Anita Hill, a professor at Brandeis University and the the attorney who testified in 1991 that Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her is the subject of HBO’s Confirmation, which comes out April 16th. In an interview with TIME, Hill spoke about her thoughts on Kerry Washington’s portrayal, female leadership, and the relevance of this story 25 years later.
Washington, who Hill says conducted lots of research for the role, called the case in a WWD interview a story “we all need to remember.” Hill voiced the same sentiment on being portrayed, commenting “Usually I get that question in the form of, ‘Well do you really want to bring this all up again?’ Yes. Twenty-five years later, we have an entire generation of people who were not even born at that time. It will help them understand where we come from and hopefully give them information to keep going forward.”
Still I think it’s important to emphasize Confirmation focuses on one chapter of Hill’s work in advancing women in the workplace and promoting a wide dialogue. There’s a danger in treating this case as one incident, and while it’s a landmark case it’s also part of the work she’s continued up until now. Hill teaches gender equality courses at Brandeis, and has continuously emphasized that there’s still work to be done (here’s her take on the Ellen Pao case). At the Most Powerful Women Summit last year, she talked about the traditions that create a male-dominated work climate and said making the workforce better for women is “going to be better for everyone.”
Hill says that we can see the legacy of the hearings now “with college women protesting sexual harassment and assault” and she hopes “the film can bring new energy and new inspiration to them.” It’s hard not to look at the timeliness of Confirmation and be discouraged at the amount of obstacles, public scrutiny, and legal inadequacy that women still have to face when coming forward with harassment and assault, but that makes it all the more important.
I will say: If those women from Congress had not marched over to the Senate and demanded a hearing, I do not think it would have happened. That, to me, is leadership. And that’s why we need more women in leadership positions. We haven’t even come close in terms of representation to a critical mass.
I recommend reading the full interview here, where Hill also dives into the Lewinsky case, the exclusion of African-American women in the narrative of violence, and Hilary Clinton. Are you going to check out Confirmation?
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