Dear Audre Lorde,
I have been reading your essay The Uses of the Erotic repeatedly lately, hoping to find it, perhaps, a salve to the burning wound that so many women, such as myself, continue to suffer and endure in society today. On the heels of nationwide women’s marches, your words feel ever more relevant today, and yet I can’t help but feel the disappointment you would share with me if you were still walking this earth, knowing that despite our forward movement in so many spheres, where the erotic is concerned, in some areas, little seems to have changed.
One of tenants you speak of regards the erotic as an element of joy, the sense of finding such happiness in the acts of living and being. I am not sure that women are any happier since your essay first appeared in 1981. Certainly, we have created for ourselves, through persistence and advocacy, more opportunity, albeit some of it afforded by men as a pacifier, yet we still seem to struggle with the power of the erotic as a form of existence. Instead, we become stretched thinner and thinner by the multitude of responsibilities and expectations placed upon our shoulders from the various roles we are called to engage: daughter, sister, lover, mother, friend. All these hats, none interchangeable, perch precariously upon our psyche, as the depth of requirements to be successful at each has widened.
In addition to being pulled in a multitude of personal directions, we also have not yet reached equilibrium in the workforce. As the economy sits stagnant, women bear the brunt, continuing to make less than their male counterparts, creating a vicious cycle of feeling that we must work harder just to be considered as capable as those who do the same job. It feels surreal to know these things, and yet watch nothing being done, even as we continue to ask for fairness.
Another you speak of is the erotic as a source of feminine power, not just sexual, although that too continues to feel taboo in a world where it is considered indecent to watch a woman bare a breast to feed her child, even as we drive down highways with plastered billboards of 90 foot women scantily clad in lingerie. This disconnect feels as powerful as ever. Our divine right to our feminine continues to suffer from oppression, as men insist on claiming a majority share of power for themselves, occasionally opening the door to throw us a bone, thinking this will pacify the simmering desire, quietly building, to regain what is rightfully ours. Their fear of the feminine overtaking the hyper-testosterone laden society we have endured for so long overshadows any capacity to witness how healing and inclusive feminism strives to be.
I think you would be pleased to see that the sands of politics seem to be slowly drifting in our favor, but we will likely only reach this untapped potential when we recognize that we can no longer uplift and perpetuate the current male models of leadership that are divisive, only hoping to break in and swim with the sharks. Rather, we need our own paradigm, one that embraces the strength of the erotic and brings into the fold diverse voices that are being marginalized, particularly in communities of color. We need women who want to run for office with compassion and inclusiveness, not merely mimicking the male successors she is striving to overcome. Instead, we should be backing women who understand these principles and shun the notion that politics, or any arena, must be a continuation of the male influence that came before, and pave a new path that allows for shared ideas, knowledge, and compassion for our communities. The old ways employed to break ground can no longer sustain the weight of the challenges that we face, and it is time to move to sturdier pastures.
I long to touch the depths of such passion that the erotic brings, affording the knowledge and grace that who we currently are as women is but a fraction of our potential. That for all the for five steps into the future, we often still find ourselves gradually, and often invisibly, guided back three, only to begin again believing we are gaining momentum when we still often concede in our ‘best interests’. Many women continue to support the same structure of power built by men, for men, in the hopes that they will recognize us on their own as equals, when we should be consolidating to burn down their faulty towers and rebuild our own, based on all that the erotic offers: balanced power, happiness, and pleasured derived from all areas of our lives, not just snippets and scraps.
It is my hope for women that I am not reflecting on this topic again, in another 37 years, and longing for the same eroticism to enter our lives and allow us to reach our full promise, or that we continue to struggle with conveying our deepest desires and needs, and still find areas of our life unfulfilled and lagging. I dream of a world where women are placid in every possible realm: we have careers where our immeasurable talents are esteemed, and we are truly recognized by those fortunate enough to be in our orbits. I fantasize that our society acknowledges the pillars of humanity we are, and builds upon those by providing more than adequate supports that allow us to be our best mothers, lovers, sisters, friends, and selves. That we are revered, rather than rebuked, abused, oppressed or negated. I aspire for us to have our moment of reckoning, drawing the force within us to counteract and overcome all that we have suffered and endured.
Mostly, Audre, I yearn for all that I know I am to be in the light of day, and for that awakening and naked truth be a source of comfort and peace, rather than fear and intimidation. And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t say I have my heart set on incredible, consensual, ethereal sex, and the reverence of my feminine spirit in its act. Yet that is but a drop in the bucket of what eroticism envelops and what we deserve. I hope, just as you did, for so much.
May I get all we have both desired.
Reflections of a woman spawned in a cement cocoon...