“The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” by Audre Lorde Short Summary

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            Throughout this scathing essay, Audre Lorde claim puts forth the primary claim that if the educational and feminist community continues to use the same tactics as they always have (i.e. the Master’s tools),[M1]  then they will never be able to change the racism and anti-feminist society in which they live (i.e. the Master’s house)[M2] . Lorde is very emphatic about this need for change because she believes that remaining in the current patriarchal white society system will not allow the feminist and black agenda to move forward. She feels that as long as black women quietly submit to a society ruled by white males, there will never be any opportunity for real change. [M3] She advocates abolishing this current societal structure and replacing it with one which women, blacks, lesbians, and whatever combination of those three will have a say, and they will have an opportunity to voice their opinions, and these opinions will matter.

            Lorde backs this up by giving the example of “the women who clean your houses and attend your children while you attend conferences on feminist theory, are and for the most part, poor and third world women? What is the theory behind racist feminism?” Her point here is quite clear that white women and white men who have been allowed to rise up in this patriarchal society—“Master’s house”—are content to have black women oppressed and doing menial labor, while they attend conferences and enjoy a comfortable, even glamorous lifestyle. In essence, she is taking those at this conference to task, showing them that do not truly care about changing the society in which they live, instead, they wish to go on living their cozy lifestyles and playing inside the rules of the “Master’s house”, using only the “Master’s tools” which will never possess the power to destroy the “Master’s house”. Lorde wants the reader to understand that these tools will only allow the intellectual elites at the conference to pretend that they are exacting change, but, in reality, they are merely part of the oppression, as evidenced by those who they employ when they attend these conferences.

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            Now, some might say that these scholars were raised within this system and can do nothing about it, and, perhaps, they are not even aware of it. But, Lorde takes on these critics before they even have a chance to offer this objection. She writes, “Why weren’t other black women and third-world women found to participate in this conference?…the answer to these questions is often ‘We did not know who to ask’.” And, Lord knows this is a weak and spurious argument because there are numerous black, female scholars, and, therefore, she does not allow those at the conference to get away with this defense. She states, “that is the same evasion of responsibility, the same cop-out that keeps black women’s art out of women’s exhibitions, black women’s work out of women’s publications”. This brilliant rebuttal shines a massive spotlight on these scholars at their greatest point of weakness. The lack of female inclusion in art and literature, both black and white, is what is so often the railed against by these scholars at these conferences. Thus, she is showing them that it is not society who is oppressing these black women; it is American academia which is oppressing these black women. She is telling them that they are weak, that they are pathetic, that they are cop-outs, and that they are sellouts because they prefer their relaxed college lifestyles inside the “Master’s house”, working with the “Master’s tools”, to the uphill struggle of opposing society and upsetting the status-quo, while working for the oppressed females minorities.

            This is what Lorde is imploring to her fellow scholars. She wants them to have the courage to refuse the “Master’s tools” to leave the “Master’s house” and work to destroy the very “house” in which they were previously living. She wishes that they would make every effort to invite, to include black women scholars, black women artists, black women thinkers in their conferences and in their art exhibitions and in all facets of American life. This way society can destroy the “Master’s house” with its new tools and take one more step towards justice and equality.


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“The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” by Audre Lorde Short Summary. (2017, Feb 18). Retrieved from


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