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Wed Dec 6, 2017, 02:49 PM

We've Been Here Before: Revisiting Anita Hills Testimony in the Midst of #MeToo [View all]

We've Been Here Before: Revisiting Anita Hill’s Testimony in the Midst of #MeToo

Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) told members of Congress during a hearing on preventing sexual harassment that a trusted source recently divulged to her that a member of Congress exposed himself to a congressional staffer. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) also testified that she was aware of two current congressmen—one a Democrat, the other a Republican—who had engaged in sexual misconduct. With their statements, Comstock and Speier joined a long list of women in Congress who have stood up against sexual harassment. But perhaps none were more influential than those who demanded the Senate give Anita Hill a chance to testify against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

In 1991, Anita Hill, then a professor of law at the University of Oklahoma, stood before the nation to testify to Congress about Thomas. For three days, Americans were transfixed by Hill as she spoke about Thomas’ behavior as her boss at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Education during the 1980s. Crude phrases like “long dong silver” and “public hair” once uttered by Thomas now shocked Americans when they were voiced in the marble enclave of the Capitol. As Hill sat before an all-white, all-male Judiciary Committee, she was afforded the opportunity to testify about Thomas’ inappropriate sexual behavior. But her presence in the Senate that weekend in October was far from a given. Without the leadership of Congressmembers like Barbara Boxer and Patricia Schroeder, the Senate might have moved forward with Thomas’ confirmation without giving Hill the opportunity to testify—and the American public may not have had the opportunity to critically examine the role of sexual harassment in the workplace and in women’s lives.

The story of how these allegations were brought to light, and how Anita Hill came to testify before the Judiciary Committee, begins in the summer of 1991, in the days following Thomas’ nomination. Sometime between July and August, Alliance for Justice, a liberal public watchdog, became aware that someone who had worked with Thomas and now taught at a university in Oklahoma had divulged to a former Yale Law classmate that Thomas had sexually harassed her. From these nebulous clues, The Alliance determined that Hill was the source and informed a chief counsel for a subcommittee within the Senate Judiciary Committee—who turned the information over the office of Senator Howard Metzenbaum.

. . . .

The Senate spared no punches in attacking Hill. Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY) grilled Hill on why she continued to maintain a professional, but distant, relationship with Thomas if her allegations were true. “That is a very good question,” Hill responded, “and I am sure that I cannot answer that to your satisfaction. That is one of the things that I have tried to do today. I have suggested that I was afraid of retaliation, I was afraid of damage to my professional life and I believe that you have to understand that this response—and that is one of the things that I have come to understand about harassment—that this response, this kind of response, is not atypical, and I can’t explain it. It takes an expert in psychology to explain how that can happen, but it can happen, because it happened to me.”

. . . .


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Reply We've Been Here Before: Revisiting Anita Hills Testimony in the Midst of #MeToo [View all]
niyad Dec 2017 OP
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