I watched some of Anita Hill’s 1991 testimony before the Senate at the confirmation hearings for U. S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. I asked myself if any woman would put herself through that horrible ordeal, if she were not telling the truth. I admired her courage, even as I believed that nothing she said would change the outcome, for while sexual harassment was the new buzzword, the behaviors of powerful men towards the women who worked with them was as old as prostitution.
Being disrespected and made to feel that we were not men’s equals in the workplace was part and parcel for women working outside the home. There were ample experiences by every woman. Some women kept quiet, but nearly all of us had been, at some time or another, the target of unwanted and emotionally painful attentions by someone who had the power to fire us. I would imagine that a mass of women have endured stress and anxiety over the loss of jobs, especially single women with children.
For me, it was during a work evaluation, and I was not worried because my supervisor was known as a preacher and he was married. The conference started out well, for he had given me great scores on every criteria listed for receiving a promotion or a raise in salary. Then, at the end of the conference, he looked at me asked, “Are you a Christian?” I responded that I was. Then, with he smirk and a wink, he said,”I love good, Christian women!”
At first, I was confused, wondering if he meant that he liked working with good, Christian women, as we were talking about my job performance, never thinking that he was trying to make a pass. Then, he started on how far I could go, insinuating what it would be like in a relationship with him, smiling and staring at me. He looked at me like I was a piece of meat and he was a wolf that had been starving for a while.
I didn’t know what to say, but I did not need a mentor to know that what he had done was not proper behavior for a supervisor, a married man, and certainly not a man of God. But, I simply thanked him for the evaluation, and got up and went back to my seat.
I was smart enough to know that if I told anyone, it was his word against mine, and I would have lost my job with five children depending on me. It was after he was fired for the sexual harassment of another woman colleague, one who taped him, that nearly everyone of the women in my unit started talking about his behaviors towards them.
In the case of Kavanaugh, it is an accusation of attempted sexual assault, and again a woman is willing to put herself and her reputation on the line to try to prevent someone she sees as morally destitute from becoming a Supreme Court Justice. I tremble to think of what she may endure, as some of the same senators that denigrated and humiliated Anita Hill with their questions and insinuations on her looks will once again be doing the questioning, a sure sign for congressional term limits.
Similar to when Anita Hill testified, there are women who support this nominee, who, in effect, are calling into question the veracity of another female. Sixty-five women have supposedly written a letter of support for U. S. Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, but there are also women from the high school where Judge Kavanaugh and his accuser went to school who have written supporting letters for the woman. So, once again we are at an impasse.
I am not saying that Judge Kavanaugh is guilty, for only the people present that night knows what really happened. I don’t know what the outcome will be, but I hope that Christine Blasey Ford will be treated with the dignity and respect that was not afforded to Anita Hill. It is my sincere wish that she will be heard and that she will not be subjected to the character assassination that previous women who accused powerful men of sexual misconduct have had to endure from other powerful men.
We are on the twilight of a day when truth does not matter, when lies are acceptable, if it means that people get to have their ideological policies passed. We are seeing a replay of the days when lies were wanted, and the truth was inconvenient, a situation that led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of God’s people.
Isaiah 30:10 states, “They tell the seers, “Stop seeing visions!” They tell the prophets, “Don’t tell us what is right. Tell us nice things. Tell us lies.” When members of a society want to hear lies over the truth, democracy is doomed in such a way that it would take centuries to fix the damage. I hope Monday is not the beginning of a slide toward anything is acceptable, even lies.