In 2016, 25 years after her testimony, Anita Hill has offered no more substantiation of her unproven claims of sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas than she did in real time. But the media keep kissing her ring. On the front page of the Style section of The Washington Post on Thursday came an article headlined “Anita Hill kick-started an overdue discussion.” Inside it was "Anita Hill spurred harassment dialogue."
Post writer Monica Hesse began tenderly, poetically: “Anita Hill. Anita, still.”
Just as in 1991, the veracity of Hill’s allegations is treated as either unquestioned or unnecessary to the larger point of “consciousness raising.” She was the “crusader,” and he was the perpetrator. Hesse avoids any troublesome mention of any allegation of sexual harassment or even rape against Bill Clinton. Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey are never honored for "spurring a harassment dialogue." Juanita Broaddrick spurs no feminist ardor. They were greedy attention-seeking liars or spurned lovers, not at all like Saint Anita.
History is incredibly one-sided, frozen in time, and cherry-picked:
She dressed herself immaculately, took her seat politely, and made sure to speak clearly, as she delivered her testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee: Clarence Thomas, the man they were about to appoint to the United States Supreme Court was the same man, she said, who had once called her into his office to explain that he enjoyed watching pornographic films featuring an actor named Long Dong Silver. The same man who talked repeatedly about the size of women’s chests, and his own prowess, and who asked her on dates even though she was his underling and had said she wasn’t interested. He was also the chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the highest federal office in charge of overseeing issues related to workplace discrimination.
He denied all of her allegations in his own testimony. The nation watched the drama unfold on television screens. The nation grappled with the shifting dynamics of gender and power in offices — with how to talk about it and how to ignore it. Now, there’s an HBO film coming out, “Confirmation,” premiering Saturday, dragging us back to the flash point in time at which our culture became either too politically correct, or incrementally more equal, depending on where one stood.
Hill is for “more equality.” Hill’s skeptics are against “political correctness” – in other words, the notion that sexual harassment is an office privilege. It was summed up in the question “Can’t she lighten up?” Hesse and the Post leave almost no room for the notion that Thomas was being smeared, that she had no evidence that would convince a prosecutor to file charges or sway a jury in a court of law.
His defenders were only cited to start more Post lecturing. One interlocutor asked Hill: “How could you allow this reprehensible behavior to go on?” Hesse yammered a while about “predators” like Thomas:
Women who were watching knew that predators reserved their most discomfiting behavior for times when there were no witnesses. It would have surprised them if Thomas had gathered several other office workers to talk about his Coke can. And why was Hill supposed to be responsible for stopping the alleged behavior of the man who outranked her and was responsible for her livelihood? How? With a gag? A stun gun? By quitting her job and leaving without a reference? By publicly accusing the man who was himself supposed to be the buck-stopper for sexual harassment suits?
Hesse then gushed that “Without Anita Hill, theorists might not be talking about ‘micro-aggressions’ and ‘victim blaming,’” since those are wonderful terms to “acknowledge the subtleties and complexities within the treatment of women.”
Hesse concluded that it would be different today, that there would be female Senators to press Thomas and Twitter hashtags like “I Believe Anita,” which they put on pencils at the time. But there would still be Thomas defenders, she had to allow, with a sigh. Hesse concluded: “we would still be talking about it, scrambling toward notions of equality that are forever developing, forever out of reach. Anita, still, until the end of time.”