He Said, She Said
Look at this picture! Isn’t he a snarky son of a bitch?! Creepy!
I guess we just thought the whole Clarence Thomas v. Anita Hill debate was long over. It’s been picked from the dregs of media history, brushed off and put up on a shelf for us all to “admire” once again. Apparently, over the weekend, Ginny Thomas, Clarence Thomas’s wife, left a voicemail message for Anita Hill at her new offices in Brandeis University, requesting that she apologize publicly to Justice Thomas for her accusations of nearly twenty years ago. Mrs. Thomas even suggested that Anita Hill “pray” about it. I think I’m going to be ill.
After Anita received the voicemail, she contacted university security, they contacted the authorities, the FBI was called in on it, and at some point in this law enforcement chain, our news media obtained the scoop. What could Ginny Thomas have been thinking? Mrs. Thomas is the head of one of those many think tank fronts for rich Libertarians who like to secretly fund the “grass roots” Tea Party movement. Her very work creates a possible appearance of impropriety or conflict of interest for her husband. One would think she’d want to keep a low profile.
Just in case you’re not old enough to remember this debacle in our nation’s history, the scandal involving Anita Hill is the reason why all managers in American companies have to undergo sexual harassment training. Hill, a former co-worker of Thomas’s, came forward during his confirmation hearings with Congress and accused Thomas of propositioning her and of barraging her daily with a cavalcade of inappropriate comments and images.
Most of the public didn’t believe Hill back then, which is why she was run out of town from the law department at the University of Oklahoma on a rail. It’s also why, despite the fact that I will now never be able to remove the picture of a pubic hair on a Coke can from my head, Pig Thomas is now a justice with the United States Supreme Court.
I guess you can tell where I weigh in on this scandal. Damn it! I try so hard to be impartial.
One of the reasons why most people didn’t believe Anita Hill’s story way back when is because Ms. Hill suffered in silence and didn’t speak up. People believed that it was a little convenient that she only spoke up before Thomas’s confirmation hearing. And maybe it was; I don’t think Hill shares Thomas’s ultra conservative leanings. Still, that doesn’t mean that her accusations aren’t truthful, and if they are, that we shouldn’t find them repugnant.
There are lots of reasons why a woman who is suffering with sexual harassment might not choose to say something about it, not the least of which is fear of retribution. This makes for a horrible situation because the woman lives in fear and pretends to be accepting or tolerant of a man’s behavior, and perhaps the man thinks he’s doing nothing wrong.
Part of the definition of sexual harassment is “unwanted” advances. This means that whether or not it’s appropriate is dependent upon whether or not the woman is attracted to the man. There’s an old SNL skit with Tom Brady that parodies this paradox to perfection. [Alliteration, Baby!] It’s hard to believe that Justice Thomas couldn’t see his grossly egregious behavior as being wrong, but maybe he didn’t. Hill didn’t speak up…because she was afraid to do so. She was afraid that doing so would adversely affect her career. And let’s be honest…it might have. The reaction she received at the University of Oklahoma when she came forward kind of demonstrates that perfectly, I’m afraid.
Now another woman has come forward to contribute her two cents and receive her fifteen minutes of fame. Lillian McEwan is shopping her memoir around town. She just so happens to be the ex-girlfriend of Clarence Thomas. One wonders if she and Ginny have a deal going. Maybe she can cut Ginny in on some of the book’s proceeds. Lillian is NOW finally coming forward to say that she knew that Clarence frequently scouted for sex partners at his workplace. And get this: he likes big breasts AND pornography. Sinister.
It’s always going to be a he said, she said case with Hill and Thomas, and although Lillian McEwan, if she cared, should have come forward when Anita Hill was in the hot seat alone nearly twenty years ago, her comments now prove nothing. They would not have proven anything then, either. At least 90% of men in America like both porn and big breasts, and Ms. McEwan was a girlfriend and not a co-worker, so it’s unlikely that her experiences with Clarence Thomas would carry any weight in the context of sexual harassment. You would expect a man to divulge his sexual preferences and fantasies to a woman with whom he was intimate. It’s totally appropriate.
One final note on sexual harassment: I saw more than one guy get fired over this. One guy wasn’t doing anything more sinister than hugging women or handing out neck rubs. The problem is that he thought that the attention he was paying to these women was wanted. And part of the reason he was under that impression is that the same women who were so offended were polite and smiled or giggled nervously or even seemed to encourage him. When his back was turned, they’d run to human resources and complain. Part of the problem here is communication. We women have to learn to be more assertive and tell men when what they are doing is making us uncomfortable…to their faces. They deserve that much. Then, if they fail to heed the warning, all bets are off.
Entry filed under: Ethics, History, Politics, Sexual Abuse & Assault, Social Commentary, Women's Rights. Tags: Anita Hill, Brandeis University, Clarence Thomas, Sexual harassment, Tom Brady, United States Supreme Court, University of Oklahoma, Virginia Lamp Thomas.