WASHINGTON. — Washington -- About 2,100 women at Hunter College in New York welcomed as a great ''revitalizer of feminism'' Professor Anita Hill, the woman who leveled sexual-harassment charges against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Why do I get the feeling that the hoopla and applause were greater than any impact we'll ever see from this gathering, or others like it? My feeling is that there is no ''feminist revolution,'' because women in America are no more united on the crucial issues than are men.
Even after 42 years of marriage I don't pretend to ''understand'' women, but I am prepared to say that in a society where everyone gets conned by politicians, women get manipulated politically and ideologically as much as any group I know.
Why, after all the feminist uprisings and the promises of equal rights, are 98 of the 100 members of the U.S. Senate male? I think it is because more women than anyone imagines have been brainwashed into accepting, at least subconsciously, the idea that drawing up budgets and spending priorities, and declaring war, are ''men's work.''
Even when women go to Congress there is no guarantee of any degree of female solidarity. When the crunch vote came on whether to believe Anita Hill or to confirm Mr. Thomas, Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, R.-Kan., defended her vote to confirm with these words: ''Some women suggest that I should judge this nomination not as a senator but as a woman. I reject that. Throughout my years here I have taken pride in the fact that I am a U.S. senator, not a woman senator.''
There never will be female solidarity, because millions of women get manipulated into believing they are Republicans or Democrats, Catholics or Southern Baptists or something else, before they are women. Look at how many women give their religious and political views priority over any assumption that they have the right to make the final decision regarding childbirth or abortion!
Consider black women. It was incredible that so many despised Anita Hill because her charges were leveled against a black man. This phenomenon became a bit more understandable to me when Marion Barry, the former D.C. mayor, was sent to prison, and boxer Mike Tyson was convicted of raping a teen-age beauty pageant contestant in Indiana. I was appalled by the number of black women who defended both Barry and Tyson by scorning the black females who had revealed the wrongdoing of these two men.
''We've got to protect our black men. Too many of them are already in prison,'' one black woman said to me. She gives this priority over protecting school children from lying drug abusers, or young black women from predatory rapists.
Social legislation in America is influenced greatly, destructively, by the fact that women are schizophrenic about their place in the work force. It is hard to mount an assault on the ''glass ceiling'' that limits promotions for women when so many female workers are listening with one ear to those who cry that ''a woman's place is in the home.''
Submerged feelings of guilt by the growing millions of female workers, especially wives who labor out of economic necessity, make almost impossible any meaningful ''feminist uprising.''
Anita Hill may have ''revitalized'' some feminists, but a lot more must be done regarding the attitudes of ordinary American women if we are going to see any great advances in social justice in this society.
Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.