“One of the things about my testimony that I think resonated so much with women, was that it seemed so regular, so much like what was going on in their day to day lives.” - Anita Hill, American Attorney and Academic
In 1991, as Clarence Thomas was about to be confirmed to the US Supreme Court, a private interview between Anita Hill, one of Thomas’ former employees, and the FBI was leaked to the press. In the interview, Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment while working for him nearly 10 years earlier. As Americans watched on national television, Hill testified to her account in front of an all male Senate panel. She described Thomas’ continuous advances, his inappropriate sexual conversation and his claims of sexual prowess. When she was finished, the panel questioned her timing, her honesty and her motivation. Publicly, critics accused her of being delusional or having been slighted and as such, seeking revenge. Thomas’ testimony followed, relentlessly and under oath denying all allegations.
Over the course of the hearings, Hill’s account was confirmed by polygraph and four women came forward, willing to attest to the allegations. Thomas refused the polygraph and acknowledged he had asked her out 5 to 10 times and gone to her house on several occasions but “never thought anything of it.” In Hill’s words, "I have nothing to gain here. This has been disruptive of my life, and I've taken a number of personal risks. I have not gained anything except knowing that I came forward and did what I felt that I had an obligation to do. That was to tell the truth.” After extensive debate, Thomas was confirmed by a vote of 52–48, the closest margin in over 90 years.
For the first time, the controversy brought sexual harassment into the public sphere. As women listened to Hill’s testimony and subsequently witnessed Thomas’ ability to overcome it, a wave of intolerance and confidence emerged.
In the year that followed, harassment complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission increased by 50 percent. Record numbers of women were elected to Congress and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, providing victim’s rights and due process, was passed. For the first time in history, private companies initiated training programs to deter sexual harassment.
We lend our courage to any woman who is facing harassment and is hesitant to speak out. We support those who have courageously come forward to force a slow but steady change in workplace culture. And we chose to avoid supporting any corporation or entity that opts to ignore or pay off accusations of sexual harassment. And even years later, we still stand with you Ms. Hill. - Maureen Post
Photo Credit : R. Michael Jenkins.