Law professor Anita Hill, who called attention to sexual harassment when she testified against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, has published an opinion piece in The New York Times saying that the #MeToo movement to fight back against sexual violence and harassment could have launched almost 30 years ago.
Hill, today a law professor at Brandeis University, wrote that it is no surprise that discussion has emerged anew over the Thomas hearings given the launch of #MeToo and the White House candidacy of Joe Biden, then a Democratic U.S. senator representing Delaware and head of the Senate Judiciary Committee. She says that if Biden and the government worked back then the way it should have, more attention would have been called to sexual harassment and assault.
“If the Senate Judiciary Committee, then led by Mr. Biden, had done its job and held a hearing that showed its members understood the seriousness of sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence, the cultural shift we saw in 2017 after #MeToo might have began in 1991 — with the support of the government,” Hill wrote.
“If the government had shown that it would treat survivors with dignity and listen to women, it could have had a ripple effect,” she continued. “People agitating for change would have been operating from a position of strength. It could have given institutions like the military, the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission greater license to take more decisive action to end the scourge of harassment. And research shows that if leaders convey that they won’t tolerate harassment, people within an organization typically obey.”
As a candidate for the presidency and, before his April 25 campaign announcement, as an expected candidate, Biden had come under increased scrutiny and recently apologized and promised to check his behavior after criticisms from some women that he was too touchy with them.
Biden also telephoned Hill last month to apologize for the outcome of the hearings, which took on an aggressive tone toward Hill, who has historically been hailed for holding her ground and her composure. During the hearings, Hill outlined a pattern of alleged inappropriate and sexually suggestive comments and behavior on the part of Thomas toward her.
But in her opinion piece, Hill said Biden’s call left her feeling more is needed.
“Sexual violence is a national crisis that requires a national solution,” Hill wrote. “We miss that point if we end the discussion at whether I should forgive Mr. Biden.”
The former vice president had not commented as of late Friday morning on the Times piece.