Sexual Harassment In the Workplace: Every Woman’s Problem


anita hill

In case you guys didn’t know, in 2013, “Anita”, a documentary about the 1991 Senate Hearings was released. This documentary took a dramatic look at the dirty little secret that is sexual harassment in the workplace. I’m super intrigued by this film for a lot of reasons. One of them being that this documentary takes a look at Clarence Thomas, a man I reallllllly don’t like. Unfortunately, this guy happens to be one of our Supreme Court Justices. Say “Hi” to Clarence.

clarence thomas

This guy also happens to be the man who Anita Hill accused of sexual harassment back in 1991. Hill, who was working as Thomas’ assistant at the time made a confidential statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee alleging that Thomas had sexually harassed her ten years earlier.

Before I go on, I don’t want anyone to be fooled by the title “Assistant.” Ms. Hill is an attorney and a scholar, currently a professor of social policy, law and women’s studies at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management. So in short: She’s no dummy.

During the Hearings, Ms. Hill was very detailed as she recounted her version of the events. Here’s a short quote:

“He spoke about…such matters as women having sex with animals and films showing group sex or rape scenes” she said, adding that on several occasions Thomas graphically and inappropriately described “his own sexual prowess” and the details of his anatomy. Hill also recalled an instance in which Thomas took a look at a can of Coke on his desk and asked, “Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?”

A couple of things are at play here: Race relations, gender in politics, misogyny, the media, and pop culture in general. Of course, all of these topics make for what I think will be a very interesting and thought provoking documentary that I MUST watch.

But I bring all of this up to say, “I’m tired.” 1 out 3 women report being sexually harassed at work…1 out of THREE. Can you imagine how much higher that number would be if every woman reported every time she was inappropriately touched, or spoken to? But of course, most women DON’T speak up, because what usually happens is, THEY end up on trial. THEIR character is usually up for debate, their credibility is questioned, and THEY become the culprits. This happens far too often.

Via the NY Times:

For those too young to remember, Ms. Hill was the reluctant witness in the explosive Thomas hearings, the young African-American lawyer in the aqua suit, grilled in excruciatingly graphic detail by an all-white, all-male Senate Judiciary Committee. The hearings transformed the country, sparking a searing conversation about sexual harassment, as well as Ms. Hill, who was vilified as a liar by conservatives but ultimately embraced, as the film shows, by a new generation of young women.

Directed by the Academy Award winner Freida Mock, the documentary — which does not reveal Ms. Hill’s current views on Justice Thomas — chronicles her plunge, and the nation’s, into a volatile stew of sex, race and politics. For the professor, the film is a chance to show the public (and on a deeply personal level, her large extended family) that she has survived, thrived and, as she says, “moved on.”

Yet like Anita the person, “Anita” the movie is bound to unleash raw feelings in Washington. Some conservative Republicans still revile Ms. Hill. Some Democrats — including Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who “did a terrible job” running the hearings, in Ms. Hill’s view — would probably like to forget her.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Biden said the vice president “continues to wish nothing but the best for Anita Hill.” Justice Thomas, who supervised Ms. Hill at two federal agencies and has categorically denied her accusations, declined to comment. (In his 2007 autobiography, he referred to Ms. Hill as “my most traitorous adversary.”) But his backers, who include some devoted female former clerks, are not shy about speaking out.

“I honestly think she’s just making it up,” said Carrie Severino, a former Thomas clerk and chief counsel of the Judicial Crisis Network, an advocacy group. “I think she’s built her career on that story. She is using that and using him as a way of boosting her own career, and that’s really shameful.”

The sad part about it is that many women view sexual harassment as something we simply have to deal with in our adult lives. Something we are just supposed to lie down and TAKE. Pun intended. We just view it as a part of the job. Some of us never even question it. So what if your coworker makes a comment about your butt, right? So what if he makes inappropriate jokes? At least you still have a job. At least he isn’t being MEAN to you, right? Check out this clip from one of my favorite shows on the planet: “Girls.”

No. I am tired of having to make excuses for nasty, disgusting behavior. No more. Dear men: If you cannot keep your dirty thoughts in your dirty brain for 8 hours while we’re at work, then you might wanna find a job where you can work from home and pleasure yourself from the comfort of your own bed. I am tired of the “boys will be boys” excuse and I’m ready for people to take some accountability.

I too, have experienced sexual harassment at the workplace. It may not have been overt, but it was there. It was there. And it’s NOT OK. I am Anita Hill. I stand in solidarity with her and women like her all over the world.



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