How Anita Hill betrayed feminism

Yesterday, I discussed how feminists betrayed feminism by defending Bill Clinton against credible and, in one notorious case admitted, allegations of serious sexual misconduct. These allegations were made just a few years after the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill controversy had put the issue of sexual harassment front-and-center in the nation’s consciousness. Feminists (except those who knew Thomas personally) believed Hill’s claims. And they argued (just as they do today) that, ordinarily, female accusers should be believed.

But when Bill Clinton became the subject of serious sexual harassment allegations, feminists refused to credit the claims or, when forced to do so, discounted them as irrelevant. They also attacked the accusers. Consequently, the heightened consciousness of the problem of sexual harassment that existed following the Thomas-Hill hearings subsided after Clinton’s presidency.

Even leftists now acknowledge this. For example, Matthew Yglesias says he “wonder[s] how much healthier a place we’d be in as a society today if Bill Clinton had resigned in shame back in 1998.” But given the wholehearted defense he received from feminists, Clinton was under no serious pressure to resign.

In this post, I want to focus on one of the feminists who defended President Clinton. That feminist is Anita Hill.

Hill helped lead the feminist charge to defend Bill Clinton and preserve his presidency. On March 22, 1998, she appeared on “Meet the Press.” Tim Russert asked her about Gloria Steinem’s defense of President Clinton against the allegations of Paula Jones. Steinem had said:

The truth is that even if the allegations are true, the President is not guilty of sexual harassment. He is accused of making a gross, dumb, and reckless pass at a supporter during a low point in her life.

She pushed him away, she said, and it never happened again. In other words, President Clinton took “no” for an answer. [Note: though only after exposing himself to Jones]

Hill responded that women should focus on the “bigger issues” before casting judgment on Clinton for sexual harassment allegations:

I think what Ms. Steinem also says that we have to look at the totality of the presidency and how has he been on women’s issues generally? Is he our best bet, not withstanding some behavior that we might dislike, and I don’t think that most women have come to the point where we have said, ‘Well, this is so bad that even if he is better on the bigger issues, we can’t have him as President.

Watch her give this answer:

Russert then asked Hill whether there is a “double standard for a liberal as opposed to a conservative” who are accused of sexual misconduct. Hill admitted there is. She said:

Well, I think it is a reality that we have to live with. We live in a political world and the reality is that we want—there are larger issues, larger issues other than just individual behavior [note: i.e., larger than sexual harassment].

Sexual harassment allegations, then, are a means to an ends — the end being political power. Did considerations of political power motivate Hill’s accusations against Clarence Thomas when he was about to be confirmed for a place on the U.S. Supreme Court?

Later, in the show, Hill defended Clinton against Paula Jones’ allegations this way:

Paula Jones’ case is peculiar in a number of ways. . . . one of the things that seems to be missing from what I’ve read about the case is the discrimination element. . . . . I have a hard time finding any adverse ramifications for her, in terms of her employment based on the alleged incident in the hotel room.

Here, Hill displays not just her willingness to sell-out feminism, but also her staggering ignorance of sexual harassment law (this from a law professor and former EEOC lawyer). Hill seems to have no problem with a governor propositioning a female state employee, and whipping out his penis, as long as the female doesn’t suffer adverse employment consequences.

As everyone dimly conversant with sexual harassment law (not to mention basic decency) knows, there is a “discrimination element” when an employee is subjected to a sexually hostile work environment, regardless of whether the employee experiences adverse employment consequences. To say that Slick Willie Clinton made Paula Jones’ work environment hostile is an understatement.

Clinton and his lawyers knew this. That’s why the president paid Paula Jones nearly one million dollars to settle her sex discrimination claim.

Hill’s statement is all the more staggering because she never experienced adverse employment consequences due to Clarence Thomas’ alleged sex-related comments to her. This didn’t stop her accusing him, many years after the fact, of sexually harassing her.

Hill’s willingness to apologize for gross sexual misconduct didn’t end with the Paula Jones case. When it came to Monica Lewinsky, Hill tried to play down the scandal as “an office affair.” In a New York Times op-ed, Hill claimed that even comparing the allegations against Clinton to those against Clarence Thomas (or former Senator Bob Packwood) was “at best misguided, and at worst dangerous.”

The substance of sex-related accusations against President Clinton differs dramatically from those raised against Justice Thomas or Mr. Packwood. . .In the case of Mr. Packwood and Mr. Thomas, the accusations involved sexual harassment. To equate those allegations with an office affair is to trivialize issues of sexual predation that women face in the workplace and on the street. Nor are the situations morally equivalent.

Readers can decide which is more “predatory” — talking about pornography with a subordinate (Hill’s core allegation, never corroborated, against Thomas) or receiving oral sex from a 22 year-old intern.

Hill seems to have rethought her pitiful defense of Clinton’s behavior towards Lewinsky. Last year, she told Time Magazine:

Even if [the oral sex Clinton received from Lewinsky] was consensual, that power imbalance was damaging. . .And that to me was one of the issues we miss when we say it’s two people with a power imbalance, but it was consensual. I’m not willing to let it go at that.

(Emphasis added)

But she was when it counted — back when Clinton was in the dock.

There’s talk these days about a “reckoning for Bill Clinton.” We also need a reckoning for Anita Hill.

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