1991. Anita Hill.
I lived in New York City and had just started The Women's Resource Center when Anita Hill came out of the closet and spoke what she said was her truth. I watched a Berlin Wall of white men strangle her with ridiculous, repetitive questions on TV for what I think was two straight days. She barely reacted. She just kept answering the same questions over and over again in the same way. They didn't make a dent in her, but as it turns out, they didn't need to. Preventing Clarence Thomas from being appointed to the Supreme Court was not the point of what they were doing. It was supposed to be the point but it wasn't. I'm not sure what the point was, and Anita brings that home. It was a required exercise in futility, with Democrats and Republicans both doing the same thing. Anita was put on trial, and it was a hung jury. Maybe she was lying. Maybe she wasn't. But no one on that Senate committee was her advocate, and it is really interesting that none of them paid for that mistake with us female voters.
At that time no one knew what to do with what Anita was saying. Sexual Harassment? Mumble. Bumble.
I remember talking about the situation over dinner with H2 (Husband #2) and a couple of our friends. H2 was Vice Chairman of a major investment banking company, and our companions were a billionaire friend and his wife. Those two men were titans of industry, rarely at a loss for words or for opinions—but they stammered. They didn't know what to say. They were uncomfortable, and they surely didn't understand that it was all about power. That if you have someone working for you, you have all the power. You have the power to make sure they never get another job. You have the power to keep them held up in a job holding pattern that rivals Chicago O'Hare at rush hour. And like the rest of the men in the country, they just wanted this whole thing to disappear. They weren't defending Thomas; they just didn't want it on the radar, and to be honest, I'm not sure they thought that what he'd done would make him a bad judge. I think a lot of people thought that.
So now there is a movie about the whole drama called Anita, and watching it brought the entire time back, but in a different way than I remembered it. I didn't see the nuances of it all at the time. I didn't think about the fact that Kennedy needed to sit silent, as he was having his own female issues at the time. He would surely have spoken up otherwise, right? Joseph Biden was in charge, and he let Thomas turn it into a black white thing when it was nothing of the sort. History will have to hold Biden accountable for not delving deeper into the accusations. He never asked for additional testimony. He never asked Anita about the fact that she had been willing to take a lie detector test.
I marched for Anita in New York. I attended a gathering at Hunter College where she spoke. She was not a mover-shaker speaker. She was cerebral and I wasn't, so she didn't call me to do more, and when it was all over, we basically went back to our lives and didn't let it affect our vote the next time around. Shame on us women. When will we own our power and start to make people accountable?
Why is this movie important? Because it's our hestory. And our girls need to see it. They need to see what one woman gave up to tell her truth, and while I won't be so stupid as to say I know she was telling the truth, I know she was telling the truth. Download this film on iTunes and watch it with your daughters. Tell them what you remember of that two-month period. Oh, the times they are a-changing, and watching how it all began will help to ensure that it doesn't continue.
Oh, and Joe Biden? You just lost my vote even if Hillary doesn't run.
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