Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Anita Hill Started A Conversation About Sexual Harassment. She’s Not Done Yet | Letters from the Guardian archive

Anita Hill Anita Hill Started A Conversation About Sexual Harassment. She’s Not Done Yet

Anita Hill, a distinguished voice in the #MeToo movement, is on television for the first time since her allegations of sexual harassment against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas led to Thomas’ defeat.

In a year of sexual misconduct accusations, Hill, 75, and Phil Hartmann, 61, a civil rights attorney, have been working together on a series of public lectures. Their first, entitled “Anita Hill and the Perpetual Crisis of Sexual Harassment in Public Life,” aired Thursday night on PBS.

The documentary, produced by Sylvester Steele, began with Hill’s rise as an American civil rights advocate. It then took a thoughtful, often compelling, look at Hill’s accusations of sexual harassment against Thomas when they worked together in academia.

In the first installment, she describes her experiences, first in her childhood home and later with Thomas. Hill was the first woman to graduate from the University of Michigan with a law degree in 1974. She has also worked for the Kennedy administration, the US Department of Labor, and Yale Law School.

In 1991, Thomas was nominated to become the seventh associate justice of the US Supreme Court. Hill had worked at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., where she served as Thomas’ research assistant.

She alleges in her writings that Thomas had harassed her, in particular asking her for sex, for a number of years while they worked together at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1980. She also claims that in December 1980, Thomas showed her pornographic film on his desk.

Before Thomas’s confirmation, the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Joe Biden, held seven days of public hearings in which Hill testified before the committee in 1991. The meetings were videotaped and posted on the internet.

In 1992, Thomas denied Hill’s accusations as “not credible, not true.” During his confirmation hearings, Thomas changed the fabric of law with a quote and swore to keep silent on the subject as long as he could.

A decade later, in 2011, Elizabeth Loftus, Thomas’s law clerk in 1990, was asked to comment on Thomas’s comments. When she gave her testimony about Thomas’s “agenda to abrogate women’s reproductive rights,” she was asked if Hill had ever called her “slut.”

“No,” Loftus said. “No.”

Loftus’s accusation that Thomas groped her as she worked with him has been dismissed by him as “ridiculous,” but claims of sexual harassment are a common and endemic issue in public life.

Besides her work in litigation and scholarship, Hill is a popular figure in the #MeToo movement, which has gained momentum as stories from women have begun to come to light. The #MeToo movement was started in the wake of the allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who was accused of sexual harassment by about 40 women.

With November’s elections on the horizon, Donald Trump is seeking reelection and the “Me Too” movement is reaching a critical mass.

Hill’s memoir, The Survivor, is a narrative of her allegations against Thomas and her journey from victim to survivor.

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