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Why I Believe Anita Hill — Now More Than Ever

Like Hinda Mandell, I experienced the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings at a formative moment of my childhood. The entire spectacle of the trial made a really strong impression on me and the ensuing “Year of the Woman” helped turn me into a budding self-identified feminist — walking around my Jewish day school with Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein buttons affixed to my shirt, and a neon pink “Choice” hat atop my head.

So I reacted to the Ginni Thomas phone message fiasco with amusement and frustration at the media for framing the story around Hill’s refusal to apologize rather than Thomas’s outlandish behavior.

It’s true, as Mandell writes, that no one involved seems to be able to escape the shadow of the scandal. But I don’t feel any sympathy for Ginni Thomas. As feminist bloggers have been saying, people often dismiss sexual harassment with one of two common phrases: “She deserved it” or “She made it up.” Judging from her now-famous voicemail, Ginni Thomas intimates the latter about Hill.

But the passage of time means we have pretty solid evidence these days that Hill didn’t make anything up — that her allegations were a part of a larger pattern of sexual impropriety and ethics violations from Thomas. This includes allegations from the guy who worked at the X-rated video store reportedly frequented by Thomas at the time, allegations from “the other woman,” Angela Wright, who said she had undergone a similar pattern of harassing treatment from Thomas, but was bizarrely never called to testify before Congress. Just today, The Washington Post broke a story about a former girlfriend of Justice Thomas who feels Hill’s allegations are totally in keeping with her ex’s sexual predilections.

Our society has learned a lot about sexual harassment since the scandal first broke, and we’ve also learned about Anita Hill. Books such as Jane Meyer and Jill Abramson’s “The Selling of Clarence Thomas” and Florence Graves’ reporting for the Boston Globe (pdf link, well-worth reading)[5] have done a lot to dispel myths about what happened. Unfortunately for the Tea-Party-loving, reality-denying Ginni Thomas, the truth, or as much of it as we can piece together, is actually out there.


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