Following a prolonged battle with cancer, Audre Lorde passed away in 1992, leaving behind a body of work that’s still a cornerstone in any Women’s Studies 101 course. She was among the first to criticize the second-wave feminist movement for focusing almost exclusively on the experiences of white, heterosexual, middle-class women and to recognize the importance of acknowledging difference. Despite her heavy-hitting critical contributions, Lorde was also a poet who wielded an inspirational voice that was so accessible because it was suffused with anger and passion and love. Say what you want about the “all quotes and no context” Tumblr-ization of theory, but Audre Lorde is so good that her work still shines in encapsulated doses. Her words lack jargon and speak from the heart, but most importantly, they teach you how to be a person in this world. Lorde would have been 80 years old today, and you can only imagine the wisdom she’d have offered with 20-plus more years under her belt. Still, the advice she left us with is pretty damn brilliant.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” — A Burst of Light: Essays
“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”
“It is never easy to demand the most from ourselves, from our lives, from our work. To encourage excellence is to go beyond the encouraged mediocrity of our society is to encourage excellence. But giving in to the fear of feeling and working to capacity is a luxury only the unintentional can afford, and the unintentional are those who do not wish to guide their own destinies.” — “Uses of the Erotic,” Sister Outsider
“Who I am is what fulfills me and what fulfills the vision I have of a world.” — Conversations with Audre Lorde
“You have to learn to love yourself before you can love me or accept my loving.” — “Eye to Eye: Black Women, Hatred, and Anger,” Sister Outsider