By Daphne DuMaurier
In the midst of the Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey-Ford trial, we reflect back on the lifelong struggle women have had in facing and convicting their abusers. We reflect on all that has changed in the last 2 years since #MeToo has emerged as a public forum for victims to speak their mind and tell their stories. One story now on everyone’s mind is not one from this time of support and community for victims but from a time of judgment and fear. This story is of Anita Hill.
It was 1991, and democratic Justice Thurgood Marshall had just announced his retirement, and the courts were looking for a nomination from then-President George Bush Sr. The Republican party saw this as an opportunity to increase their influence in the courts by nominating a conservative. Clarence Thomas was their man. He represented the values of the Republican party, showed a partisan right-leaning mentality, and possessed the minority representation that would be lost with Justice Marshall. He was perfect… until he wasn’t.
At the time Anita Hill, a law professor at the University of Oklahoma, came forward to speak in front of the Supreme Court of her experience under Thomas during his time at the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. In her accounts, Hill recalled times of sexual harassment including discussions of sexual acts, pornographic materials, and repeated advances for a relationship.
The response was astounding. Thomas responded with vigorous protest and allegations of racist stereotyping. The court, of all white males, responded with accusations of perjury on behalf of Ms. Hill, suggesting the sexual harassment was on her part towards Thomas and not the other way around. In the end, Clarence Thomas won the nomination and is currently sitting among the members of the court presiding over the Kavanaugh-Blasey case.
At the time, this type of response was common. People like Anita Hill did not have the kind of support and resources the internet lends to those of the current generations. Despite this, rallies formed in support of Ms. Hill and women across the country became more politically active than ever. The following year, dubbed the Year of the Woman, saw the highest outpour of women running for political office.
It is in this time of great political and social divide among men and women, republicans and democrats, that we remember this trial. It is the only precedent yet does not reflect the pressure faced today by the Supreme Court. Then, this case did not have the whole internet sitting in the courtroom analyzing their every word, move, and action. Today, the Kavanaugh-Blasey case will reverberate throughout the world as a representation of what we stand for as a county. With all eyes watching, the Supreme Court faces a double-edged sword; damned if you do, damned if you don’t.