#052 Speaking Up With Audre Lorde and Serene J Khader

Serene J Khader and Monica McCarthy/ Photo by Kathleen Caulderwood

Serene J Khader and Monica McCarthy/ Photo by Kathleen Caulderwood

I don’t want to die looking the other way.
— Audre Lorde

In this episode you’ll learn what the poet and feminist icon Audre Lorde can teach us about identity and the importance of speaking up for the oppressed. You’ll also hear why philosophy professor Dr. Serene J Khader believes we should rethink the way we empower women, and why humility is not one size fits all. This kicks off a three part series on HUMILITY. #thehappierhour


  • Aidos: in Greek mythology, was the  (goddess) of shyness, shame, and humility.
    Mahatma Gandhi is attributed as suggesting that attempting to sustain truth without humility is doomed to become an "arrogant caricature" of truth.

  • Taosim: Along with compassion and frugality, humility is one the three treasures(virtues) in the possession of those who follow the Tao.

  • Thomas Aquinas says that humility is important because it makes one open to God’s grace.

  • Simone Weil wrote we act “as a screen” even to ourselves.To have a full view and a better grasp, then, we need to “withdraw.”

  • David Hume includes modesty in his list of “monkish virtues” Other examples of monkish virtues given by Hume include celibacy, fasting, silence, and solitude. According to Hume these pseudo-virtues “… stupefy the understanding and harden the heart, obscure the fancy and sour the temper.” (Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals sec. IX).
    Friedrich Nietzsche: views humility as a strategy used by the weak to avoid being destroyed by the strong. In Twilight of the Idols he writes: "When stepped on, a worm doubles up. That is clever. In that way he lessens the probability of being stepped on again.”


“If white american feminist theory need not deal with the differences between us, and the resulting difference in our oppressions, then how do you deal with the fact that the women who clean your houses and tend your children while you attend conferences on feminist theory are, for the most part, poor women and women of color?”- The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House

“Your silence will not protect you.”

“Only by learning to live in harmony with your contradictions can you keep it all afloat.”

“Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.”
“When we speak we are afraid our words will not be welcome but when we are silent we are still afraid.“A Litany for Survival”

By Audre Lorde:

The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde
Your Silence Will Not Protect You: Essays and Poems

The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House (Penguin Modern)

By Serene J Khader:
Decolonizing Universalism: A Transnational Feminist Ethic (Studies in Feminist Philosophy)

Adaptive Preferences and Women's Empowerment (Studies in Feminist Philosophy)

How might your identity affect how you perceive your strengths vs how others might perceive your strengths?


Serene J. Khader is a philosopher and feminist theorist. Serene holds the Jay Newman Chair in Philosophy of Culture at Brooklyn College and is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Women's and Gender Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her research focuses on moral and political issues relevant to women in the global South. Her work on adaptive preferences, including her first book Adaptive Preferences and Women’s Empowerment (Oxford University Press 2011), develops an approach to responding to choices made by oppressed and deprived people that perpetuate their own oppression and deprivation. Her second book, Decolonizing Universalism, Transnational Feminist Ethics (Oxford University Press 2018), concerns the normative commitments required for cross-border feminist solidarity