The Edmond Sun

Nation & World

April 15, 2014

Anita Hill reflects on her fateful testimony, 23 years later

SEATTLE — Back in 1993, I rounded a corner of a Laguna Beach, Calif., grocery store and walked straight into Anita Hill.

We both stopped in our tracks. She looked slightly panicked, like someone had turned on a light in a room, and all she wanted was the door.

It took a moment to register that this was the woman who, just two years before, calmly testified before a Senate committee about the sexual harassment she endured while working for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas  at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, of all places.

Thomas joked about pubic hair, debated penis length and breast size and talked about porn films. “Long Dong Silver” was a regular on late-night monologues.

But when Thomas took his turn before the committee, the jokes ended. He threw down the race card, called the whole process a “high-tech lynching,” and ultimately was confirmed.

Hill, then 35, faded from the headlines — only to reappear in the dairy aisle of my Vons. I would learn later that she had retreated to our beachside town to write the book that would become 1998’s “Speaking Truth to Power.”

“Welcome to Laguna,” I stammered.

“Thank you,” she said, then hurried past me.

Over the phone the other day, I recalled the encounter for Hill, now 57 and a law professor at Brandeis University. She let out a soft laugh.

“It was one of those times I was finishing my book and I was trying to get all that stuff out of my head and onto paper,” Hill said. “I was trying to sort it all out, and I couldn’t think of a better place to do it.”

Hill is back in the spotlight, this time as the center of a new documentary called “Anita” which explores that chapter in her life, the effect it had on the lives of American women and how she has fared in the 23 years since.

The film, which opened in Seattle April 4, was directed by Academy Award-winning director Freida Mock and debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last October. Hill was sure to see it privately before sitting in a theater full of strangers.

“It was very emotional for me,” said Hill. “I was able to hold all that in until the moment my parents come into the (Senate hearing) room. They had been delayed.

“So many emotions started coming,” she continued. “There was a little sadness, just because they are no longer alive. But they haven’t been able to see how far I believe we have all come.”

Indeed, the year after Hill became a household name (and many other names, including a “scorned woman”), the number of women elected to the Senate went from two to six; and another 24 women won seats in the House of Representatives.

People went as far as to call 1992 “The Year of the Woman.”

But Hill likes to think her impact went beyond the voting booth.

“I am a believer that after the testimony, there were a lot of women who got engaged in the process,” she said. “There were public and private conversations. And people learned. Mothers talked to their daughters, daughters talked to their fathers about what it was like to be a woman out on her own.”

And yet, women (and men) are still harassed in all corners of American life: At home, at college, in the military and in government.

So what can be done to change the system?

“Some of these things are a no-brainer,” Hill said.

Just look at how the Senate handled her case: They treated Hill’s testimony as a “he said, she said, without fully investigating,” she said.

Worse, members of the committee grandstanded about the testimony, about Hill’s motives. They oozed bias and publicly denounced Hill.

“I was truly hurt by the process,” she said. “Information got out because of the senators’ ability to say anything.”

In contrast, Hill was lauded for being the epitome of grace under pressure, and admired for the way she wordlessly passed through the throngs of reporters and detractors, never grabbing the spotlight. She said what she needed to on the stand, and nowhere else.

But don’t call her a role model, she said.

“Women should come into this process and be who they are,” Hill said. “The feelings are real and genuine and to be respected. They should be themselves without being caricatured. We have a right to our own dignity and no one should take that away because we don’t behave the way they think we should behave.

“Be yourself. Your honest and truest, best self.”

And never relax and think all the work is finished. We may have improved the number of the women in the Senate, Hill said, but that isn’t enough.

“We need to start looking at the racial makeup of the Senate,” she said. “Now, if we took that picture, you’re still going to have a homogeneous racial group of people. What are we going to do in a country that is as pluralistic as we are?”

Hill isn’t the talking-head type. Rather than get miked-up and mouth off on any number of talk shows, she works behind the scenes with a Washington, D.C., law firm that does class-action cases on gender and race discrimination; is connected with the National Women’s Law Center on health care issues; and works with an organization called The Opportunity Agenda, which is focused on equality.

Perhaps the nicest surprise of “Anita” is that Hill is fully represented. You see her with her family and meet her longtime companion, Chuck Malone. You see her walking with students at Brandeis.

“It was important for me, in the film, that people knew the whole me,” she said. “That people got a chance to see my wonderful family and that they see where my parents came from ...

“We get distilled to one element of our lives and it’s not good for us. The hearings were a part of my life, but they are not all of who I am.

“I work at having a good life for myself because I think I deserve it.”

CONTACT the writer; Nicole Brodeur: nbrodeur@seattletimes.com or visit The Seattle Times at www.seattletimes.com.

 

1
Text Only
Nation & World
  • Blackmon.jpg Local cops arrest NFL player on marijuana complaint

    The Edmond Police Department has released the incident report related to the arrest of ex-Oklahoma State star and current NFL player Justin Blackmon.
    Blackmon, 24, a product of Plainview High School in Ardmore, is a 6-1, 210-pound wide receiver in his second year with the Jacksonville Jaguars. At Oklahoma State University, he was a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner as the country’s best collegiate wide receiver.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • A Q&A on ‘Obamacare’ Court Rulings

    On Tuesday, two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings on the legality of tax subsidies being provided to people who bought “Obamacare” health insurance policies in Oklahoma and 35 other states.
    Here’s a look at the rulings’ potential impact in Oklahoma.

    Q: I’m confused. What did the courts rule today?
    A: A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals circuit in Washington, D.C., decided that the government can’t provide tax subsidies for Affordable Care Act plans purchased in 36 states where the federal government is operating the health insurance exchange. Oklahoma is one of the 36 states. A few hours later, the U.S. Court of Appeals circuit in Richmond, Va., issued a conflicting ruling that upheld the legality of the health-care law’s tax subsidies.

    July 22, 2014

  • June healthy month for Oklahoma jobs

    Nearly 10,000 new jobs in Oklahoma were created in June, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
    Gov. Mary Fallin said Tuesday the state experienced one of the largest increases in employment in the nation in June. More than 9,600 additional people joined the state’s workforce in June.
    The unemployment rate in June dropped to 4.5 percent, its lowest ratio in six years. June’s rate was down a percentage point from 4.6 percent in May and April, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

    July 22, 2014

  • Former OSU line coach having impact on Texas staff

    It was quite possibly the biggest coaching coup of the offseason and Oklahoma State was at the wrong end of it — former Cowboy offensive line coach Joe Wickline joining the staff for Charlie Strong’s Texas Longhorns.
    “It’s always good when you go hire staff and you look at just getting the right people within your program. And, a lot of times, guys know a lot of Xs and Os, but it’s all just about developing a player,” said Strong, Tuesday during the Big 12 Conference Football Media Days. “Joe and I, we’ve coached together at two different places. But just with him being within his conference and knowing the conference, he’s been a great asset.”

    July 22, 2014

  • UCO campus 3.jpg University of Central Oklahoma recognized as having friendly work environment

    The Chronicle of Higher Education named the University of Central Oklahoma as one of the “2014 Great Colleges to Work For.” Central is the only higher education institution in the state recognized on the list and one of only a handful of institutions in the nation given the distinction of being named to the Honor Roll for being cited most often among all the recognition categories.          
    Central joins Duke, Baylor and Notre Dame on the list of the 10 universities named to the large institution honor roll.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sparring justices find little disagreement at the opera

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg revealed a different view of U.S. Supreme Court on Saturday when she described about her passion for opera, one she shares with Justice Antonin Scalia.

    July 21, 2014

  • Experts: Ukraine airliner disaster has implications for U.S. security

    Use of surface-to-air missiles by extra-military personnel to shoot down civilian aircraft may be an emerging threat to the United States, a terrorism expert said.
    On Thursday, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 took off from Amsterdam and was shot down over Ukraine near the Russian border. Nearly 300 innocent lives were taken — men, women, children, infants — who had nothing to do with the crisis in Ukraine, President Barack Obama said during a statement on the conflict in front of reporters at the White House.

    July 18, 2014

  • Rabbi, UCO professor provide Middle East perspectives

    Hours after Israel launched ground operations in the Gaza Strip, the leader of a metro synagogue and a UCO professor who was raised in the West Bank shared their thoughts about the escalating conflict.  
    During the latest cycle of violence sparked by the kidnapping and deaths of three Israeli teenagers that Israel blames on Hamas, the Jewish nation launched air strikes against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.

    July 18, 2014

  • spts-OC Rhein Gibson British Open.jpg OC alum Gibson holes pressure putt on 18, makes cut at British Open

    It was the biggest putt of Rhein Gibson’s life — which is saying something for a guy who once shot a world-record 55 — and the Oklahoma Christian alum and Edmond resident responded the way he has so many times before.
    A four-time NAIA All-American while at Oklahoma Christian University, Gibson made the 15-footer for a birdie on No. 18 as darkness descended at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, capping a 2-over-par 74 and allowing him to make the cut in the world’s most prestigious tournament.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • spts-Senior Open Josh Cook hands on hips.jpg ‘Cook’-ing up a championship golf course

    When the practice rounds began at the U.S. Senior Open July 7, the ramblings were almost non-stop.
    From the players who live at the course to professional golfers from across the ocean and diverse parts of the globe, the consensus was that Oak Tree National was in tremendous shape and the players were keyed up to compete on it.
    “The golf course is fantastic,” Oak Tree resident Bob Tway said on the first day of competition July 10. “It’s hard, but it’s fantastic.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos