Today, we will be discussing intersectionality through a poem by Audre Lorde. Intersectionality is also called intersection feminism, which is briefly define different groups of people are oppressed but in a wide variety of ways that are different for every person. Lorde described herself as a “black, lesbian, warrior, poet” (Writing the Nation, 67). This description can be seen quite clearly in her poems. She would often fight against injustices of racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism.
The first poem we will be looking at is a reflection of a march she attended. In 1973, Lorde wrote “Who Said it was Simple.” The first stanza instantly grabs the reader’s attention:
“There are so many roots to the tree of anger
that sometimes the branches shatter
before they bear.”
This stanza can be taken in a numerous of ways, primarily metaphorical. In my mind, I interpreted it as the roots represent the pent-up aggression and building anger of being oppressed over the course of many years. Since it has been growing for many years, it grew into a tree which is strong and has become immune to whatever tries to break it. However, since its roots stemmed from anger and outrage, the branches fail to bear leaves/life because the roots aren’t being fed – and were never being fed – kindness. The roots are so tangled and twisted that they are suffocating the tree and are unable to breathe for the chance of finding peace.
The last two stanzas of this poem may be the most powerful. Lorde finishes the poem by expressing the intersection of oppression:
“and I sit here wondering
which me will survive
all these liberations.”
As I mentioned before, Lorde described herself as “black, lesbian, warrior, poet.” Two of those descriptions were – and arguably still are – the most oppressed groups of people in society. She was also a woman, which was another group that was greatly oppressed at the time. This stanza leads readers to believe she was asking herself, “Which part of me will people fight for? Which part of myself will I fight for?”