How About We Stop Treating Women Like We Treated Anita Hill?
Yesterday, after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward in the Washington post, Fox News' Brit Hume -- whose daughter Virginia was one of the 65 women who signed that letter saying that Brett Kavanaugh didn't rape them -- sent a tweet with the article and the caption "Here we go. Anita Hill redux."
Clearly, this means something very different to him than it does to me, than it does to anyone I even know, personally -- which goes to show you that this "divide" that people think just magically happened at some point during the Obama years has actually existed all along.
When I think of Anita Hill, I think of a woman who, at great risk to her own life, reputation and career, bravely came forward to talk about being sexually harassed by her boss in the most grotesque manner humanly possible -- only to be humiliated by a bunch of other men, and see him placed on the highest court in the land. I guess when he thinks of Anita Hill, he thinks of someone who -- I don't know -- only thought it was a problem that her boss showed her bestiality porn because he hated abortion?
Anita Hill had been Clarence Thomas' assistant at the US Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, and then followed him to the Equal Employment Opportunity Office -- so when he was nominated to the Supreme Court by Bush I, she was one of the people the FBI talked to while vetting him. It was at this point that she told the FBI of Thomas's history of sexually harassing her, repeatedly asking her out, talking about his dick and his sexual prowess, talking to her about bestiality porn, and about... pubic hairs on his Coke can.
With four other women waiting in the wings to back her up -- who were never called to testify themselves -- Hill testified to this.
She testified to this, to the humiliation that she had suffered while working for Thomas, to a group of old ass white men. Democrats, yes, but old ass white men all the same.
I watched this when I was 10 years old, with my mother, in the laundry room. I remember this vividly, I remember the anger in my bones as I watched them question her. Though the subject matter was not exactly age-appropriate, she thought it was important for me to see, and I'm glad she did. I'd already seen 9 to 5, and we already had conversations about sexual harassment, so I was aware enough of what was going on.
Hill would explain what happened, as clearly as she was able, about how he talked to her about pornography.
Questioning by then Sen. Joe Biden
And then men like Arlen Specter would question exactly what it was, exactly, about this interaction that made her uncomfortable. Was it the boobs?
Can you fucking believe this shit?
For a woman to have to sit there and explain to a group of clearly perplexed men exactly why her boss talking to her about women with large breasts in pornography might be a little "embarrassing" was absolutely horrifying. I read through this entire testimony today, and I cannot tell you how badly I want to punch Arlen Specter in his stupid dead face.
Hill was also questioned, naturally, about why she chose to keep her job rather than "just leave," and why she followed him to the EEOC -- the answer being, of course, that she liked the job she had, she had to feed her family, and she kept hoping it would stop. Today, most of us understand that just because people are willing to put up with some bullshit in order to keep a job, that doesn't make that bullshit OK. I hope.
Of course, when Clarence Thomas was questioned regarding Hill, the Senate Committee was very apologetic to him about how difficult this all must have been for him. He referred to it as a "high-tech lynching" and suggested that the reason this was happening was not because he was a creep, but because he was a black conservative and people were mad about that. I don't know if he noticed, or if anyone else did -- but Anita Hill was a black woman.
The whole thing was deeply, deeply grotesque and it should not have been allowed. Joe Biden has since apologized for how all of this went down -- but Anita Hill has not forgiven him and, really, why should she?
Something happened after the Anita Hill testimony. Although Clarence Thomas and many in the media at the time denigrated her as a liar who was being paid by the Democrats to destroy Thomas's reputation because he hated abortion and was a conservative, and although they would try to continue to ruin her life for years afterwards, millions of women across the country didn't quite see it that way. In 1992, there was a major upswing of women being elected to Congress. Businesses started implementing sexual harassment training seminars. Bush I, who had planned to veto the Civil Rights Act of 1991, was pressured into approving the measure, which gave victims of sexual harassment the ability "to seek federal damages awards, both compensatory and punitive, of up to $300,000." Things changed because Anita Hill was brave. She did not get justice for what Clarence Thomas put her through, he ended up on the bench anyway -- but she changed things for all of us, and we should all be grateful to her for that.
I would like to think that if this whole scenario were to have played out today, that Clarence Thomas never would have ended up on the Supreme Court. That the four other women who supported Hill's accusations would have been allowed to come forward as well. That Arlen fucking Specter never would have been able to ask stupid questions about why Clarence Thomas talking about his breast fetish might have been uncomfortable for his employee. I would like to think that.
I hope that when Christine Blasey Ford testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee that this will not, in fact, be an Anita Hill redux.
[Anita Hill Testimony Transcript]
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse