I remember watching Anita Hill 25 years ago, and at the time I naively thought that no one would have to go through that again. We gathered around televisions at Amherst College, women and men together, and we all knew that she spoke for all of us.
Then I got to meet Anita Hill after she visited Western to promote a book about Home (Thank you, Monda Halpern.) and she was lovely but did not want to talk about testifying before Congress. Who could blame her? She has accomplished so much, and it was 20 years later. Having dinner with her was a very special treat, as she was a passionate intellectual who believed she was making a difference by bringing her values to the world. I may have thanked her for being brave and telling her story and making a difference, but I only remember how great it was to be in her presence.
Now we see a raft of new allegations of women saying how their own sexual harrassment tampered or squashed their ambitions, even though they were supposed to conquer the world. But after watching Anita Hill testify, I never thought that the world would be the same. Maybe other people went back to Business As Usual, but I was in university, at a watershed moment, and that experience never left me.
The Male Gaze is not something that is owned by Males, even if some of them feel like they own it. It is a property of The Patriarchy, and women collude with it as much as men do.
What a woman puts on her body is political, and so is the way that she is treated as a result.
If a woman chooses to be uncomfortable in exchange for looking “professional” that is a political choice. I learned all of these things as a young woman, but they are still serving me today.