Audre Lorde, a black lesbian feminist poet, became an ultimate symbol of liberation and radical social change for women across America. Throughout her childhood, she explored poetry as a form of communication. Lorde’s poetry focused on many controversial topics related to disability, race, lesbian feminism, and exploration of identity. In her 1978 essay “The Erotic as a Power,” Audre Lorde exhibits a message of empowerment through promoting the power of the word erotic and its many other meanings that exist yet lack existence in our society.
In her essay, Lorde explores how societal norms are shaped through patriarchal views in our society. As a lesbian feminist, eroticism can be unpacked to explore how the power the word holds is shaped by society but how it can be used in non-sexual ways. As Lorde takes away the sexual power of the word erotic, she allows women to feel empowered to fight against the sexist ideologies in America for ages.
Women have been sexualized for generations, whether for what they wear, how they are portrayed in media, or how men believe they should behave. The strength of the male gaze has influenced the power of the word erotic to be more often used or thought of with sexual connotations. Lorde defines erotic as “an assertion of the life force of woman; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our lives.” In defining the word like this, Audre Lorde gives power back to women and empowers them to believe that it is more than okay to go against social norms.
The essay not only gives power to women but lesbian women as well. Speaking to feminism, she promotes the idea that women have “non-rational” knowledge that women only believe is “non-rational” due to the social norms that have been curated for them by men. She writes, “We have been warned against it all our lives by the male world, which values this depth feeling enough to keep women around in order to exercise it in the service of men, but which fears this same depth too much to examine the possibility of it within themselves” (Lorde 54). This section of the essay explores how men have overpowered women’s beliefs as a means of controlling them to benefit themselves.