Anita Hill On Where We Are Now and Where We Go Next

Illustration for article titled Anita Hill On Where We Are Now and Where We Go Next
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It was hard not to watch Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, and the treatment of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford after she came forward, without feeling like not much has changed since 1991 when Clarence Thomas was confirmed in the wake of Anita Hill’s testimony. “I see women today who are still in pain and reeling from 1991 and then revisited it and brought up more memories in the Kavanaugh hearing,” Hill told The New York Times in an interview published on Thursday.

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The interview as a whole gives a sober and measured look at how ill-prepared the country still is when it comes to dealing with sexual harassment—“this experiment of how we’re going to address harassment—it failed,” she says—as well as the work that needs to be done. “It’s not the glamorous, headline-making work,” Hill says. “It’s the day-to-day examination, combing through and interrogating things that people have just assumed were the only way things could be done.”

Hill also broke down the false equivalencies of an argument that has cropped up over and over again in the past two years—that the “burden of proof,” a specific legal standard, has been used “to cover political choices.”

I will say this, too. The notion that Susan Collins [the senator from Maine] spread about the burden of proof, innocent until proven guilty and applying it to a Judiciary Committee proceeding, a political proceeding, compromised our legal standards. The legal standard is a high principle of our legal system, a start to protecting us against wrongful convictions. It should not be denigrated or used to cover political choices.

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It’s impossible to fully capture the hardships that Ford and Hill took on when they chose to speak up. Because of death threats, Ford has had to move at least four times since her testimony. Hill also received death threats after she came forward. The experience seems to have brought them together:

Q. Are you in touch with Dr. Ford?

A: I am. I’ll just leave it at that.

Q. Is it comforting for her?

A. I hope so. I know how important it was for me.

You can read the full interview over at the Times.

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DISCUSSION

westerosironswanson
The Ron Swanson of Westeros

I will say this, too. The notion that Susan Collins [the senator from Maine] spread about the burden of proof, innocent until proven guilty and applying it to a Judiciary Committee proceeding, a political proceeding, compromised our legal standards. The legal standard is a high principle of our legal system, a start to protecting us against wrongful convictions. It should not be denigrated or used to cover political choices.

To slightly reframe a seminal quote on racism:

Misogyny is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others.

That’s how misogyny works: when a powerful white man with a carefully-curated pedigree of meritocratic achievements gets accused, we laugh it off, and condescend, and deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender (DARVO in the academic literature). And we do it ultimately because we’ve already decided, a priori, that since no man with that carefully-curated pedigree of meritocratic achievements could have slipped through our nets and still be a monster, and sexual assaulters are monsters, that he couldn’t have done it. QED.

The truth or falsity of the evidence doesn’t matter. What matters is that the evidence simply cannot allowed to be true. Because if it were true, it might mean that we allow what we perceive to be monsters to run our system, and we can’t accept that as a viable possibility. Which means we get someone with *Wikipedia’s Susan Collins* a bachelor’s degree in government insisting that one of the foremost experts on traumatic memory in the world must be mistaken about who was doing the sexual assaulting.