because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Anita Hill

When Anita Hill was born the youngest of thirteen to a farming couple, she probably didn't appear to have the makings of an in-your-face woman. Then, when she grew up and graduated with honors from Yale Law School, she probably appeared to fit right in. During her years at the Equal Employment Opportunity Council and the evangelical Christian O.W. Coburn School of Law at Oral Roberts University, she very likely played the game the way she was expected to. But when her former boss, Clarence Thomas, was being considered for the U.S. Supreme Court, Anita Hill stood up.

She testified under oath in public hearings before Congress how he had sexually harassed her for years while she was working for him. She testified that when she repeatedly refused to go out with him, Thomas took to saying things of a sexual nature to her. Things about women having sex with animals. Things about films showing group sex or rape scenes. Even things about his own sexual prowess. The confirmation committee -- all male -- ultimately didn't bother to hear the four other women prepared to testify in support of Hill's allegations. They chose to ignore the fact that Hill passed a lie detector test with flying colors while Thomas refused to take one at all. And they made him a Supreme Court Justice (the highest legal office in the land) anyway.

The backlash was so strong that President George Bush dropped his opposition to a bill granting harassment victims the right to seek federal damage awards, back pay and reinstatement, and the bill passed. A year later, EEOC complaints were up fifty per cent, public opinion was resoundingly behind Hill, and women were running for Congress -- and winning -- in record numbers. Still, in response to Hill's stalwart refusal to back down, conservatives attacked her continually for five years straight until she finally left the University of Oklahoma Law School in disgust.

Winding up at Brandeis University's Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Hill is now considered to be an expert on gender, race and the law. She often appears on popular and highly respected television news programs or in newspapers such as the New York Times. And her book, of course, being in-your-face from cover to cover, is entitled Speaking Truth to Power.

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