“A little bit nutty and a little bit slutty.” That’s how one ideologue characterized the brave, brilliant, and unflinching woman who testified before a committee of all white men in the Senate confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas.
The person who crafted that malicious put-down would later apologize. Anita Hill was nothing of the sort. Her courage, alongside the shabby treatment she received, galvanized more women to run for office and more of their female constituents to vote for them. It also put issues of sexual harassment front and center.
What most interests me is that Anita Hill, now 55 years old, has always been single. I didn’t know until I read a recent Newsweek story, though, that she is legally single but socially coupled. In the manner in which Anita Hill is combining single and coupled life, she is on the vanguard. She has been in a serious romantic relationship with a partner for 10 years, but the two maintain separate homes. They see each other every day, but they are not married.
There are so many questions a reporter must be eager to ask once granted an interview with such an historic figure – and one who does not give all that many interviews. Guess which question this reporter – like so many others – just could not resist asking Anita Hill. Yes, it was, why haven’t you ever married.
Here’s her answer, and Newsweek’s characterization of it:
“Statistically, a lot of women aren’t getting married, and a larger number of African-American women aren’t getting married, and I’ve been in that demographic,” she says blandly, as if the natural answer to such a question was a discussion of census data.
That wasn’t sufficient. When Hill mentioned that she had been in a relationship with her partner for 10 years, the reporter asked her still again why she hadn’t married. Patiently, Anita Hill tried again to answer the question the reporter just could not get past:
“Because things are going so well,” she says with a smile. “We’re both committed, and we’re happy. We’re together every day of the year, but we each have our own home. I don’t have anything against marriage; I haven’t decided not to do it. I just haven’t decided to do it.”
At the beginning of the interview, Anita Hill had told the reporter, “I really want to have a good life. I want to have a life that is worthwhile and meaningful.” By the end of the story, the reporter seemed convinced, noting that Hill’s “own efforts have earned her the ‘good life’ she set as her goal.”
Photo by Elliot P, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.