Gaslighting And Sexual Harassment In Social Justice Circles

Welcome to this week’s episode of Unscrewed, in which the venerable Deanna Zandt joins Jaclyn just in time to tackle the very crux of HBO’s new bio-pic, Confirmation, which tells the harrowing tale of Anita Hill. In 1993, Hill testified before Congress about then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas (her former boss at the Office for Civil Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) in regards to allegations of sexual harassment.

While Thomas was appointed anyway — and famously referred to the trial as “a high-tech lynching for uppity Blacks” — Hill’s bravery single-handedly brought sexual harassment into the public consciousness. According to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filings, sexual harassment cases have more than doubled in the wake of the case, from 6,127 in 1991 to 15,342 in 1996; over the same time period, awards to victims under federal laws nearly quadrupled, from $7.7 million to $27.8 million.

Deanna Zandt is just the broad to talk shop about the impacts of sexual harassment in our current political and business climate — she’s the cofounder of Shine Squad, a new initiative that is drawing this issue out of the shadows, focusing especially on progressive work places and social justice circles, environments typically believed to be devoid of this problem.

But as it turns out, even those who on paper — and maybe even literally — are fighting the good fight can also violate boundaries, and be generally creepy as fuck. And ironically, there is a tremendous amount of gaslighting in these communities; people assume that a liberal comrade in arms couldn’t possibly be sexually harassing you/your cubicle-mate/the lunch lady, etc.

But the truth is, words do not reality make. Intentions do not reality make. A whole nonprofit dedicated to Justice does not reality make. And all kinds of liberals are failing the movement over and over and over again.

It’s not pretty. But Zandt is shedding some light on the situation.


Hungry for more? Check out this episode’s reference materials:

Jaclyn’s oh-so-personal appearance on Zandt’s podcast, League of Awkward Unicorns, which focuses on mental illness.

The disturbing tale of progressive PR firm FitzGibbon Media and its downfall.

What Anita Hill thinks of the new Confirmation film.

The general brilliance and shit-kicking of Deanna Zandt.


Full new episodes of Unscrewed go live every other Tuesday, with quickiesodes boasting outtakes, advice for listeners who send in their sex/uality questions, and other delectable tidbits airing in between.

Have burning quandaries of your own? Tweet @jaclynf (use #Unscrewed) or drop her a line at And yes! You can even use your handy-dandy smartphone, personal computer, or laptop and record yourself asking your question; she may just include it in the next episode.


Lead Image: flickr/silviadinatale©

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