Anita Hill on chasing workplace equality

Eliza Mills May 5, 2015
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Anita Hill on chasing workplace equality

Eliza Mills May 5, 2015
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Growing up in Washington, D.C. can give you a very particular window on the world, especially if you’re the kind of kid who’s fascinated by news or politics.

And in the fall of 1991, in my sophomore year of high school, I became riveted by one thing: Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the testimony of Anita Hill.

It was the first time I thought deeply about the concept of sexual harassment. Or heard adults around me, and on the news, openly discussing the dynamics of sex and power in the workplace (a lot more of that would come in the ’92 campaign, of course).

We talked about the hearings at school. I discussed them with my mother. I distinctly remember a column by Dave Barry mocking the male senators present, and their various, shall we say, issues with women. The hearings, the public response to them, and the questions they raised left a profound mark on me as an adolescent girl trying to understand the world of working women  – and what it might be like by the time I entered it. 

Twenty-four years have passed. Justice Thomas, of course, sits on the Supreme Court. Anita Hill is now a professor at Brandeis who studies these issues, and teaches about them. She recently wrote about the Ellen Pao trial, and what has and hasn’t changed since 1991.

Last week on the show, we had an interview about what the glass ceiling looks like for women in 2015. And this upcoming week, our theme is “the chase.” Together, those things led us to think of Professor Hill, and to wonder what she’s still chasing.

 I suspect that her story, and the issues it raises, will continue to resonate for some time. Especially as it’s revisited in the documentary “Anita,” streaming this week on Netflix. And in an upcoming feature film for HBO, where Hill will be played by Kerry Washington.

You’ll find an extended cut of our interview with Anita Hill in the media player above. I hope you listen. 

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