us twin sisters. When I was out of gear with my husband, she would be the one to restore peace. I often sent my children to go and work for her in return for her kindnesses to me. My husband being more fortunate to get more pieces of land than her husband, allowed some to her, even though she was not my co-wife.1 The Fon of Dahomey still have 12 dif- ferent kinds of marriage, one of which is known as “giving the goat to the buck,” where a woman of independent, means marries another woman who then may or may not bear children, all of whom will belong to the blood line of the other woman.2 Some marriages of this kind are arranged to provide heirs for women of means who wish to remain “free,” and some are homosexual relationships. Mar- riages of this kind occur throughout Africa, in several different places among different peoples.3 In all of these cases, the women in- volved are recognized parts of their com- munities, evaluated not by their sexuality but by their respective places within the community. While a piece of each black woman remembers the old ways of another place and time, when we enjoyed each other in a sisterhood of work and play and power, other pieces of us, less functional, eye each other with suspicion as we have been programmed to do. In the interests of separation, and to keep us out of touch with our own power, black women have been taught to view each other as always suspect, heartless competitors for the scarce male, the all-important prize that will legitimize our existence. This be- comes an ultimate and dehumanizing denial of self, no less lethal than that dehumanization of racism which is so closely allied to it. If the recent hysterical rejection of lesbians in the black community is based solely upon an aversion to the idea of sexual contact between members of the same sex (a contact existing for ages in most of the female compounds across the African continent, from reportsyf Z K y then is the idea of sexual contact between black men so much more easily accepted, or unremarked? Is the reality of the imag- ined threat the existence of a self- motivated, self-defined black woman who will not fear nor suffer some terrible retri- bution from the gods because she does not necessarily seek her face in a man’s eyes, even if he has fathered her children? Female-headed households in the black community are not always situations by default. The distortion of relationship which says “I disagree with you, or I do not share your lifestyle, so I must destroy you” leaves black people with basically uncreative victories, defeated in any com- mon struggle. That is jugular vein psychol- ogy, based on a fallacy which holds that your assertion or affirmation of your self must mean an attack upon my self- or that my defining myself will somehow prevent or retard your self-definition. The supposition that one sex needs the other’s acquiescence in order to exist prevents both from moving together as self-defined persons toward a common goal. is a prevalent mistake among oppressed peoples, and is based upon the false notion that there is only a limited and particular amount of freedom that must be divided up between us, with the largest and juiciest pieces going as spoils to the victor or the stronger. So instead of joining together to fight for more, we quarrel between ourselves for a larger slice of the one pie. Black women fight between ourselves over men instead of pursuing and using who we are and our strengths; black women and men fight be- tween ourselves over who has more of a right to freedom, instead of seeing each other’s struggles as part of our own; black PAGE 34 THE BLACK SCHOLAR APRIL 1978 This content downloaded from 128.228.0.61 on Fri, 28 Sep 2018 17:25:05 UTC All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms and white women fight between ourselves over who is the more oppressed, instead of seeing those areas in which our causes are the same. (Of course, this last separa- tion is worsened by the intransigent racism that white women too often fail to, or cannot, address in themselves.yf As black women we have the right and responsibility to define ourselves, and to seek our allies in common cause with black men against racism, and with white women against sexism. But most of all as black women we have a right to recognize each other without fear and to love where we choose, for both homosexual and heterosexual black women today share a history of bonding and strength that our particular sexual preferences should not blind us too. Notes 1. Andreski, Iris. Old Wives Tales: Life- Stories of African Women. Schocken Books. New York. 1970. p. 131. 2. Herskovits, Melville. Dahomey. North- western Univ. Press. Evanston. 1967. 2 volumes, i, pp. 320-321. 3. Ibid., i, p. 322. SOUTHERN AFRICA IS IN THE NEWS Stay Up-To-Date Each Month With SOUTHERN AFRICA MAGAZINE “Essential reading forali who seek to keep abreast of events . . . highly recommended.11 Robert van Lierop, Afro-American filmmaker, producer Please enter my subscription to Southern Africa for: I encloses Individuals Institutions Name □ 1yr./$8 D 1yr./$18. Address Ü 2yrs./$15. O 2yrs./$35. Cjty For airmail subs (per yearyf D G G A L Q $ I U L F D $ V L D D Q G 6 R X W K H U Q $ I U L F D W K $ Y H U P 1 H w Europe: add $9.50 in South & Central America. York. NY. 10010. THE BLACK SCHOLAR APRIL 1978 PAGE 35 This content downloaded from 128.228.0.61 on Fri, 28 Sep 2018 17:25:05 UTC All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms

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