Janelle Monae/Audre Lorde

“…we must move against not only those forces which dehumanize us from the outside, but also against those oppressive values which we have been forced to take into ourselves” (Lorde, 2)

For this blog post, I primarily want to deal with this quote from the Lorde piece we read. There is a lot to take in, both in Dirty Computer by Janelle Monae and “Learning from the 60s” by Audre Lorde, so I figured it was best to concentrate on one connection for a brief blog post.

There are two forms of oppression and dehumanization detailed in the Lorde quote: internal and external. There are outer factors in our society that encourage the dehumanization of people, but those same ideas are absorbed into our psyche and create an implicit concept of some people as less than others (I say “some people” because both Monae and Lorde cover different groups: people of color, the LGBTQ community, women, etc.). This leads to an internalized idea, even within the victims themselves, as lesser.

The “cleansing” from Dirty Computer reminded me of this quote. In this video, not only are there outer forces that oppress individuality, but there are internal forces at work as well. For example, when Tessa Thompson/Zen has been cleansed and works with Monae/Jane toward the completion of her own cleansing, she essentially tells her that it is easier to just forget and go along with the process, rather than resist. Even as she begins to remember her past with Monae, she elects to ignore it and follow through with Monae’s “walk”. Additionally, Monae’s process of gradually losing her individuality; although it is majorly because of outside influence (e.g. the Nevermind), she herself must make the final walk to become Maryapple 54. I saw this as the perfect example of the internal and external dehumanization Lorde discusses. The world of Dirty Computer certainly employs outside tactics to suppress the individuality and humanity of each person, through their police force and cleansing process. However, on top of that, there is an element of the internal compliance with the suppression of individuality. It is present in Zen, and at some moments in Monae as well.

To return to the connection between Lorde and Monae’s works, they both assert that the key to resistance is not only to protect your humanity from the external forces of oppression. It is also to try and liberate yourself from the concepts of dehumanization that are pushed upon us all, and eventually taken in subconsciously. The eventual liberation Monae and her friends achieve is reached not only by physically neutralizing their outside oppressors, but also by overcoming the internal urge to accept the chains on their minds that create them into less-than-human beings.

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