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

Anita Hill takes oath, 12 October 1991, before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington D.C.. Hill filed sexual harassment charges against US Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

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?”