Devaluing the Testimony of Women

This week's review examines the ways in which women's testimony is often discredited by legal courts and the general public

Tainted witness : why we doubt what women say about their lives

Gilmore, Leigh. Columbia, 2017
218p bibl index, 9780231177146 $30.00, 9780231543446 $29.99

Gilmore (women’s and gender studies, Wellesley) apples an unflinching feminist critique to questions of credibility that seem to be the default position when the testimony of women is considered. The author begins with a reexamination of Anita Hill’s testimony in the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. She illustrates how the issue began with Hill’s experience of a common scenario in the life of a woman of color, fixing her assertions in the foundations of both race and gender. Thomas took away Hill’s foundation of race by claiming for himself the role of a racial victim of a “high tech lynching.” Hill’s testimony was reduced to the common he said-she said equation that so often devalues the testimony of a female victim. Gilmore examines the cases of Rigoberta Menchu and Nafissatou Diallo. In both of those cases, it is clear that the credibility of Menchu and Diallo’s testimonies were compromised by their gender. Further, Gilmore examines the phenomenon of a “proxy witness,” in which it is beneficial or even necessary in the patriarchy that a man tell the story of the woman victim. A very provocative and well-grounded work that deserves considerable attention.

Summing Up: Essential. All Readership Levels.
Reviewer: F. E. Knowles, Valdosta State University
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences
Choice Issue: Jul 2017