We Aren’t Going Anywhere: Broadening Perspectives from 1992 to 2019
By Callie Barr
It’s probably no coincidence that the Michigan Journal of Gender and Law was founded in 1992—a year coined as “The Year of the Woman.” It was in 1992 that the nation watched uncomfortably as Professor Anita Hill confronted patriarchy in its ugliest form—forced to testify to a wall of judgmental, disbelieving, and, at times, openly hostile men about the sexual advances from her former boss, Clarence Thomas. Appallingly, this was a man the Senate was hoping to confirm to the United States Supreme Court. He was also a conservative, and with the anti-abortion rhetoric surrounding Washington at the time, his appointment heightened the possibility that Roe v. Wade might be overturned.
We needed women’s perspectives in the government, and this hot-button issue, among others, resulted in an all-out woman response. For the first time, 11 women won major party nominations in Senate races, while 106 women threw their hat in the ring for seats in the House of Representatives. The result? 24 women won election to the House, and four women won Senate seats, effectively doubling the number of women in Congress.
These women broadened the demographic of Congress’s white, male elite. That shift—the broadening of perspectives—is exactly in line with the impetus of the birth of the Michigan Journal of Gender and Law (“MJGL”) in 1992.
MJGL provides a forum where perspectives that impact gender, law, and society, no matter how unpopular, have voice. Giving voice to feminist scholarship means working to ensure that scholarship is not stifled by traditional boundaries or opinions, male or otherwise; it is seeking to challenge the discourse, the status quo, and even ourselves. Because of this, there is not always agreement on the right way forward. In its early days, for example, MJGL made the New York Times when an art exhibit it sponsored resulted in feminist infighting between the famed Catherine McKinnon and artist Carol Jacobsen: is prostitution solely female exploitation or could it also be empowerment, a claim over female sexuality? Sometimes it is not the answers that are most important—it’s the conversations.
It is now 2019. We’ve been witness to the #MeToo movement and the One Million Women’s March. More women are elected to Congress than ever before, and there is a recognizable feeling in the acknowledgement of a responsive feminist movement. As MJGL continues to provide a platform for gender scholarship, we embrace Senator Mikulski’s sentiments in 1992: “Calling 1992 the Year of the Woman makes it sound like the Year of the Caribou or the Year of the Asparagus. We're not a fad, a fancy, or a year." It’s true. We’re not. We’ve been here, we are here, and we aren’t going anywhere.
1. The Year of the Women, 1992, https://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/WIC/Historical-Essays/Assembling-Amplifying-Ascending/Women-Decade/(last visited Apr. 23, 2019).
2. Rebecca Greenfield, Electing a Record Number of Women to Congress Is Great. But It’s Not the Goal, Bloomberg (Nov. 6, 2018), https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-11-06/electing-a-record-number-of-women-to-congress-is-great-but-it-s-not-the-goal.
3. Tamar Lewin, Furor on Exhibit At Law School Splits Feminists, The New York Times (Nov. 13, 1992), https://www.nytimes.com/1992/11/13/news/furor-on-exhibit-at-law-school-splits-feminists.html.
4. Emma Newburger, These Are the Women Making History as the 166th Congress Is Sworn In, CNBC (Jan. 3, 2019), https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/03/these-are-the-women-making-history-as-the-116th-congress-is-sworn-in.html.
5. Li Zhou, The Striking Parallels Between 1992’s “Year of the Women” and 2018, Explained by a Historian, Vox (Nov. 2, 2018), https://www.vox.com/2018/11/2/17983746/year-of-the-woman-1992(looking at the parallels between 1992 and 2018).
6. “Year of the Woman”, United States Senate (Nov. 3, 1992), https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/year_of_the_woman.htm.