She came forward because she “felt an obligation to share information on the character and actions of a person who was being considered for the Supreme Court.”
No, I am not talking about Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
In October of 1991, Anita Faye Hill testified against Judge Clarence Thomas. She accused him of repeated acts of verbal sexual harassment during the time she worked for him a decade before, when she was twenty-five years old.
There was an uproar. The hearings had been closed. But Hill’s interview with the FBI and its leak to the press, caused them to be reopened. Hill agreed to a polygraph test; Thomas refused. Denying the allegations, he blamed “slick lawyers,” “pro-choice liberals,” and racism – “white liberals who were seeking to block a black conservative from taking a seat on the Supreme Court.”
Telling her story, Hill was believable. Her words rang true for many of my female colleagues and me. We silently suffered the same; or worse.
In the end, Thomas was confirmed.
But that was not the end. Over the last twenty-seven years, women – and men – have raised their voices about sexual harassment in the workplace. There have been countless books and movies on the subject. HR policies and company trainings have become mandatory in not-for-profits and for-profits alike. In December of 2017, the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace was formed. And, Anita Hill is leading its efforts against sexual harassment in the entertainment industry.
Today, from testimonies and statements made over the years, it is believed that Judge Clarence Thomas was guilty.
Whether before or after the #MeToo movement came to be, we know what sexual harassment sounds like, looks like, and feels like. The culprits are no longer getting away with it.
* * *
In September of 2018, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified against Judge Brett Kavanaugh. She accused him of sexually assaulting her at a party when they both were in high school almost four decades ago, when she was fifteen years old.
There was an uproar. The hearings were winding down. But Ford’s interview with the FBI and a passing polygraph test, along with a leak to the press, caused her to be brought before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Denying the allegations, Kavanaugh blamed the political left and mistaken identity. The conclusion are yet to be determined.
* * *
I’ve remained quiet through Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing. I watched his entire testimony. Since I missed Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s, I watched hers after the fact. Then I read articles and op-eds. Due to the proliferation and broad reach of social media, the court of public opinion is far more vocal and polarized than in the days of the Clarence Thomas hearings. This she-said he-said trial is gut-wrenching.
Some want to blame all of this on politics. Others blame the media (in all its forms). Others claim the #MeToo movement has taken things too far.
Everyone agrees that something traumatic happened to fifteen-year-old Christine. Many empathize; remembering a time when they were intimidated or laughed at or hurt in some way by a guy or group of guys in high school. Victims and survivors of these kinds of acts can’t help but relive their own traumas through Ford’s testimony. Telling her story as an adult, Ford is believable.
Everyone agrees that the teenaged Brett drank too much, was a football player, and was a guy’s guy. He was the cool, popular, church-going boy with lots of friends. Many empathize; remembering high school boys who behaved as he did (or might have). Many men today still love to drink their beer, flex their muscles, and hang out with their buddies. Telling his story as an adult, Kavanaugh is believable.
Everyone agrees that many lives in this saga will never be the same. And, the Committee’s approach and processes need a serious overhaul.
But, we cannot agree on whether or not Kavanaugh actually was Ford’s attacker. Stereotypic and aggressive male behaviors don’t prove – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that he is guilty. I truly wish we could.
Our country needs to move on and begin the process of healing. We are in this place because sexism is deeply rooted in our national fabric. We – men and women alike – must unravel it and cut it out. Together, we must create a new generation that treats one another with care, respect, compassion and dignity. My grandson won’t be born until February, but I’m ready.