25 years ago, Anita Hill, a demure legal professor sat in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee seeping with pomp and testosterone to read her claims of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas, the soon to be confirmed Supreme Court Justice. A few weekends ago, I watched Confirmation, an HBO film that casts a light on the lead up to and eventual fallout from the hearings.
In viewing the film, I marveled at Hill’s bravery as a Heartland raised, single, childless, black woman of a certain age and reflected on my own transition into feminism. As a kid, I imagined a feminist to be the girl who wanted to integrate the football team or the hairy-legged loudmouth who could hold court with the pugnacious guys in the back of a classroom.
I grew up in the age of Spice-Girl Power and Mia Hamm anything-you-can-do-I can-do-better Nike branded empowerment. Still, the media I encountered as a kid failed to present nuanced representations of young women, specifically, who were equal to and/or independent of a male.
If I had to settle on one, I’d say my first feminist icon was Moesha Denise Mitchell. The lead character on UPN’s Moesha, she was intellectually curious, an ambitious student journalist and managed the independence of teendom with the most enviable a-line skirt game. But, even she buoyed between seeking the approval of a domineering father (#worstsitcomfatherever) and having her young life upended by every bushy tailed suitor that made it past the series’ casting director.
Media has grown bolder with depictions of feminism in praxis with heroines like Scandal’s Olivia Pope, The Good Wife’s Alicia Florrick, and even Girls’ Hannah Horvath. And we’re better for it. In the years since the hearing, Thomas sits mostly silent on the bench and Hill has been hoisted up as a feminist icon inspiring a surge in female lawmakers and sexual assault reportage.
Though I am but a baby feminist. Experience, books, tumblr pages, twitter timelines, women like Anita Hill and films like Confirmation have lent to my feminist- womanist leanings and I now know better than to reduce a brazen woman to unshaved legs.