Nearly 25 years ago, Anita Hill became a household name overnight. She shared an explosive tale of workplace sexual harassment by a powerful man, bringing into open discussion a topic that had not been. For it, Hill was both praised and criticized, even receiving death threats. Rather than retreat, she's more vocal than ever, including speaking in Kalamazoo this week where she got a standing ovation as she walked onto the stage.
Some may remember this time in history well because it was played out on live television. In October 1991, Americans watched as Hill delivered graphic testimony at the confirmation hearings of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, accusing him of engaging in sexually explicit talk and subjecting her to unwanted, repeated requests for dates and more when he was her boss at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
On WestSouthwest today, WMUK's Earlene McMichael sits down with Hill, a college professor and attorney, for an exclusive interview. It was taped in the Green Room at Chenery Auditorium immediately after her address on gender violence in society and on college campuses as part of Western Michigan University's "Raise Your Voice" speaker series, coordinated by the Lee Honors College.
The interview covered a wide range of topics, from the changing forms of workplace sexual harassment to gender pay equity, films about her life story and the importance of imparting information about gender violence to younger women not yet born when Hill testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
While Thomas' confirmation was ultimately approved and Hill still has some who dismiss her story, including Thomas, Hill has been credited with creating greater public awareness of workplace sexual harassment and spurring passage of a law allowing victims to sue for federal damage awards. Her coming forward also led to a tremendous spike in women filing sexual harassment claims with the EEOC, and with more women running for public office.
Hill, now 58, teaches social policy, law and women’s studies at Brandeis University in the Boston area. She is also senior advisor to the provost. Last year, the documentary "Anita: Speaking Truth to Power" was released, on which she collaborated.
Now plans are in the works for an HBO film to star "Scandal" actress Kerry Washington as Hill. It is titled "Confirmation."