Why I Can’t Stop Thinking About Anita Hill

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I was not alive when Anita Hill testified during the Clarence Thomas hearing. Even though I’ve read about the occasion in history textbooks, it seems like an a bad dream where decent people thought it reasonable to berate a woman who came forth to publicly testify against a Supreme Court nominee. As I watch the spectacle of the Brett Kavanaugh hearing, however, that dream comes ever closer to reality.

When Christine Blasey Ford came forward with the accusation of rape and sexual assault, it seemed like the best kind of irony. How fitting that in this age of #MeToo and women’s rights, that this time — a woman would be heard thoughtfully and without partisan bias.

And yet, that irony turned tragic. Because again, her allegations go unbelieved because of the timing. Of course, rather than acknowledge that a nominee’s good character is not quite as pristine as was previously thought, it makes sense to publicly attack Ford and accuse her of lying. And in this case, it’s all the more frightening to consider the story she has shared. That a second man, Mark Judge, held her down while Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth and attempted to sexually assault her. Is that the kind of person we want serving on the most powerful court in the land?

It has been 27 years since Anita Hill testified against Clarence Thomas. And despite that testimony, he was confirmed. The sexual harassment alleged by Anita Hill was neither the kind of language nor behaviour that, in my opinion, any judge should use. Sometimes it can be easy to forget that someone who was accused of those kind of vile behaviours is supposed to represent the judicial merits and honour of our country.

Whether or not Ford decides to testify in Congress does not mean what she said is any less true.

Quite a few media and news outlets seem to be under the impression that because Ford is not willing to publicly testify, that her accusations are somehow moot. Au contraire. How much courage must it have taken for Ford to come forward and reveal her name to reporters? How terrifying must it be to receive death threats simply because you felt it was your civic duty to say something?

By choosing to ask for an FBI investigation, Ford is responding with a degree of restraint. That non-partisan option is probably the best choice considering that otherwise, the Senate would have had her testifying against Kavanaugh in person next Monday. In of itself, that shows just how out of touch Congress is with society. To ask a woman to stand publicly so that it becomes a “he said she said” game in front of a panel of majority white men. How detestably old-fashioned.

When any woman chooses to go public against someone in power to allege bad behaviour in the past, it is the misogynists who come out of the woodwork. It is those people who can’t imagine that person doing such a horrible thing simply because “they know them.” I can understand that initial shock that someone you know is capable of cruelty, but what I do not understand is those who casually degrade the women who accuse them and give no thought at all to the accusation’s truthfulness.

Watching the Kavanaugh spectacle unfold has been almost surrealistic. On one hand, it makes me rewatch the Anita Hill hearings and marvel at the kind of reception they received. On the other, I’m disheartened to find much of the same response in the current day. How successful can the #MeToo movement be if people are not willing to see past partisan discourse to accusations of sexual assault?

I keep thinking about Anita Hill and the kind of strength it took to come forward with such damning evidence, perhaps knowing how it would be received. I keep thinking what it must be like to look at Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court and know that despite your best efforts, he is making decisions that will effect Americans for years to come. I keep wondering if Kavanaugh will be confirmed despite Ford’s accusations, how the small steps we take towards stigmatising sexual harassment and assault are nothing if we do not uphold them.

Who can say whether or not Kavanaugh will be the next Supreme Court justice? Instead of dwelling on the things that cannot be known, however, I will sit here and think about Anita Hill, and hope that we can somehow do right by her in this second iteration of charges, accusations and confirmation hearings.