Her Case Exposed Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

Professor Anita Hill at Harvard Law School/Tim Pierce /Wikimedia/ CC-2.0

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After more than 70 women accused former Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and sexual assault, accusations of sexual misconduct against powerful men have come en masse.

As more people come forward with their stories, we’re reminded of the woman whose case first put sexual harassment on the national stage: Anita Hill.

Her 1991 case against then Circuit Judge Clarence Thomas was the first time that many in the country even heard the term sexual harassment.

Hill never wanted this to be public. She privately told the FBI of Thomas’ behavior, but someone leaked the tape to the public.

It created a media frenzy, and many news outlets doubted her claims.  

While Hill was adamant about her claims, Thomas called the case a “high-tech lynching for uppity blacks” by white liberals.

That line was enough to seal the deal. Thomas would go on to be confirmed 52-48 as a Supreme Court Associate Justice.

Hill has given her thoughts on the recent sexual misconduct accusations against men in Hollywood, politics and other industries.

She says that these cases live and die on the “basis of believability.” The women who accused Weinstein, Hill says, were easy to believe because of the myth that only beautiful women can be harassed.

“It didn’t seem that far-fetched to people that this would happen to beautiful starlets who we all know and love,” she told The New Yorker.

Though many are happy that accusers are now speaking out on sexual harassment, Hill says that the basis of believability needs to transfer to the everyday person.

As more people come forward with their own experiences, it’s important that we listen and not be so quick to take away their merit.

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