From the woman who gave the landmark testimony against Clarence Thomas as a sexual menace, a new manifesto about the origins and course of gender violence in our society; a combination of memoir, personal accounts, law, and social analysis, and a call to arms.
Altogether, Believing is an elegant, impassioned demand that America see gender-based violence as a cultural and structural problem that hurts everyone, not just victims and survivors ... expansive and all-encompassing ... It's at times downright virtuosic in the threads it weaves together. Few books out there marry Supreme Court decisions and legal analysis with references to the Netflix series Big Mouth ... But more importantly, it makes the case that as a problem, gender-based violence is almost unimaginably big, inextricably tied to other areas of discrimination and oppression, like racism and transphobia ... So dizzying is Believing that readers may need to concentrate closely to read it; on a few occasions, Hill would mention a court case she had first explained a few pages back, forcing me to flip backwards to refresh my memory. (To be honest, this is one of the few flaws I can pull out of this book) ... Though it brings together plenty of history and legal decisions, Believing is not a dense or legalistic tome. Its just-over-300-pages are straightforwardly written. In fact, over and over again, the book blows your hair back with its blunt assertions about the problem of misogyny in America ... Any given reader may easily disagree with any number of Hill's trenchant observations. On the other hand, there's no mush here. You might not agree with Hill that gender-based violence is as pervasive as she says. But then, you also leave the book thinking that few others could make the case as sharply as she does.
Hill’s new book defies boundaries by bringing together elements of memoir with law, social analysis, and polemic—delivered with the precision of a powerful lawyer and the vulnerability of someone who became a target of merciless media scrutiny after testifying to being sexually harassed by now–Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In telling her story and situating it in the context of 1991, as well as the context of 2021, Hill (social policy, law, and women’s studies, Brandeis Univ.) demonstrates the importance of acknowledging that problems once thought of as individual are in fact 'cultural and endemic' ... Alongside her own experiences and her response to the Me Too movement, Hill offers a penetrating analysis of the racism, sexism, and mistrust that Black women face in the U.S. She calls for an end to gender-based violence and asks readers to put forth the effort to enact societal change ... With searing insight, Hill shows how much and how little things have changed since 1991. Her book gives hope, inspires activism, and discourages complacency.
As might be expected of an academic, her tone is a bit pedantic as she makes her grim case with studies and citations and statistics. She admits up front that she’s 'neither charismatic nor a gifted speaker.' Unfortunately, she’s right. At various points, this disquisition cries out for a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down, but Anita Hill is not Mary Poppins. Her treatise is on man’s inhumanity to man, and while her catalog of ills is short on solutions, she spotlights behavior that will make some readers cringe at the extent of sexual violence in our society ... So, caveat emptor: Do not look to Believing for inspiring prose or literary flourish. But perhaps that’s appropriate since there’s no poetry in gender violence.