Anita Hill skillfully challenged the hegemonic rule of White males in Washington once again.
The attorney and professor at Brandeis University, whose 1991 sexual harassment case against her then-boss Clarence Thomas after he was nominated to the Supreme Court had a seismic effect on women, criticized Joe Biden for his recent remarks on her high-profile proceedings. Biden’s apology was slapdash, said Hill in a recent interview with The Washington Post.
“He said, ‘I am sorry if she felt she didn’t get a fair hearing,’” Hill said. “That’s sort of an “I’m sorry if you were offended.”
Hill continued: “But I still don’t think it [Biden’s apology] takes ownership of his role in what happened. And he also doesn’t understand that it wasn’t just that I felt it was not fair. It was that women were looking to the Senate Judiciary Committee and his leadership to really open the way to have these kinds of hearings. They should have been using best practices to show leadership on this issue on behalf of women’s equality. And they did just the opposite.”
The emboldened attorney reflected on the case that she lost in Washington more than two decades ago. “Confirmation,” a 2016 film that starred Kerry Washington, told Hill’s story, including her publicized testimony in front of an all-male committee. Her narrative about sexual harassment highlighted the intricate and deep-reaching fractures in the nation’s unequal treatment of women. For many people, her case was a point of entry into a larger clandestine system that works to keep women under the thumb of men.
But Hill had a moral victory, having unofficially ushered in the “Year of the Woman,” a time of considerable gains for politically savvy females, in 1992. The surge of powerful women in politics — as a reverberating effect of Hill’s action— seemingly proves that the attorney had a #BlackGirlMagic moment before the phrase had even been coined.
However, the subjugation of women who are harassment victims can’t go unnoticed.
“But you cannot just bring people forward into a process where you know they’re not going to be treated fairly,” Hill explained to the Post about the process of addressing harassment complaints. “That’s not being heard. That’s something that we are struggling with right now. Women are coming in to make a complaint, and the process is unfair and employers are saying, “Well, we have a process.” Well, that’s not enough.”
The groundswell of recent abuse accusations that have come to national consciousness spotlights a Washington that is ineffective and weak in fighting for women’s equality, according to Hill.
“We have made progress but, unfortunately, 26 years ago Washington wasn’t ready to lead on this issue, and I’m afraid even today Washington cannot lead the country on this issue,” Hill said on NBC’s Meet The Press Sunday night. “There seems to be too many conflicted feelings and understandings about what needs to happen when sexual misconduct occurs.”
Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) have faced allegations recently. More women of color and immigrant communities will undoubtedly come forward with more accusations, Hill said, despite any attempts at fearmongering.
“We haven’t heard from everyone, but we’ve heard from enough women to know this is a severe problem and that it’s hurting not only those individuals, but that it’s hurting all of us as a society,” she said.
But where can the solutions in battling sexual harassment be found as more women lay bare their experiences? Business leaders, universities and the military will need to help move the dial forward, Hill explained.