Audre Lorde’s Biomythography: “Zami: A New Spelling of My Name” Essay (Critical Writing)
Updated: May 29th, 2020
Audre Lorde’s experience correlates with the paradigms that have shifted in lesbian and feminist movements. In fact, naming and recognizing the difference, as well as acknowledging racial, class, and gender differences, is crucial for accepting the self and positioning in the world. Lorde recognizes herself as a black lesbian woman who has found her own language in which she can express her identity and the self. Acceptance of a newly emerged reality gave rise to differentiation providing the “poet warrior” with visibility of her own freedom and separateness. In this respect, Lorde has managed to find her unique path in life and prioritize the core values in life. I believe that the identity development has created a new, unique lens through which Lorde can view her position in the world. More importantly, a self defined “black, lesbian, feminist, mother, poet warrior” has introduce the theory of difference as the necessity of celebrating the existence of multiple identifies disapproving American equality movements.
While returning to A, development of Lorde’s identities was marked by several notable events, or stages. Her gradual transformation as a personality, as well as realization of the self, provides references to her childhood, student years, and adulthood. From the first pages of the book, I have noticed the author’s reluctance to speak of racial and gender difference. Absence of differences, therefore, exterminates the possibility of racial discrimination and fear of being criticized. Rejecting the fact “that difference did not in fact exist”, the poet found no words for defining this phenomenon as she was maturing (Lorde 204).
However, can ignorance generate the truth? I believe the answer is predicted because invisible differences give rise to blurred identities and lack of separateness. Hence, when Lorde formed love affairs and friendships within the lesbian community, she was forced to deny the parts of the self because “it was easy for even lovers to ignore it, dismiss it, pretend it didn’t exist, believe the fallacy that there was no difference” (Lorde 204). The difficulty of acknowledging difference is closely associated with the necessity to name and highlight new concepts of acceptance.
Possibility to recognize differences is imperative for establishing the positions in the world. I agree with the idea that differentiation and visibility, along with freedom and separation, provides people with an opportunity to make themselves visible. Therefore, Lorde’s longing to self-definition helped her feel visible and accepted. By attributing new definitions and meanings to words, she states, “As I spoke the words, I felt them touch and give life to a new reality within me, some half-known self come of age” (Lorde 167). Apparently, due to the appearance of a new dimension, the poet started searching for a unique way of reinventing her personal story. The re-evaluation of life position can be noticed in the passage when she considers her position “different from the larger society, as well as from any single sub-society-Black or gay” (Lorde 181).
I believe that each person should feel unique through defining life goals and identifying his/her role in the community. Perhaps, Lorde’s transformation was due to her relationships with Eudora, a woman who does not acknowledged the existing boundaries and has made Lorde stop feel disregarded and invisible.
In fact, accepting the self is the core path for creating the image of the self. Developing identities, therefore, provides a new ‘spelling’ for different phenomena and parts of the self. I believe Lorde realizes that new definitions challenge the traditional perception, but uniquely identified path is also the prerogative of human rights and freedoms. Therefore, I can conclude that the poet is the eloquent outsider who can reach people by her unique language.
Referring to B, I should admit that Lorde’s deliberations are not confined only to recognizing differences and defining identities. Problems of breaking traditions stereotypes about dualism of male and female roles performed by members of society are also taken into the writer’s consideration. I believe that a parallel can be drawn with the studies provided by Fausto-Sterling who presented criticism of the traditional distribution of gender roles. In her work called Sexing the Body, she states, “A body’s sex is simply too complex. There is no either/or. Rather, there are shades of difference” (Fausto-Sterling 3).
While thinking over this phrase, I have realized that gender should be regarded at difference angles emphasizing social expression and physical underpinnings. The latter provides the disparity between the concepts of gender and sex. Hence, gender should be considered as a psychological transformation, the conviction that a person is either female or male. Behavioral expressions of inner convictions also define gender identity. In contrast, sex is a biologically constructed definition.
Unlike biological considerations, feminist theories consider the body “…as a bare scaffolding on which discourse and performance build a completely acculturated being” (Fausto-Sterling 6). The writer’s deliberations lead me to the idea that all scientific and social knowledge should be incorporated to embrace the definition of gender, sex, and gender. Perhaps, this solution is congruent with Lorde’s attempts to highlight the influence of social constructs on shaping femininity and developing identities. More than that, biological analysis of sex also implies the necessity to consider cultural and social influences. When I have read the article by Emily Martin, I have agreed with the idea that “cybernetic models have played an important part in the imposition of social control” (Martin 499).
The biological models of sex interaction can have social influences. This is of particular concern to social and natural sciences involved in defining cultural aspects of female and male stereotypes. The presented concept supports the idea that identity development cannot stand part from cultural and social interactions. I guess the necessity to connect the concepts of gender and sex due to the existing ties between physical and psychological representation of the self. The ideas presented by Habbard explain the necessity of considering gender from dualistic perspective (131). Despite external psychological contrast serving as the major aspect for evaluation, biologically based assumption about sex are also connected with emotional representation of gender stereotypes.
Differentiation and intersection of gender roles, as presented in Lorde’s Zami, leads me the assumption that gender culture can undergo significant re-conceptualization. Criticism of the traditionally established roles and definitions is due to the fact that social representation of gender culture is a powerful means of social control. Indeed, from our childhood, we have got used to the idea that women and men should perform certain goals. Certainly, some of the goals are identified by biological and psychological differences. However, should gender ideology be exclusively two-dimensional? I believe it should not. To support my position, I will refer to Ramet’s book in which the author introduces the concept of gender reversal, saying, “much as gender cultures vary over space and change over time, so too do the functions played by gender reversals” (Ramet 3). Judging from the above-presented consideration of gender and sex, I suppose that the priority should be given to the importance of gender as a means of representing the self, but not as a tool of limiting it.
I believe that Lorde’s criticism of existing gender stereotypes, along with other presented studies, challenge the binary perception of gender roles. In case gender and sex are connected, why are the categories of “female” and “male” not applicable to people with unique identity and vision on sexuality? When I have reviewed Suthrell’s book called Unzipping Gender: Sex, Cross-Dressing and Culture, I have noticed that her ideas are identical to Lorde’s ones concerning the connection between gender and sex. Specifically, deliberations on the nature of transvestites and transgender are congruent with Lorde’s theory of difference (Suthrell 14). What is more important, the cross-cultural studies of sex and gender explain the link because scientific and social studies as well.
While referring to C, I should admit that the problem of identity development and gender analysis is now on the cultural and social agenda. The contemporary society is on the edge of total re-evaluation of existing traditional outlook on sexuality, gender, and sex. In this respect, I believe Lorde’s work seeks to break the fixed stereotypes and make people re-conceptualize the importance of creating self-image. Specifically, people should not be limited to the established norms and paradigms of social and cultural lenses. I believe it is important to consider the concept of difference as a priority in self-defining. Gender equality, therefore, is an obsolete notion because attention should be paid to uniqueness and separateness.
While reading the first chapters of Lorde’s Zami, I have realized that the existing problems of our social system lie in existing cultural and stereotypical biases. There is no place for difference because people are accustomed to the fixed norms. When moving beyond those norms, one can encounter rigorous criticism that is predetermined by firmly settled patterns of gender behavior. In this respect, Lorde helped me understand the importance of self-definition that should not be dependent from social approval. Rather, I, but no one else, can decide which path to choose to harmonize my existence and achieve my life goals.
In conclusion, it should be stressed that identity development is closely associated with self-definition and recognition of difference. Lorde has justified the idea of thinking beyond stereotypes and contrary to conventional wisdom. The concept of self-image, therefore, provides an alternative outlook on role of genders and gender cultures. While discussing different ideologies revealing the connection between the concepts of gender and sex, I have discovered evident inconsistencies between the fixed social norms and the one provided by radical feminist theories. At this point, gender and sexuality are biologically connected because physical characteristics have a potent impact on shaping the self and developing identity.
In addition, numerous assumptions drawn from cross-cultural studies have also biased my outlook on binary system of gender differentiation. In fact, I have realized that interrupting this system is imperative for understanding the emergence of deviant gender communities and development of lesbian and feminist movements. In this respect, Lorde’s book has shown the necessity of considering difference at its core.
Fausto-Sterling, Anne. Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality. New York: Basic Books, 2000. Print.
Habbard, Ruth. “Constructing Sex Difference”. New Literary History 19.1 1987: 129-134. Web.
Lorde, Audre. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name – A Biomythography. Australia: The Crossing Press, 2010. Print.
Martin, Emily. “The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles.” Signs 16.3 1991: 484-501. Web.
Ramet, Sabrina. Gender Reversals and Gender Cultures: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 1996. Print.
Suthrell, Charlotte, A. Unzipping Gender: Sex, Cross-dressing and Culture. London: Berg Publishers, 2004. Print.
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Updated: May 29th, 2020 Audre Lorde’s experience correlates with the paradigms that have shifted in lesbian and feminist movements. In fact, naming and recognizing the difference, as well as acknowledging […]