My colleagues and friends are all calling, Twitting, Facebooking, emailing and or blogging about Virginia (Ginni) Thomas's phone call to Anita Hill requesting an apology for the wrong done to her husband, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. From the tone of the conversations, they are pissed. Many are old enough to have been adult professionals when they witnessed Judge Thomas's confirmation hearings. They recalled how Anita Hill was portrayed as a 'woman scorned' and Thomas as a maligned black man experiencing a 'high tech lynching' (his words). Most didn't see it that way. What my friends recall is the pain on Hill's face as she was asked humiliating questions and her personal and professional ethics were questioned. They also feared that if a sharp, beautiful ‘sista' like Hill could get her butt kicked like this, what about the rest of us? Folks seem to have forgotten that Hill was subpoenaed to testify and she easily passed a lie detector test that supported the truthfulness of her testimony. As we look back at the television drama one might ask why someone with Hill's credentials would want to go through the Hell that was the confirmation hearing simply to get back at an alleged.
Many of us who are focused on this topic have also experienced sexual harassment at work. Recollections have been replete with immature sexual innuendo, laser stares at our body parts, and inappropriate emails or jokes that just had to be shared. One colleague stated that she went on a call to see a supplier and her contact whipped out a porno magazine to get the conversation going. In the early 90's my administrative assistant had her tights ripped off her legs by one of my male managers because he tired of her wearing ragged hose. When I came back to work and found out what happened (he was smart enough to subject this young girl to this behavior when I was out of the country) and I aggressively stood up for her, I was shunned for a month. I could go on but we all have heard these stories a thousand times and many of you were on the receiving end of this ridiculous behavior. It was with this perspective that we witnessed Thomas's righteous indignation at the confirmation hearings and his cries of racism. I wanted to believe that a guy that had risen to this level wasn't as sophomoric in his behaviors as it appeared but alas, the more I heard the more I believed that he did it. This man, who claimed he had arrived by pulling up on his own bootstraps and that race wasn't much of a factor in his success, suddenly became very African-American and incredibly indignant.
What has been interesting in the responses I've read or received is that many of these women are sharing their stories for the first time. Bolstered by age, a healthy increase in self-confidence, and simmering anger, they are telling their stories and daring anyone to question their validity. Many of these polite professionals are envisioning Ginni receiving an ‘old fashioned beat down' and they hurt for Hill because she is again being dragged into the bright and fickle lights of the media. Some have stated that they are revealing their stories because they don't ever want to see another young woman question her right to defend herself against sexist or racists' attacks.
We all agree on one thing. We want this controversy to settle down quickly. We are acknowledging that this incident has provided an opportunity for long held hurts to be addressed and that by sharing these, wounds are beginning to heal. None of us wanted to hear from the 'prayerful' Ginni Thomas as she offered her olive branch to Hill. There has been an opportunity however, to generate funny, insightful, painful, and instructive conversation on this subject that may provide solace and guidance to someone going through their own crazy situation. I hope these conversations continue as the image of Ginni Thomas fades to black.