American History: Anita Hill

Politics, Social Issues
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I have absolutely no idea where I was when this scandal broke. I did not even know it existed until about five or so years ago, when Anita Hill was making yet another comeback after Clarence Thomas’s wife, Virginia, called Ms. Hill out of the blue and asked her to apologize, subsequently apologizing herself for such an odd act.

That incident initially made me suspicious of the Thomas camp. For someone to act so unwisely based on such strong faith seems to betray an even more untenable situation underneath. Or maybe Mr. Thomas’s wife simply has passionate beliefs, especially on the subject of her husband’s fidelity, not to mention some political matters. However, I have finally taken the time to listen to Mr. Thomas and Ms. Hill testify in full at CSPAN and I’ve come to formulate an opinion or two.

Unfortunately, it does all come down to “he said, she said” and one ends up believing some or all of either testimony. It’s impossible to determine what exactly took place, but based on just what I listened to, Ms. Hill made more statements that were difficult to accept at face value. Her testimony was simply less consistent and Mr. Thomas raised points that made Ms. Hill’s account more difficult to believe.

It simply did not make sense that Anita Hill followed Clarence Thomas from the Department of Education to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If this man was seriously being as inappropriate to her as she described, it makes no sense that a strong, highly educated, Harvard degree-wielding go-getter like herself would not resolve to improve her career environment by at the most letting someone else know about what he was doing, and at the very least declining to follow a man that Ms. Hill wants us to believe is a complete pervert who was excessively harassing her. It simply doesn’t add up. Anita Hill tries to explain this by, for one, claiming that she agrees with us: Her actions did not make sense, in retrospect. But I am not seeing how they made sense at the time either. Ms. Hill would have us believe she was too paralyzed and victimized to avoid this situation. But unfortunately, here we see her pull out the victim card, when the strong-capable-woman card was played just a few seconds ago. Ms. Hill came across as anything but “meek” and easily defeated in the hearing. Her tenacity there made clear her general prowess, so there is no way I am suddenly going to view Anita Hill as helpless and irrational. Again, we’re talking about Harvard material here.

Anita Hill also tried to explain that she was never told there was still a job for her at the Department of Education after Clarence Thomas left, but Mr. Thomas rebutted that no staff at the office had been explicitly informed of any such thing. Ms. Hill was specifically asked by Mr. Thomas if she wanted to join him, and she said yes, and so that had everything to do with no other employment immediately available for her there. Also, Mr. Thomas explained that the staff who worked with him who did not follow him to the EEOC simply either found other things to do at the Department of Education or moved elsewhere. It would not appear that they were all laid off or something like that. What exactly prevented Anita Hill from pursuing a direction that did not involve being bombarded by unwanted pornographic conversation? This is another moment when Ms. Hill wants us to see her as a helpless victim, but she has done too much work to convince us that it takes a lot more to ideologically coerce her.

I am not convinced that Anita Hill was in any special disadvantageous circumstance, although she would have us believe that circumstances were criminally different for her. I think she indeed had employment anxiety and other barriers that made her think she had no choice but to follow the man she would later accuse of egregious sexual harassment, with no other witnesses or other individuals to share their similar stories. This was something he only did with her, and almost all the time, apparently. If the only evidence we have of this harassment is Ms. Hill’s testimony, that is no where near enough evidence to convict, but it is more than enough to smear someone.

What say you?