Anita Hill: From Social Movement to Social Impact
Iowa Memorial Union — Thursday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m.
The University of Iowa Lecture Committee’s first event of 2020 will bring an American icon to Iowa City. On Jan. 23, Anita Hill will present a talk titled “From Social Movement to Social Impact: Putting an End to Sexual Harassment” at the Iowa Memorial Union. The event is free and open to the public.
Hill grew up in rural Oklahoma, the youngest of 13 children. She attended Oklahoma State University and Yale Law School, and began her law career in Washington D.C. in 1980. She worked with Clarence Thomas from 1981 to ’83, first as his attorney-adviser in the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, then as his assistant in the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). She went on to teach at both private and public law schools in Oklahoma.
Hill rose to national prominence in October 1991, when she testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, alleging that Thomas, who had been nominated to the Supreme Court by President George H.W. Bush, had sexually harassed her during her years working under him. Thomas vehemently denied the claims, calling them a “high-tech lynching”; Hill’s character was attacked by many prominent conservatives and dismissed as hearsay. Other women were reportedly willing to testify to Hill’s credibility, but were not called by the committee chair, then-Sen. Joe Biden. Thomas was ultimately confirmed, and remains a Supreme Court justice.
Despite the controversy generated by Hill’s testimony — Hill was even pushed out of her teaching position at the University of Oklahoma Law School — public opinion of Hill has improved in the years and decades since. She is credited with bringing greater awareness to issues of sexual harassment and gender equity in the workplace, and laying the early groundwork for the #MeToo movement. Hill has published two books, is an outspoken feminist and advocates for better representation for women in the court system. When history seemed to repeat itself in 2018 during Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation process, Hill voiced her support of Christine Blasey Ford, who testified that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers.
Since announcing his bid for president, Joe Biden reportedly called Hill to express “his regret for what she endured” during the Thomas confirmation hearings, to which Hill responded that “I’m sorry” is not enough. However, she said she’s still open to voting for Biden in the 2020 election, if he is nominated.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of what he could say,” Hill told NBC News in June. “For me it’s a matter of what we want all of our leaders to say; that is, after almost three decades now of having discovered the problem of sexual harassment, more people understanding it is a serious problem and so prevalent. I really want our leaders to stand up and say what happened in 1991 will never happen again.”
While Hill’s Iowa City lecture is free, space is limited, so members of the public wanting to ensure a seat in the audience are encouraged to come early. The event is expected to run from 7 to 8:30 p.m.; doors will open at 6 p.m. for UI students, staff and faculty, and 6:15 for the general public.