It was the testimony heard ’round the world: Anita Hill sitting before the all-white, all-male Senate Judiciary Committee, clad in a turquoise suit, appearing as prey in a den of lions, hurling sexual harassment accusations against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991.
The hearing shaped America into a social breeding ground for conversations about race, politics, and sexism, cementing into our collective memory the unnerving testimony referencing penis size, pubic hair and pornographic film star known as Long Dong Silver – undoubtedly pushing the envelope on taboo discourse.
America was divided on the issue, some believing Hill, while condemning Thomas; and others thinking Hill had fabricated the story for her own career gain.
Nearly 23 years later a documentary has been produced by Oscar-winning director Freida Mock, titled, “Anita: Speaking Truth to Power,” which opens in New York and Los Angeles today.
The documentary details the accounts of the trial as well as the aftermath, which left Hill, an attorney and law professor, heavily threatened and socially outcast for years after.
“Republicans tried to get the school to fire me, even though I was tenured. I was threatened with just about everything – death, sexual violence,” she says.
During the hearings, Hill was made to repeatedly recount humiliating details of the exchange between her and Thomas, her former boss.
The trial was a media spectacle that on one hand, painted Hill as a Black woman using her voice to interrupt the successes of another marginalized voice in politics – the Black man, and on another slightly visible hand, painted her as a hero who set a precedent for women in professional America.
Hill, now a professor of social policy, law and women’s studies at Brandeis University, contends that the truth she shared that day while sitting before the senate, considerably poised, was her way of using her voice for truth and empowering other women to “find their voices.”
This film addresses the historical silence or absence of the Black woman’s voice in politics. It provides an account for how one woman overcame the historical muffling; speaking out so loudly that the world listened.
“Anita” comes at a time when a show like “Scandal” can be better contextualized. When pitting the real life story of Mrs. Hill against that of Olivia Pope, one might find some interesting parallels that could deepen the conversation of how Black women are presented on varying levels of society.