Femme (Book) Friday – I Still Believe Anita Hill and Emma’s Revolution

You know how people often say, “Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know about [exciting news here]? Well, I am an under-rock dweller, I like it here, it gives me time to read and write and sing and basically chill out. However, things do get in my peripheral vision, of course, thus this Femme Friday’s book recommendation. Also, a song by some indefatigable power dykes.

I Still Believe Anita Hill: Three Generations Discuss the Legacies of Speaking Truth to Power, edited by Amy Richards and Cynthia Greenberg, The Feminist Press, NY, 2013.

This book is soul saving. The contributors have names I knew and names I didn’t know, and the depth and breadth of their observations and wisdom are both shattering and uplifting. I just love this book! Here are a few tasty morsels to entice you:

At the time of the hearings, I was sixteen years old. And what was so meaningful to me was seeing a woman who was giving voice to our ancestors. I’m first generation Haitian, born in the United States, so Anita Hill’s speaking out gave voice to the experience that our ancestors had, but couldn’t speak about. It also provided a language and definition of sexual harassment in the workplace for many women, including my own mother, who at the time just saw sexual harassment at the workplace as part of the job. The hearings gave a context for being able to deconstruct the institutions which impede equality.

–Joanne N. Smith, “What Does Anita Hill Mean to You?”

Rosa Parks’s first act of courage was not refusing to give up her seat on that Montgomery bus, but her refusal to accept the likely acquittal of a gang of white men who raped a Black woman many years earlier in 1944. Parks stood up against the routine denigration of Black women in a manner that was far more life threatening than her role in galvanizing the Montgomery bus boycott. Parks and other African American women who took up the dangerous work of defending Black women against sexual terrorism recognized the inextricable dimensions of white supremacy and sexual violence, blending womanist consciousness together with antiracism at the very foundation of the civil rights movement. Resistance to sexual violence was thus far from a post-movement afterthought or a white feminist spin-off. Unearthing Parks and other Black women’s activism over time reveals that the gendered dimensions of racial exploitation experienced by Black women were not alien to but fully constitutive of the way that racism was understood. Yet this memory has not been nurtured and retold but buried beneath shame and ambivalence. Its consequence in the Hill-Thomas affair was a male-centered frame on sexual racism that anointed Clarence Thomas as a victim and left Anita Hill outside the politics of empathy and group recognition. As a consequence of this forgetting to tell, the singular trope of lynching served as both shield and sword, to deflect the charges against Thomas, and to forcibly separate Hill and her supporters from Black communal politics.

–Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, “Stunned But Not Bowed”

For my peers and me, feminism is no longer a fight against obvious obstacles. We won Roe v. Wade. We won Title Ix. The list goes on. Feminism for my generation, for the most part, is not about “getting” rights. It’s about preserving them. Feminism for us has largely become a much more subtle fight, full of nuance. This is where it becomes complicated for my generation to integrate our feminist beliefs and values into our daily lives. While my generation as a whole may be passionate about fighting injustices, while we may theoretically be able to identify what is acceptable and what is not, we don’t recognize within the contexts of our own lives the same injustices that we speak against on a theoretical level. We have a semblance of understanding, a superficial acknowledgment of right and wrong. But it doesn’t always permeate our actions. And I think our relationship with sexual harassment is a perfect example of this paradox.

 — Julie Zeilinger, “How to Run With It”

Scrumdillyishous, yes??

And finally, here’s Emma’s Revolution, with “I Believe Her”. Play it loud!


Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. I want to feature you! Write to me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com and let me shine a spotlight on your beautiful, unique, femme story! New Femme Friday feature for fall 2018: Books from which queer femmes can draw inspiration. What are your trusted sources of light and love? Please share!

At the Total Femme, my intention is to post three times a week: Meditations for Queer Femmes on Monday, Pingy-Dingy Wednesday on Wednesday and Femme Friday on Friday. Rather than play catch-up in a stressful fashion on those weeks when life prevents posting, I have decided to just move gaily forward: if I miss a Monday, the next post will be on Wednesday, and so on. Thank you, little bottle of antibiotics for inspiring me in this! (“…if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Don’t take a double dose to make up for a missed one.”)