Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
This weekend (according to THE NEW YORK TIMES) as women gather in Washington, D.C., and in state capitals across the nation to be seen as a unified force, disagreements surface—starting with what to write on the placards when individuals have contrasting policies and politics. Men are smirking, I’m sure. A man once told me that men like nothing better than to watch a cat fight (as though he were qualified to speak for all men). But why don’t women stick up for one another? Why isn’t life more like a march for breast cancer research and less like WWE?
Recently, my husband and I watched a DVD (available from Netflix) of an HBO television film titled CONFIRMATION. It was a depiction of the controversy about sexual harassment that surrounded the real life confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Investigators approached Dr. Anita Hill, a respected law professor, and later a second victim Angela Wright, asking them to give testimony about their separate experiences with Thomas. Believing evidence about a disregard for the dignity and rights of women would be important to the deliberations, both women agreed. Ugly attempts to smear the credibility of Hill stood unchallenged when Wright was not allowed to testify. Justice Thomas claimed Hill’s sexual harassment reports were based on racism, although she was from the same race as Thomas. He compared his confirmation interview to a lynching. His diversionary tactic worked. Clarence Thomas was seated on the bench.
Both my husband and I felt sick watching the DVD, as I had felt sick watching the original proceedings on TV. The Senate committee did not treat Hill fairly, and members nearly fell over one another in a rush to complete their approval process when Thomas used his cry of prejudice to counter swelling sympathy for Anita Hill. Most committee members wanted to avoid looking bad. In my opinion, they did not succeed. They allowed Thomas to redirect them away from the topic of sexual harassment because he is an imposing male figure. (Diversion is a common tactic for avoiding solid evidence.) Oddly, the film is categorized as a “political thriller.” I wasn’t thrilled—especially when not all women stuck up for Anita Hill, even when they believed her story. Why not?
Women have been raised to believe that females from other races or cultures are DIFFERENT. Deep down, we know better. But it’s easier to let superficial variations excuse us from empathy. We’re the ones who lose.
For a unique mirror of class and race in America—not from a political point of view but from the perspective of a blunt young woman from Nigeria (who says she wasn’t black until she arrived in the States)—I highly recommend the award-winning novel AMERICANAH by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (who wrote from an office at Harvard). Adichie gives white women like me as well as American black women a glimpse into what we look like from the outside—culture defined by appearance. The novel opens with the protagonist traveling to a dirty salon to New Jersey to find someone to braid her hair before she returns to Nigeria. (I had no idea that black women often feel forced to straighten their hair in order to fit stereotypes of professionalism.) Adichie isn’t afraid to talk openly about realities and perspectives that black women usually keep to themselves.
But we women need to begin being more open with one another. We need to do our best to understand what seems to divide us and to stick up for each other. We can’t let society—race, culture, religion, beliefs, physical identity, or economic status—isolate us. We need to act as models of acceptance, stepping over disagreements to the deeper issues. We need one another, because together we have a voice—the voice so readily dismissed when we speak as individuals. Today, as America faces serious disharmony, fear, and resentments, we are needed more than ever to seek out truth, to nurture the wounded, and to build foundations for cooperation and peace.