One of the first faces of sexual harassment in the workplace (you’re welcome, white women), Anita Hill, now a professor of social policy, law and women’s studies at Brandeis University, has spoken out in light of this week’s unfolding Harvey Weinstein scandal, wherein dozens of women have come forward to say that the 65-year-old former studio head sexually harassed or raped them over the course of more than 25 years.
In an op-ed for the New York Daily News, Hill, who testified before Congress at Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court nomination in 1991, basically took the tact of Slick Rick in “La Di Da Di”: This type of shit happens every day.
Hill writes: “This is really the story of everyday women. The lessons we learn from this—through the lens of an industry that craves publicity but loathes transparency—can and must be applied more broadly throughout American society.”
She then calls out the entertainment industry itself, which she says “packages and profits off of female sexuality and limits women’s opportunities to direct and produce content.”
Hill continues, also implicating the tech industry, which has seen its fair share of discrimination and egregious sexual harassment claims, and then, unfortunately, all aspects of American society.
She says that since 1991, when she testified during Thomas’ confirmation hearing, she regularly hears from individuals who have tried to stop the abuse but that “secret settlements,” condoned by boards and others, allow the injustice to continue:
Some of those women worked for charities, politicians, religious organizations, businesses and schools that appear to promote equity and fairness. Yet in far too many cases, institutions actively fight substantiated sexual harassment and assault claims, provide cover for abusers and in some cases offer responses that blame the persons raising the claims—often in the name of protecting the institution’s brand.
Many have pointed out the fact that secret settlements, which required Weinstein accusers to keep quiet, effectively exposed more women to his lascivious and sometimes criminal behavior over the years. Indeed, Weinstein’s corporate board seemed to fail utterly in its oversight on matters of sexual misconduct. They tolerated and sought to manage the problem, rather than seek to put a stop to it.
Companies founded and led by powerful men often effectively put chronic sexual harassment by men in a separate basket, as though it was a “personal problem” rather than a serious business one.
Hill posits that we as a society are in a “critical moment,” and the way forward is with public and private institutions diversifying leadership, “and finally giv[ing] more real power to those who have experienced inequality firsthand in order to stop devaluing women.”
“It has been 26 years since a public conversation on sexual harassment began following my testimony,” Hill writes. “Despite a generation growing up hearing that sexual harassment is unacceptable, it clearly remains a plague.”
Read more at the New York Daily News.