Anita Hill Contributes to a New Normal for Society

Anita Hill Contributes to a New Normal for Society

Professor Anita Hill at a panel discussion following a screening of the documentary Anita, held at Harvard Law School on September 24, 2014. Photo by Twp.

Professor Anita Hill at a panel discussion following a screening of the documentary Anita, held at Harvard Law School on September 24, 2014. Photo by Twp.

Anita Hill impressed and inspired me Tuesday night.

The documentary Anita: Speaking Truth to Power was shown at the Nourse Theatre here in San Francisco. After the film, Anita Hill sat down with Roy Eisenhardt, a lawyer who also ran the Oakland Athletics, for a thirty minute conversation.

The narrative of this film took me on an emotional journey from complete disgust and frustration to overwhelming encouragement. The film opens with the audio of Ginni Thomas' voicemail message to Anita Hill. Next, director Freida Mock follows Anita through her testimony and Clarence Thomas through his. After the hearing, the film focuses on Anita's support system, her learning a new normal, and ultimately her focus and impact on various education programs.

By the time the film ended, I had wiped more than one tear. The conversation that followed continued to engage me. Anita discussed the recent comments from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and the NFL's handling of the Ray Rice assault on Janay Palmer. She made it clear that addressing underlying misogyny is key to promoting gender equality and eliminating violence against women. 

Listening to Anita Hill truly got me thinking about the history of gender inequality. Back in 1991 when Clarence Thomas was being confirmed for the US Supreme Court, I was in college. I remember following bits and pieces of the hearings and believing Anita's testimony. I remember feeling disgusted when Thomas was confirmed.

I had held a few different jobs, but I had never gone through any sexual harassment trainings. Today, a dated sexual harassment video is an HR norm. While I understand now that this attempt to educate all people on appropriate work place dialogue and behavior is necessary, I don't think I fully recognized until tonight how this trend began with Anita Hill coming forward to testify.

Even with more awareness of what constitutes sexual harassment, offensive comments and behavior are still prevalent in the work place. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand recently revealed how one congressman said, "You know Kirsten, you're even pretty when you're fat."  

When I worked as a barista at Starbucks a few years ago, one retired man would come in every morning and sit at the end of the counter where baristas had to walk by him regularly. As soon as you would turn your back, this lecher would grab your butt. Several baristas complained to our male manager, who laughed about the situation. Our manager was mostly a good guy, but he placed this behavior into the category of "Here's a dirty old man getting his jollies" rather than recognizing that the women who helped make his store profitable were being harassed. When a female manager took over our location, she ended the butt grabbing. I couldn't stand her personally, but at least she got the womanizing rake to stop.

People may groan when they are required to attend a sexual harassment training or workshop. I know I have. Some people even moan about the world being overly-PC. Well, until people learn to apply a little common sense and common courtesy, I've decided I'll be comfortable with the extra training. If I start to dread poorly produced videos, I'll just remind myself that I would rather live in a world where the number of womanizing rakes is diminishing. Thank you, Anita

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