Anita Hill on Sexual Harassment, Women's Rights, and "Speaking Truth to Power"

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Anita Hill talks about her groundbreaking sexual harassment case against Clarence Thomas during his 1991 Supreme Court confirmation and the new documentary “Anita: Speaking Truth to Power.” Academy Award-winner Freida Mock, who directed the documentary, chronicles Hill’s plight then, and examines her impact on the crusade for women’s rights and sexual harassment awareness. “Anita: Speaking Truth to Power” opens March 21 at Angelika Film Center and Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Hill was the only woman called on to testify at Thomas's hearing. There were others with stories of experiencing sexual harassment by Thomas, Hill said. “They were able and willing to testify, they came forward on their own. These were not women I knew, but they were having similar, separate experiences to mine. So there was clear evidence of a pattern on behavior.” Because their testimony was never given publicly, many people believe Hill was the only one.

The media coverage of Hill’s testimony is a major focus of Mock’s documentary.  Hill said that the Washington press corps tried to cover it as a political scandal, but eventually a few women journalists began looking at sexual harassment in the workplace. “And then they went out and they started talking to women about why this was not some kind of political ploy, but why this was a social problem that extended well beyond politics.”

Leonard brought up the fact that some states are resisting the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay law, and Hill said that people don’t really understand the connection between fair pay for women and sexual harassment, but that they are linked. “There are women today who are suffering harassment and discrimination but they will not move because they need that paycheck.”

She said that, almost 23 years after her testimony, she still wants to shine a light on sexual harassment and focus on what still needs to be done to address it: “We’re seeing it on college and university campuses, we’re seeing it in the military, we’re seeing it in the locker room of the Miami Dolphins, we’re seeing this all over our society. So where are we and what’s the next step?”


Anita Hill and Freida Mock

Comments [24]

Linda from Westchester, NY

I am a stockbroker, and have worked predominately with men since 1975. Sexual harassment was the usual order of things. I'd never have dreamed of reporting those guys, though we talked about it plenty. It was a case where everyone knew and the higher ups, though not approving this behavior, looked the other way. A young woman who worked in our headquarters told me that her boss used to like to put his hand up her skirt, but it wasn't that bad, because he let her use his limousine service when she worked late.

The worst guy, early in my career was the assistant manager in my office. He took me out to lunch on the second interview, kept ordering drinks (that I did not want), questioned me about who I was dating and whether we were sleeping together, and then grabbed me in his car and tried to kiss me.

We women learned to work our way around it. Generally the worst offenders were completely ignored when possible. It was so annoying, I remember going into the manager's office with an emergency request for him to call NY to get approval to start 144 paperwork for the sale of restricted stock. He just sat there and started talking about how my legs looked. The client, meanwhile was waiting at my desk.

During the Anita Hill testimony I brought up the subject with my mother. She didn't believe a word, said she thought Ms. Hill had a crush on Mr. Thomas and he must have rejected her. She never worked outside the home and had absolutely no experience with what was going on in the workplace.

Mar. 21 2014 11:39 AM
Amy from Manhattan

In addition to the sexist attitudes, I remember hearing Sen. Simpson ask Ms. Hill why she didn't quit her job when Mr. (at the time) Thomas sexually harassed her & wondering if any of the senators questioning her had ever had to worry about where his next job would come from.

Mar. 21 2014 12:25 AM
john from office

When will we see the show on the Clinton sexual episodes?? Or do we only bring back the greatest hits??

Lewinsky, Flowers on and on?? Or are those ok.

Mar. 20 2014 02:06 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

The usual claptrap from Jgarbuz:

"feminist power grab"
"take men down by any means necessary" (a use civil rights terminology to rival Thomas')
"brutal conquest"
"feminist jihadist"
"kamikaze attack"

The only thing left out is something about wanting one's country back.

Words only those intellectually bested by the likes of Ms. Thomas would use, and straight out of the Rush Limbaugh lexicon. They only reveal the ignorance of those who thought the only gaze they need meet across the table should be white and male, into eternity; although in Jgarbuz' case, it would be kitchen table--no doubt his probation dictates limited societal exposure.

Time for someone's tinfoil hat refitting!

Mar. 20 2014 01:16 PM

Lets remember, Clarence Thomas is no Bill Clinton.

Mar. 20 2014 01:06 PM

Aside from the strategy of invoking the "high-tech lynching" line, Thomas deliberately did not review critical pieces of evidence and tactically used this umbrage to avoid arguing the points. He's played this silent game so long, so across the board, it is bizarre, as The New Yorker piece on him elucidates. If anyone has demonstrated a pathological character, it is him, not Anita Hill. Also there were several men who came forward to testify to aberrant behavior of Thomas's - not just the women cited; they barely weighed in and the senators effectively wound things up with their statements left in suspended animation. Arlen Spector's last-minute party switch for politically expedient reasons - keeping his office - was the final despicable act of his disreputable career.

Mar. 20 2014 12:57 PM
Barb from here in town

Let's not forget that George HW Bush said Clarence Thomas was the most qualified person in the nation for the Sup Ct seat. What a load of B.S., nearly as bad as Thomas playing the race card ("high-tech lynching") that turned to ice the bowels of the all-male Senate panel.

Mar. 20 2014 12:53 PM
Henry from Katonah

Aside from the other women who had been harassed, Wall Street Journal reporters found many Yale students who knew Clarence Thomas in his law school days. He talked about pornography, a lot.
Since this behavior obviously continued in Thomas's worklife, he created a hostile workplace for women. He would not survive in a corporate workplace today.

Mar. 20 2014 12:44 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

It's all about the 40 year old feminist power grab, to take men down by any means necessary, no holds barred. It's simply brutal conquest, although they would call it a war of liberation. Bryant is a feminist jihadist who will destroy both herself and the male target she chose to try to destroy as well. Thankfully, Clarence Thomas was able to survive her kamikaze attack.

Mar. 20 2014 12:40 PM
korgy from brooklyn

@ jgarbuz from Queens :

if you had listened to the show, you would have understood that those women were not allowed to testify. not that it would have made difference

Mar. 20 2014 12:38 PM

@jgarbuz from Queens

Open your ears, jgarbuz. There were at least 3 other women willing to tell a similar story as Prof. Hill's. The Senate committee refused to hear them because it would turn the story of one outrageous relationship into a pattern of behavior. (which would most certainly have sunk Thomas' nomination)

Mar. 20 2014 12:38 PM
Sandra from new york city

When it was going on I can't tell you how many men I liked said to me "I thought women liked it when I kibbitzed with them." And how many women of all political affiliations for the first time said "yes, that happened to me. I felt terrible, and no one took it seriously." You changed the tenor of many, many workplaces Ms. Hill and thank you very much.

Mar. 20 2014 12:37 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

I'm betting those dismissing Ms. Hill here are men who couldn't legally identify discriminatory practices if they bit them in the @$$. What do you think your wives, sisters and daughters would say if they saw you cowering here, in anonymity?

Score one--or actually many--for while male privilege--and in Justice Thomas' case, male privilege, which won him a crush of favor among those sitting senators who gave him a nod.

Kudos to Anita Hill for refusing to stand down on this cluster of still-crucial matters.

Mar. 20 2014 12:32 PM
john from office

Ms. Hill has milked this "event" to the hilt. Len treats her like some vision of Mary, instead of being impartial.

Mar. 20 2014 12:32 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

I still think she's still a pathological liar. I didn't believe her then, and still don't believe her today. Where are the eye witnesses to this "sexual harassment" that Thomas supposedly did to her? I refuse to believe her until she can bring eye witnesses forth.

Mar. 20 2014 12:30 PM

@john from office

What's the statute of limitation on an injustice?

Mar. 20 2014 12:28 PM

Re John from Office:
If you were a female in the workplace or higher education, you would know first hand that the "smelly turd" is NOT Ms. Hill's story but the continuing existence of sexual harassment and the continuing tendency of institutions to stand on the side of the harasser not the victim. Her story will need to be "rehashed" until there is major change for women in this society.

Mar. 20 2014 12:27 PM

so happy to hear Ms Hill. an American hero.

Mar. 20 2014 12:26 PM
kevin frazelle

would be curious if Anita had any contact with the women who came forward in the Herman Cain scandals

Mar. 20 2014 12:24 PM

Clarence Thomas' harassing behavior was closer to 'hostile environment' side of the argument than 'quid pro quo', wasn't it? I believed Ms. Hill's description of Thomas' actions then, and I believe them now.

I think the senators knew it, too, but were willing to accept that sort of thing from a SCOTUS justice. [as they probably accepted it within their own offices!]

Nominee Thomas being willing to invoke civil rights language ("high tech lynching") while siding with ALL anti-affirmative action cases before the court is an example of how soul-slayingly hypocritical Justice Thomas is.

Mar. 20 2014 12:22 PM

Whenever I have to do something difficult that involves speaking in public, I google Anita Hill's deposition segments to learn from her and see if I can emulate her poise and keep mine under fire, and I think "If Anita Hill could do it, I can try."

Mar. 20 2014 12:18 PM
john from office

Does Ms. Hill have anything else to offer the world other then rehashing the same smelly turd??

A one trick pony.

Mar. 20 2014 12:13 PM
Seth from LES

I grew up in Rural Pennsylvania in a conservative area. I distinctly remember my parents telling me this was history happening and as a preteen could not stop watching. Anita you are a hero and your story has touched generations.

Mar. 20 2014 12:12 PM

Yet once more again.
Anita Hill: mouthing allegations to prejudice

Mar. 20 2014 12:12 PM

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