Sunday, March 3rd, 2013


In 1991 George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas, anaa African/American, to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court, and as he had only served as an Appeals Court Judge for just 18 months, another appointment of the President, Bush evidently felt strongly enough about the man to want to fast-track him into one of the most important jobs in the country.
As usual the FBI launched a background check into the Candidate and Anita Hill a young lawyer was asked about her former boss at the Equal Opportunity Commission, and for her opinion on his suitability for his new post. She carefully filled it out making a point to note that Thomas’s behavior towards her had sometimes been sexually inappropriate. To her utter astonishment they not only took note, but Hill was subpoenaed to appear in front of the Senate Confirmation Hearing to testify.
aaDuring an eight hour session Anita Hill was repeatedly and aggressively questioned and challenged on every minute detail in such a way that it seemed like she herself was on trial. The Senators on the Justice committee who, like most people at that time, had never come across ‘sexual harassment’ made it painfully clear in their intimidating and hostile manner they obviously did not believe Hill’s testimony.  They also chose not to call any of the witnesses that she had brought along that could have collaborated all of the charges.

The elderly (white) all male Senators chaired by Joe Biden and including Ted Kennedy, had no hesitation in repeatedly asking Hill to detail some of the more lurid aspects of her accusations. However once Thomas himself took the Stand he rapidly bullied them in to acquiescence by playing the ‘race card.’ ‘This is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kow tow to an old order, this is what will happen to you.’ he bellowed at the Senators.

The Justice Committee vote was split, and Thomas’s nomination went through to a full Senate Vote where it scrapped through with the smallest margin for a Justice’s Confirmation in over a Century.
This quiet self-effacing Lawyer that had stood up to the bullying tactics of a hostile Committee in full glare of the television cameras and who had never lost her composure for a solitary moment despite the risks to her career, left Washington to go back to her job as a Law Professor as the controversy tried to die down. Thomas took his position as the most conservative Justice on the Supreme Court and didn’t utter one single word in Court at all until earlier this year. Despite the fact that Hill took a polygraph test and passed and Thomas refused his test, there were still parts of the establishment that insisted that it was Hill who wasn’t telling the truth. 

This rather enlightening new documentary by Oscar winningaa director Freida Lee Mock relies greatly on all the newsreel footage and blanket media coverage of the Hearings to tell the earlier part of the story. In my case if fills in the gaps of a story that had touched us in the UK, but even like many Americans, I had never really comprehended how ferociously the opposition had been for a woman who had been brave enough to tell the truth.  Hill’s career from then on only blossomed as she accepted the unofficial but crucial role forced upon her as an advocate for women’s rights.  Seeing her teaching her law students at Brandais, or in front of the many groups that she now regularly addresses, you are confronted with an older version of the same dignified articulate woman who wouldn’t be bullied.

Hill’s is credited too for the fact that the effects of her stance went way beyond how it affected her personally, as in the Congressional Election if 1992 more women were elected than ever before, as DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton said after Hill’s treatment “women clearly went to the polls with the notion in mind that you had to have more women in Congress”

The movie is an excellent record of how this one determined and unselfish women took a great personal risk to insure that men understood that bullying and sexual harassment will not be tolerated.  It may not have stopped Thomas, but I feel sure that thanks to Anita Hill, it has stopped a great many others, as well as encouraged future generations of women everywhere to challenge anyone who dares too try.

I am now so in awe of  her ……..Unmissable movie.


Posted by queerguru  at  15:22

Genres:  documentary

Follow queerguru

Search This Blog

View 5 min movie By: