With the latest somewhat maladroit attempt at publicity on Virginia Thomas' part, we get to be reminded of one of the more uncomfortable public testimonies in recent or past history. An exposure of how the powerful and prurient often inhabit the same body and how some people in the workforce have little in the way of recourse.
So on October 11, 1991, Anita Hill testified before the Supreme Court Confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas and laid out a story all too familiar to too many people working in subordinate positions in the workplace. That it had to do with someone in such a supposedly high moral position was doubly shocking, but it gave credence to the fact that hypocrisy is everywhere and self-willed impunity is not without a price tag.
Anita Hill: “I declined the invitation to go out socially with him, and explained to him
that I thought it would jeopardize what at the time I considered to be a
very good working relationship. I had a normal social life with other men
outside of the office. I believed then, as now, that having a social
relationship with a person who was surviving my work would be ill
advised. I was very uncomfortable with the idea and told him so.
I thought that by saying "no" and explaining my reasons, my employer
would abandon his social suggestions. However, to my regret, in the
following few weeks he continued to ask me out on several occasions. He
pressed me to justify my reasons for saying "no" to him. These incidents
took place in his office or mine. They were in the form of private
conversations which would not have been overheard by anyone else.
My working relationship became even more strained when Judge Thomas
began to use work situations to discuss sex. On these occasions, he would
call me into his office for reports on education issues and projects or he
might suggest that because of the time pressures of his schedule, we go
to lunch to a government cafeteria. After a brief discussion of work, he
would turn the conversation to a discussion of sexual matters. His
conversations were very vivid.
He spoke about acts that he had seen in pornographic films involving such
matters as women having sex with animals, and films showing group sex
or rape scenes. He talked about pornographic materials depicting
individuals with large penises, or large breasts individuals in various sex
On several occasions Thomas told me graphically of his own sexual
prowess. Because I was extremely uncomfortable talking about sex with
him at all, and particularly in such a graphic way, I told him that I did not
want to talk about these subjects. I would also try to change the subject
to education matters or to nonsexual personal matters, such as his
background or his beliefs. My efforts to change subject were rarely
Although Thomas went on to confirmation, his errors in judgment were reasonably glossed over with the passage of time, it did take his somewhat unhinged wife to drag up what was a very embarrassing period of time for the country.
In case you missed it (or forgot) here is the opening statement delivered by Anita Hill on that October 11, 1991.
Methinks the apology needs to go in the opposite direction. But in Jabberwocky, that just ain't gonna happen.