Twenty-five years ago, Anita Hill became a household name when she was forced to tell the world how U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her.
Today (October 11), Hill—who is currently a professor at Brandeis University and an adviser at Cohen Milstein Sellers and Toll—published an op-ed for The Boston Globe about the impact of hearing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump describe his sexual assault of women. Here’s what Hill had to say on some key points:
On what’s at stake:
What I learned in 1991 is no less true today and no less important for people to understand: responses to sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence must start with a belief that women matter as much as the powerful men they encounter at work or at school, whether those men are bosses or professors, colleagues or fellow students.
On what we should be talking about:
We must understand the harm that sexual harassment and sexual violence causes. Missing from the conversation this weekend, which focused almost exclusively on the character of the offender, was concern about the victims of sexual violence. At virtually every dinner table this weekend, people talked about what should happen to Donald Trump’s political ambitions. But little consideration was given to what impact the brutish behavior he claimed to have had on the women he victimized. How many of them talked about Arianne Zucker, the young woman in the leaked video who Bush cajoled into hugging the same two men who had just joked about forcibly kissing her? Did she know she was the butt of a sexual gag? Or did we wonder what happened to Nancy O’Dell, the woman who rejected Trump’s advances? …
Trump’s language, which he and others have tried to minimize as “locker room banter,” is predatory and hostile. To excuse it as that or as youthful indiscretion or overzealous romantic interest normalizes male sexual violence. According to attorney Joe Sellers, a member of the EEOC Task Force, “Trump’s remarks reflect the quintessential mindset of a harasser: the view that he has certain privileges and power by virtue of his celebrity status and position.”
On what she hopes will happen next:
I would like to see us grapple with these questions outside of the fierce political pitch of a presidential election cycle that, even before this tape surfaced, reflected the worst political behavior in modern history. Regardless, this backdrop does not relieve us of the responsibility to leverage this moment to help guard against sexual harassment and assault. Indeed, it may help us with lower profile sexual misconduct situations that are frequently intertwined with workplace or academic power politics.
Read “We We Can Still Learn From Sexual Harassment” in full here.