PoliticsSex & Gender

Anita Hill on sexual assault: We must believe everyday women, not just movie stars

November 9, 2017
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This seems to be the year that powerful mean enacting sexual violence finally meet some consequences. That certainly wasn’t the case last year, when during the 2016 Presidential campaign, eleven women came forward to accuse Donald Trump of making unwanted sexual advances, and Access Hollywood tape surfaced showing the soon to be elected Trump boasting about “grabbing” women “by the pussy.” Even still, fifty-three per cent of white female voters cast their ballot for him, consequences be damned.

But this might be less so about a general awakening, and more about the type of women we believe in this situations, according to Anita Hill in an interview with the New Yorker. Many of Weinstein’s accusers were celebrities, and as Jane Mayer writes, “Sexual harassment is about power, not sex, and it has taken women of extraordinary power to overcome the disadvantage that most accusers face.”

In the interview with Mayer, Hill argued that sexual-harassment cases are based on “believability.” She understands this from experience, as twenty-six years ago, when Hill was a young Yale Law School graduate, she famously testified that Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her when he was seeking confirmation to the Supreme Court. Her bravery brought workplace sexual harassment to the general public in a way that was never done before, but the Senate swept her testimony under the rug.

Now a law professor at Brandeis University, Hill argued that her status in contrast to the powerful Thomas’s made her vulnerable insinuations of false motives, psychological problems, and other smears, like when the American Spectator called her “a bit nutty and a bit slutty.”

However, “the Hollywood-starlet narrative is part of the folklore. The casting couch is a long-standing issue,” Hill explained. “People often believe the myth that only conventionally beautiful women are harassed—and so it didn’t seem that far-fetched to people that this would happen to beautiful starlets who we all know and love.”

“We need to transfer the believability,” Hill told the New Yorker, saying we need to understand that Hollywood starlets “are just like women down the street. People need to take this moment to make clear that this is not just about Hollywood.”