There are so many roots to the tree of anger that sometimes the branches shatter before they bear. Sitting in Nedicks the women rally before they march discussing the problematic girls they hire to make them free. An almost white counterman passes a waiting brother to serve them first and the ladies neither notice nor reject the slighter pleasures of their slavery. But I who am bound by my mirror as well as my bed see causes in color as well as sex and sit here wondering which me will survive all these liberations.
“Who Said It Was Simple” was published in Lorde’s third volume of poetry, From a Land Where Other People Live in 1973. The brief poem scrutinizes those who define themselves as feminists but continue to accept and benefit from the oppression of other groups. In it, Lorde identifies aspects of her identity that make her unable to approve of such a conditional form of feminism.
This poem focuses specifically on the flawed notion of a “whites-only” feminism, addressing racial oppression through lines like, “discussing the problematic girls / they hire to make them free,” and “the ladies neither notice nor reject / the slighter pleasures of their slavery.” The poem’s climax, which doubles as the piece’s conclusion, is a direct testament of Lorde’s intersecting identities. She writes, “I who am bound by my mirror / as well as by my bed,” referencing her status as a black, homosexual woman. The final lines of the piece read, “and sit here wondering / which me will survive / all these liberations.” Here, Lorde employs irony skillfully, calling attention to the fact that limited liberation movements are inherently oppressive. In obliging readers to process this notion between the lines, Lorde pushes them to reflect more broadly on hypocrisy.
“Who Said It Was Simple” is a more narrative-based piece than most included in “Leaning into Lorde,” especially due to its specified setting of Nedicks, a chain fast food restaurant. It conveys a “practice what you preach” message to readers, encouraging them to be activists beyond organized activities like marches. Ultimately, Lorde uses this poem to emphasize that all social justice movements must be rooted in a foundation of intersectionality to be genuine and effective.
Source: Lorde, Audre. “Who Said It Was Simple.” From a Land Where Other People Live. Broadside Press, 1973.