The scene in Bitch Planet which stood out to me in terms of Lorde’s “erotic” was one of the moments in the showers. Right before Kogo Kamau drags the spying guard out of the wall, we see Penny and Meiko in the background, naked (or nude?), celebrating their victory in the in-world sports game. This stands out to me in relation to our discussions of nudity and the male vs female gaze, but it also seems striking in terms of the sheer joy and humor of the scene. Penny lifts Meiko up from around her waist—the motion is celebratory and excessive, and both women are shouting and praising themselves/each other for their teamwork in the game. I don’t usually see or expect naked women to touch each other in such an unrestrained yet platonic way; even though the women are in prison, and being watched by other women and guards, they seem completely free from external expectations and self-conciousness or shame. I think maybe this is a facet of what Audre Lorde defines as the “erotic”—deep emotions, voice, and physical movement which defies oppressive limitations and the white patriarchal gaze.
The combination of this scene and Lorde’s theory brings me back to movements and concepts that I’ve heard in social justice circles before—specifically the idea of the “carefree black girl.” There are black women and nonblack women of color who say that to exist as a woman of color is radical in itself, since the great powers of the world work constantly towards their oppression and death. Both Audre Lorde and Bitch Planet put forward this idea; that to survive emotionally as a woman of color, to live joyfully, is radical in itself. Within the material confines of the prison, I think the questions of how to express free emotion, and how to decolonize the mind, are key to resisting both mental and emotional oppressive limitations.