Tuesday, September 18, 2018

On Anita Hill

Anita Hill has been resurrected and thank goodness. In a time of #MeToo, it seems the original crusader who called out the sexist brute that is Clarence Thomas had been buried in the sands of time. This is appropriate too, as the very white, straight, cisgendered polemic of #metoo has obscured the voices of transpeople, people of color, and queer folk.

As Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, and Al Franken have been forced to resign, Thomas still sits on the bench. A bigoted homophobe who voted against gay marriage, Justice Thomas forgets his marriage to a white woman would have at one time been illegal. Before many actresses and other personalities came forward, there was Anita Hill. She raised her voice. She called an abuser out. She lost in her day in court, but it wasn't because Ms. Hill was lying. It was because in a patriarchal system, she was a female victim and such is slanted against female victims. And she was a female victim of color.

When Anita Hill hit the news, I was still young. I remember cracks were made about how Clarence Thomas was "the man." There were others saying his behavior was "typical black shit." The truth is, abusers come in all shapes, sizes, colors, gender identities, and orientations. My abuser was a white male in case you are wondering. Then there were others calling her "a trashy black woman." She is a victim. Her color should not matter. Ms. Anita Hill was a hard working lawyer who was preyed upon by a man in power who would not stop bullying her until she had a nervous breakdown. 

Clarence Thomas took the bench, Anita Hill was forgotten. Around the same time, wife beater and abuser OJ Simpson killed two people. It wasn't about the fact the LAPD defended a celebrity who nearly killed his wife and stalked her after the divorce. Rather, it became a matter of white versus black. Anita Hill became obscured and Nicole Brown Simpson blasted all over the media. Maybe it was because her husband was famous. Maybe it was because she was dead. Maybe it was because she was white. 

But both women mattered, and both belong in the larger, much needed dialogue about abuse. 

However, the problem in feminism has been going on since the beginning. Feminism has always had issues with the matter of race and queer identity. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was passionate about the women's right to vote, but lukewarm about abolition, and was called out by Sojourner Truth for her problematic politics on several occasions. Truth accused Cady Stanton of being self-interested, because the right to vote was only for (white) women at the time. 

Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem were not welcoming to female activists of color. So much so Alice Walker constructed womanism, a more inclusive feminism. Friedan was also a notorious homophobe, and referred to queer women as "the lavender menace." 

The First and Second Waves died because of women could not work together. And now I see the same divide in the Third Wave. I am a trans inclusive feminist, and the dialogue of the TERFs make me ill. I not only think it is vile, but harmful as well. 

Transfolk are more likely not to be tested to STDs because they don't want to be humiliated by ignorant medical professionals. They are more likely to be sexually assaulted and not report it because of ignorant, transphobic, sexist cops. Transfolk are more likely to have abusive partners and also less likely to report that because of the notion that only straight cis women are abused. Transfolk are more likely to be murdered by an abusive partner. Hundreds of trans women are murdered in the United States each year and no one is making any move to solve their murders. 

But because they don't fit the white, cis narrative paralyzing any feminist movement they do not matter I suppose. 

The other thing that turns my stomach is when I hear white, cis women insinuate that women cannot be abusers. I had a female friend who had a partner, a woman who I will call Jane, that was abusive. Jane would call her incessantly to keep tabs on her. When she didn't turn up, Jane would show up at her job. My friend confided in me that Jane even drugged her and raped her. I was frightened of Jane and I didn't even have to deal with her.

My friend went to the cops at my urging about Jane. The cops responded that it was "dyke drama" and that Jane should just break up with her. Jane began showing up at her apartment and even physically assaulted my friend. The cops termed it a "cat fight" or "gay stuff." My friend went to a domestic violence shelter. They were nice until they found out her partner was a woman. I think my friend would have had more advocacy if her partner were a straight man, and if she was a straight woman. 

She eventually got a restraining order against Jane, and Jane managed to violate it twice. Finally Jane found a new girlfriend, I mean victim. But Jane was viewed as less dangerous because she was a woman and that's a problem. 

I have met gay men who were date raped. One tragic story is of a fellow I know who drugged and date raped by a man who was living a double life being married to a woman. He found this out after seeing his rapist out with his wife and children. To add insult to injury, this particular man tested as HIV positive soon after the date rape. He kept it as a secret for years until confessing it in a closed web group. 

While he got a ton of support for his confession, an ignorant soul, a straight white woman, posted that it was impossible for him to get raped. I thought my stomach was going to turn. 

As for women of color, I have heard of them confessing to being abused or assaulted. I have heard white people say, "It happens more in their world," as if it is simply expected that these women just be victims of abuse and nothing more. Or the classic, "She's just another black woman who got with a guy that got out of jail."

Suddenly she isn't as "good" as a white victim and she doesn't count as much. 

I am a white woman writing this, and a cis one at that. I look like I should be solving hot coca. But I also know how it feels not to be believed even by those close to you. I know how it feels to be reminded of his rights at all times, and how "he deserves a fair shake." I know how it feels to be blamed for what I wear, how I talk, and how I present myself. I know how it feels to be told it's all my fault that I am fleeing from a dangerous partner. I know how it feels to awaken to the truth that the judicial system cares more for the rights of the abuser than for the safety of those fearing for their lives. 

I know how it feels to find out he's been released from jail. I know how it feels to find out he's asking your friends about you. I know how it feels when he refuses medication and ignores boundaries,even those that are legal. I know how it feels to have his friends and family members harass you and tell you that it's your fault their loved one is dangerous and out of control. I know how it feels to have your personal life called "unstable" and for people to act like your character defeat caused the mental disease in your partner. I know how it feels to be jumpy, uneasy, and ill as a result of the unsafe behavior of another individual. 

I know I am a white cis woman and that has given me privilege. Yet I know how it feels to discover it's his world, I just live in it. This is why I am more than willing to hear everyone who has ever been assaulted, and this is why I will always believe anyone who is brave enough to step forward. And this is why we need to work together. Because if we do not, it will fall apart. It will be about his rights. It will be about his due process. It will be about him getting released early from prison and his victim being afraid. It will be about some lawyer dragging someone who comes forward through the mud and the culture getting an okay. 

So to every #MeToo activist and ally regardless of your race, gender identity, orientation or otherwise, you have some responsibility. These are as follows:
a. To talk about the hundreds of native women murdered in Canada, and their murders remain unsolved.
b. To talk about the hundreds of transwomen murdered in the US each year, and how those murders remain unsolved
c. To include all everyone in the #MeToo Conversation regardless of race, class, gender, gender identity, and orientation
d. To believe all victims who come forward
e. To support all victims to come forward.
f. To know that in rare cases, people do lie. But even when we want to believe the best, a person might still be an abuser (Bill Cosby)
g. To include queer women and women of color in the conversation about feminism, and this includes transwomen.
h. To shut down TERF inspired hate speech.
i. To know that to say we are all women is incomplete. A woman of color faces oppression a white woman doesn't. 
j. To remind people that transwomen are women
k. To educate others about sexual assault and boundaries. 
l. To educate others about victim shaming

In closing, this is why it is important to say the name Anita Hill, because if we don't, we exclude very important people from this dialogue that should benefit us all. Not only will we meet the same fate the First and Second Wave did, but women will continue to suffer.

So I will say her name:
Anita Hill
Anita Hill
Anita Hill

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