Friday, December 2, 2011

2011.12.07 Anita Hill, Still Brave

It's Pearl Harbor Day, a time to remember tragedy, grieve our warlike ways, and up our efforts to prevent war!!

Also a fitting time for me to commemorate one of my heros who in her own way made a contribution to the effort to end violence and its ideologies.

In early October I heard Anita Hill speak on her new book Reimagining Equality. Stories of Gender and Race and Finding Home.

Hill as I expected her to be was eloquent speaking of how our ideas about HOME shape our experience and form our ideas of justice and equality in America.

I remember being riveted to the TV in 1991 when Hill confronted the issues of sexual harassment at the Senate hearing to confirm Clarence Thomas as a Supreme Court Justice.

I’d never heard of sexual harassment but I sure had experienced it in church and society AND never thought a thing about it. I figured it was about my being an attractive women. Imagine!

Not until I read and became a feminist did I understand inequities, power dynamics and patriarchy, aptly defined by theologian Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza as any system of social organization that depends for its stability, its very existence, on -isms, strongly held beliefs and norms whereby one group has,and is supposed to have, more power and more access to resources than all others.

The inequity is structured right into the system,politically, economically, and theologically. It’s a short attitudinal hop from God HE the Almighty power to HE the man who has power over the woman. HE with all the power and right is sexISM.

Ism to me means that whatever precedes the -ism has all the power in the mind of a culture, an individual, or a group. I’m glad Christianity isn’t called Christian-ism.

Anita Hill told us that her grandmother’s name never appeared on the documentation or deed for a large farm her grandparents homesteaded in 1869. Her grandFATHER went from being property to owning property, the American dream. What happened to HER? The grandparents farmed the land together, both giving sweat and tears to the project of landed freedom. It wasn’t that her grandfather treated her grandmother with personal disrespect; the context ignored her very existence.

That’s old stuff you say. Maybe and maybe not. We’ve come a long way for sure and we’re not there yet. Hill cited the current housing crisis and foreclosure as no accident. The crisis is gendered. Women, singles in fact, have been unable to get loans and gain greater economic independence.

The two-parent single home solution isn’t working as the dream. It is failing to provide true HOME.

This is not the space to go deeper into this but Hill said the American dream of everyone being able to own property has ballooned. It has become distorted to mean that every American MUST HAVE bigger and bigger homes. "Trophy" mansions represent a failure of equity. They are symbols of a failed vision.

I’ve never like the idea of equality anyway. Human beings are not equal. They are equivalent, of equal value in our nations and in our churches.

Hill suggested that HOME means belonging, safety, community, not just house.

Many churches bear the name Heavenly Rest. Rest is a biblical metaphor for God. It doesn’t just mean peace after you die. You have a home in God as you are right now.

If we could begin to see each other this way we might rework the American dream and work to enlarge the concept of HOME as belonging in a community of equivalent souls where anything that devalues things black, female, disabled, poor, etc. undermines the whole.

According to Hill we need a movement from tolerance to belonging—very spiritual, very political, very economic, very American.


Ann Page Stecker said...

so much to think about here. and talk about. and i'm swamped with exams etc. and a wonderful end to a women's lit course so....this is a coffee break when i'm out from under the DELUGE....many thanks for your thinking.
ann page stecker

wenvirly said...

The description of 'home' and 'rest' made me think of Isaac Watts' paraphrase of Ps. 23:
The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days;
O may Thy house be my abode,
And all my work be praise!
There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger, nor a guest,
But like a child at home.

Wendy Lyons

PS - Is 'feminism' and '-ism'? (:

Lyn G. Brakeman said...

Yes, Feminism can be an -ism when she gets too uppity and tries to overpower which is why I have 3 muses who guide my inner process. The other two are Religion and Spirituality. They all fight and keep each other humble, too.