Nearly 20 years an African American woman spoke the truth in front of a bunch of white men with real, political power. I had never seen the hearings myself, having been too young to be considering either politics or my place in the workforce. I know, of course, what the general take from it was. I suppose that depends a little on your political bent as well. After reading how Clarence Thomas' wife left a phone message at Professor Hill's workplace asking her to "apologize" I decided to look into it a little more.
Back in 1991 you couldn't slip back into historical congressional testimony with a few clicks of the mouse, but now thanks to modern technology I can access a few snippets rolling around on YouTube. I am incredibly impressed with her poise in the interviews. She describes herself as being 24 at the time of the harassment. What a tender age for a young woman trying to find her way in a man's world, law. I'd like to think law is a little better now, but was surprised to see from the National Association of Women Lawyers that even though women have been entering law firms in near equal numbers to men (48%) for the last two decades, they do not move up at the same rate as men. The percentages of women at higher levels in law firms gets much lower very quickly, both from women not advancing and from women leaving law firms. A quick google search shows there's even more complaints that women's pay in law might not be keeping up with men either.
So I wasn't in the workplace in 1991 and can't compare. It was a nostalgia trip to see a young (and still weak and incompetent) Joe Biden as well as a younger Ted Kennedy, both allowing Arlen Spector to rant on (now there's someone who should apologize) while a confident, youngish African American woman kept full composure. If she was lying, why not make the complaints something The Menz could understand? A man trying to make excuses can see "So I was watching this porno last night, and I thought of you, and here's what they did..." as just idle talk. People who have experienced sexual harassment or bullying know it's never in a quotable obvious form. It never comes perfectly packaged with a bow on top that will help your HR department can that idiot. If it had been made up, it would have made better headlines. The truth isn't always pretty and hard to digest. But she was there, and still is. Being a strong, intelligent woman. I'd like to think little girls in 1991 saw her calm and poised testimony and could ignore the babbling talking heads just long enough to think maybe they could grow up to be like her. I know the workplace was changed from that moment on. Yes it's not perfect and still a work in progress. But it was a monumental step forward, on one woman's shoulders.