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Comparing Audre Lorde & Alison Bechdel Essay

Although feminism is a unifying theory on the rights and roles of women, there are dissenting voices each supporting a specific theme or use of feminism. It is the purpose of this paper to present ways in which two authors present their views and allow for the critics and readers to better understand feminism through their perspective. The paper will focus on the works of Audre Lorde and Alison Bechdel. Feminism is not a theory based primarily on the injustices done to women, but is in fact a statement that women have had injustices done to them, and there is finally action and unification among women and men to stop such actions.

Alison Bechdel uses humor as a means to open up her reader’s perspectives. In her comic strip Dikes to Watch Out For Bechdel takes a personal stance on the subject of lesbian living and the practice of feminism. In her strip, the women she presents to the audience are all strong women, with strong opinions about their life style. Indeed it seems that a woman who is a lesbian would have to have a strong personality in order to suffer through the prejudices of the times in order to simply live her everyday life.

It is the fact that lesbians are suffering for something as simple as wanting to get married that Bechdel feels that humor is the best approach. It allows for the anger to have a flip side and makes light of such a dark subject. For example, in one strip, Bechdel shows two women exchanging gifts with one another; one gives the other one a book about the wisdom of menopause and the other gives her partner lingerie from Victoria’s Secret.

These are two very opposing views of anniversary gifts (assuming its an anniversary or Christmas as both are receiving presents) as one thinks about sex while the other one is more concerned about getting older. This is the same as any relationship; these opposing viewpoints. What Bechdel has done in this comic strip is to show how un-different people’s relationships are with one another. The failure of communication and desires in a lesbian relationship is the same in an opposite sex relationship. This use of humor abounds in lesbian and feminism literature.

Gloria Steinem wrote an article entitled If Men Could Menstruate in which she proposes how accepting society would be toward the idea of menstruating instead of the more clandestine views taken on women buying tampons at a store. Steinem writes, …menstruation would become an enviable, worthy, masculine event: men would brag about how long and how much. Young boys would talk about it as the envied beginning of manhood. Gifts, religious ceremonies, family dinners, and stag parties would mark the day. To prevent monthly work loss among the powerful, Congress would fund a National Institute of Dysmenorrhea.

Doctors would research little about heart attacks, from which men would be hormonally protected, but everything about cramps. (Steinem). Thus, the use of humor as a deflection of a serious subject (weighted down with politics but affecting people’s personal lives). Probably due to Lorde’s forte found with poetry, her book is prosy in style and the beginning of it lists several rhetorical questions of the reader. These questions are perhaps asked by many lesbians; such as, where do they get their strength, where is my heritage found in the woman I’ve become.

Such questions stand as a stark contrast to Bechdel’s more comic writing style, and turning the mundane living of lesbians (i. e. Louise) into a voyeuristic understanding of how such relationships are similar to all relationships. In Lorde’s book, the narrator gives voice to the frustration of these unanswerable questions. Unanswerable in the sense that each lesbian, or each person must find their own answer – these are questions contingent upon the personality of the person asking the question.

Lorde is ticking off names as the narrator develops her story. To the question posed, To Whom Do I Owe the Woman I have Become? the reader receives a list of names and stories of strong women such as DeLois. It is in these secondary characters where Lorde places the strength of the narrator. In contrast to Bechdel’s comedy, Lorde’s sober tones of reality strike the reader in a heavy way. Although both authors speak about their truth, the way in which they try to make their readers see their own perspectives is very different.

Both authors however have one strong bond in common; strength. This is shown not only in Bechdel’s blogs online but through her comic strip. It takes a strong person to find comedy in something so serious as women falling in love. In Lorde as well, in the beginning of her Prologue she states, “I have always wanted to be both man and woman, to incorporate the strongest and richest parts of my mother and father within/into me-to share valleys and mountains upon my body the way the earth does in hills and peeks” (Lorde 7).

Thus, strength is the common denominator for both women. It is this common denominator that unites either author in the fight for feminism – for equal rights. There are many people, mostly women, who have been fighting for their equal rights – and we now commonly call this as feminism. Feminism started not merely on 19th century, but even during the 17th to 18th century. This is the very reason why feminists (i. e. Lorde and Bechdel) have gotten so much attention from well respected organization and government officials.

With this idea in mind, many are now asking, who are the women who started the feminist movements and what prompted them to initiate such action? By digging deeper to what the real meaning of feminism is, it can also be identified the first few women who fought and strived really hard just to show the world that feminism is indeed worth fighting for. These women have their own issues that they highlighted and it all boils down to the fact that females are not just a decoration for males, instead, they are people who can be effective even in dealing with other important aspects of the society like the government.

This feminism started not on one place or country, but coincidentally, a lot of women from various countries around the world fought for their rights as and equal and rightful members of the society. Although the struggle of feminism continues, there is no doubt that despite their different approaches of prose and comedy, either author has willingly or out of necessity taken up the fight for feminism. Their fight is this: to sway their readers into understanding a different way of life.

To have their readers accept feminism as the proper course of a society because after all, people are only people. References Bechdel, Allison. (2009). Dykes to Watch Out For. Online. 31 March 2009. <http://www. dykestowatchoutfor. com/> Bechdel, Allison. (2003). Dykes and Sundry Other Carbo-Based Life Forms to Watch Out For. Ann Arbor; Firebrand Books. Lorde, Audre. (1983). Zami, A New Spelling of My Name; A Biomythography. Crossing Press, Freedom California. Steinem, Gloria. (2009). If Men Could Menstruate. Online. 31 March 2009. <http://www. mum. org/ifmencou. htm>


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