COMPLICIT

Turns out I was heartbroken when Clarence Thomas was appointed to the Supreme Court; though I’m just feeling it in 2018.

I don’t even remember–Was he conservative or liberal?

What was most relevant was that he was a he, and she a she.

Disposable.

I always thought it was her that I disdained or the whole sordid ordeal. A decade later during labor, I cringed when my midwife pulled out a cold coke can to place on my lower back.

I never allowed myself the time or space to sort out the complexity of my feelings during the Thomas hearings, if in fact I was equipped to do so.

Newly married, teaching sixth-grade social studies, I was immersed in a beach town where girls were raised to be desirable and boys to be desiring and our bodies up for grabs, leers, comments–the hoots & hollers from passing cars serving as our A+ report card for coming of age in just the right way.

“I can’t believe how big your tits are,” a colleague said, outside the principal’s office after we’d seen each other on the beach the day before. (He was one of the nice guys.)

One of the not so nice guys was talking to our sixth-grade students–the 11-year-old boys–about my ass. (Some of the girls confided this to me.)

Before teaching, I managed a restaurant where from time to time, I reported to the Head Chef’s office. Above his desk hung a woman’s spread, updated monthly, facing us both as we talked about menus and staff. The same view welcomed or rather unwelcomed me at the car repair shop or when using the bathroom at say, my aunt and uncle’s house.

Which is to say, what was Anita Hill thinking?

She must have lived in a different world to speak about such things in public.

I can barely listen to that hearing. Every few moments I have to hit pause. My skin crawls now with the audacity.

Of men.

…How another good guy, Joe Biden, put Clarence Thomas dirty words in her mouth for all to see and hear so that it was she who we found distasteful instead of him.

Isn’t it always that way.

(See, Elizabeth Bruenig’s piece: “She Reported Her Rape. Her Hometown Turned Against Her.”)

But “distasteful” misses the mark, doesn’t it? As does sordid or gross or crude; which a man’s personal habits or interests may be; but when shared with others, unwelcomed, or exposed in the workplace like my colleagues, or like Keillor, Franken and Lauer, is something more than discomfort.

It is the perpetuation of a man’s world where women, if not invisible, should remember their place. And other women should help keep them there. Like I did when those 11-year old girls complained about the teacher who was talking about my ass, by shaking my head and doing… Nothing.

“You have a husband and sons, don’t you?” writes a Facebook follower on my wall. “Aren’t you worried that some woman could bring them down with a lie?”

Somehow it’s still about the men.

When I listen to Anita Hill now, I no longer hear a dirty woman. I hear a warrior.

I didn’t have your back Anita Hill.

I have yours, Professor Ford.

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