A quarter century after her testimony in Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, Anita Hill says it's time for a nation that's too easily accepting of men's excuses for sexual harassment to change the cultural status quo.
Take Donald Trump being elected president after a tape revealed his boasts of forcing himself on women. Or top-rated cable news host Bill O'Reilly, who was ousted Thursday after the report of multiple settlements involving sexual harassment allegations against him. Trump dismissed talk of grabbing women by their sexual organs as locker room banter, and O'Reilly called the claims against him "completely unfounded."
"We have a whole host of people accepting that as just something men do as opposed to understanding it as predatory behavior that is not only immoral but is also illegal," Hill told USA Today.
There is one big difference today. Even in a country still roiled by gender and racial tensions, women are finding their voices and telling their stories in ways that were not possible in 1991 when the nation was gripped for two nonstop weeks by Hill and her televised testimony, the lurid details of which Thomas vehemently denied.
Susan Fowler, a female software engineer, reached millions on her personal blog with a detailed account of rampant sexism at ride-hailing company Uber. And, in response to a unnerving string of revelations about workplace harassment, women have flooded social media with raw recollections ripped from their everyday work lives of being subjected to leering bosses and crude remarks, of being groped and assaulted.
"The idea that these kinds of behaviors can stay hidden is fading because there are ways to get them out. I think the key is to keep pushing," Hill says. "When you deal with someone like Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly, the key is for people to keep coming forward."
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Anita Hill is a professor of social policy, law and women’s studies at Brandeis University and Of Counsel with the Civil Rights & Employment practice at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC.