In the United States, the most complex and grounded analyses of difference have directly arisen from the political and intellectual labor of those who identify themselves as part of woman of color feminism and/or Black feminist traditions. Poet Audre Lorde has been the key architect of theorizing difference as a permanent and endemic dynamic that is commonly ignored or suppressed but that holds the possibility of creative inspiration and growth through friction. The central theme of Lorde’s lifework was to examine the creative power of difference in relation to the absolute necessity of examining the specific conditions of our lives in the service of growth and change. In her essay “Age, Race, Class and Sex,” first given as a speech at Amherst College in 1980 (and later published in her collection Sister Outsider), she insists that “advocating the mere tolerance of difference between women is the grossest reformism. It is a total denial of the creative function of difference in our lives. Difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic. Only then does the necessity for interdependency become unthreatening” ([1984] 2007a, 99). In 1981, the...

This essay may be found on page 71 of the printed volume.

Works Cited
Permanent Link to this Essay