Feminism | Posted by Julie Z on 10/10/2011

Sexual Harassment and the Legacy of Anita Hill: Where Are We Now

Anita Hill

Anita Hill

This Saturday (October 15th) I will be speaking at the conference “Sex, Power and Speaking Truth: Anita Hill 20 Years Later”. I’m going to be representing our generation and speaking about our relationship with sexual harassment, exploring concepts such as how our generation feels about sexual harassment, whether or not we feel it’s a relevant issue, how technological advancements play a role in sexual harassment, etc.

Now, I’ve  thought a lot about this and formed my own opinions on this matter, which I’ll share at the conference (and will probably post a video of at a later date), but I want to take this opportunity to open this topic up completely to the FBomb community. My opinion on this topic is just one tiny window into what our generation thinks of sexual harassment and I want to be able to represent all of us – our opinions, beliefs and experiences – the best I can. I think it’s especially important to get this right since people are actually going to be paying attention to this conference, and opportunities like that don’t come up very often. So, I’d like to start a conversation in the comments section about this topic.

Here are some questions to get this started:

Do you think sexual harassment is still a problem for our generation? Why or why not?

Do you have any personal stories of sexual harassment that you’d like to share (and you can obviously do so anonymously). How did you react? Did you tell anybody? If so, did they do anything about it?

Do you know who Anita Hill is and/or are you aware of the history of the Anita Hill / Clarence Thomas trial? If so, what do you think about it?

How do you think technological advances have affected sexual harassment? Has it gotten worse because of technology?

Please feel free to share any other comments, opinions stories regarding sexual harassment (even if you think they don’t fit into one of the questions/categories above). Also, if you don’t want to share your thoughts publicly, feel free to email me at juliez@thefbomb.org (and seriously, PLEASE do).

So without further ado, let the conversation begin!

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  • Eliana @ at 11:37 am, October 10th, 2011

    I think sexual harassment it still a problem, because it still happens. Also, you can’t watch TV without seeing main characters sexually harassing women.

    When I was 12, I was at a swimming lesson and this boy (also 12) pulled my swimsuit strap off my shoulder…I tried to stay underwater and away from him as much as I could for the rest of the lesson…I told my mom later but it was too late to do anything. Now when I see him in the halls at school I have the urge to punch him.

    I do know about the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas trial and I think that Anita Hill is a really brave person for telling about her experiences, and I wish people would have listened to her.

    IMO, technology has affected sexual harassment in that it has provided anonymity more easily, but other than that it’s just a new method of communication, and any form of communication can be used for sexual harassment; the real problem is not the technology but the harassers.

  • Kristin @ at 1:10 pm, October 10th, 2011

    I definitely think it is still an issue for our generation.

    When I first finished college I joined Americorps and worked in Maryland. My office used to be a bank so it had a gate you could pull down in the front. Almost daily male staff members would come and pull the gate down and joke about me being in a cage/dancing in a cage – generally being available for men to look at while I work. At first I tried to laugh it off and ignore it, but it really started to affect how I felt about my job. I wondered particularly about my value as an employee and I questioned the way my coworkers saw me.

    A more clear example, but from college.

    In college I had a great mentor. We talked a lot about society, ideas, my future… I really felt as if he saw me as someone with promise, intelligence and ability. After I graduated he attended a conference in the town which I had moved to. While in town he invited me to stay with him in his hotel (which only had one bed). I declined but we still met for dinner (which had been the original plan). He spent the entire night making me feel guilty about refusing to spend the night with him. It completely undermined what I had thought was a strong mentorship. It caused me to question my value as an intelligent person and made me think that our relationship had not been about ideas and promise but instead had been about his attraction to me. I was pretty devastated.

    I have many more examples, but these are two to demonstrate the continuing presence of sexual harassment in the workplace. Just wait till I start talking about what happens when I play sports!

  • Emma E @ at 3:26 pm, October 10th, 2011

    Sometimes, when I walk down the street and I see a couple teenage guys, I kind of freak out, like ‘Are they gonna say something to me?’ Sometimes I want to scream, ‘I’m somebody’s kid, somebody’s sister, somebody’s friend. Stop looking at me like I’m nothing!’ (Yes, those exact words. I can be a bit melodramatic.) Sometimes, actually, my hatred of the fact that losers feel like they can comment on a random girl’s attractiveness actually makes me cry. It just SUCKS, period, and it’s only entitled idiots who do it, and it frustrates me beyond belief.

  • Talia bat Pessi @ at 4:27 pm, October 10th, 2011

    Sexual harassment is still an issue nowadays. Happens all the time. Thank God I’ve never had to deal with it, but it freaks my mom out when these 40-year-old guys pass me on the street and look me up and down – like, ew…

    I always knew about the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas trial, I never really had an opinion on it. Just kind of the way I knew that George Washington was the first president, I didn’t really care one way or another. As I’ve become more feminist conscious it’s clear that it was a travesty of justice that he was appointed anyway. I find it interesting that NOW pretty much barred Harrold Carswell from being appointed to the Supreme Court, but Anita Hill couldn’t stop Clarence Thomas. Power in numbers? Who knows.

    I’m very irritated about this conference, though – I’m absolutely dying to go, since I live really close and most of my feminist idols will be there, but since I observe the Sabbath, I can’t. Grrr. Have fun though!

  • Justin @ at 9:48 pm, October 10th, 2011

    Being a college student, there is no doubt I agree that sexual harassment still exists. I have unfortunately seen it happen and have also heard of different scenarios as well. It is a very serious problem in our generation and I think it has a lot to do with the power of technology.

    An example that I can think off the top of my head actually occurred while in college. I invited my sister up to school to visit and see if she liked the university and guys were trying to get her number and eyeing her down. She was a junior at the time so it was really creepy to her but my reaction was first to step in since she didn’t need to be put in that position. My friends were next to me and also told them to leave her alone, but its really unfortunate that guys have to act this way. I can only hope if they had known she was a 17 year old, they would of never of came up to her in the first place.

    I have heard a few of Anita Hill’s conferences through the Internet and I respect her views especially on this issue. It needs to stop!

  • Kristen A @ at 12:33 am, October 11th, 2011

    Sexual harassment is absolutely still a problem. I find it disgusting that I can walk down the street minding my own business, often with headphones on, and people (read: hetero men of all ages/ethnicities/statuses) think it is acceptable and appropriate behavior to ask me my name, phone number, ethnicity, where I’m going, how I’m doing, call me babe/baby/girl and when I am offended by their impoliteness and inappropriateness MY reaction is shamed. That when a complete stranger old enough to be my father waves his hand in my face while I’m wearing headphones to “say hello” then sexualizes me and I proceed to call him rude and inappropriate and have the officer in the apple store ask him to leave, that same stranger calls ME crazy and a bitch.

    I have every right to be able to walk down the street without being made to feel uncomfortable because of leering eyes or disgusting comments. Even when I’m out with my boyfriend I have to deal with this sort of behavior. Once when we were sitting at an outdoor table at a restaurant a man actually stopped to ask Mark if I was his girlfriend and if not could he have my phone number because I could do better. What??

    We won’t even get started on what happens to me with customers at my bar job…all I can say is thank goodness for my coworkers and my manager!

  • Polly @ at 5:53 pm, October 12th, 2011

    I wish I could say that sexual harassment isn’t a problem, but it still is. I live in England and it goes without saying that you will get called names by men when you walk down the street in certain areas (I’ve even had this when I’m wearing jeans and a jacket, so nothing is on show for them). A couple of times I’ve been harassed on the bus or on the Underground (Metro) by men rubbing themselves against me and thinking I won’t notice or be able to move away if it’s a crowded area.
    Men definitely feel that they can approach you, touch you or make a comment, even though they have no right – and this is in 2011.

  • Saige @ at 11:33 pm, October 15th, 2011

    Sexual Harassment and technology:

    Naked Body Scanners.
    Purchasing an airline ticket does not mean that some anonymous stranger gets to see you naked… unless you live in the U.S.

    Technology has brought corporate rape to life.

  • Carlos Fernandez @ at 12:33 am, October 16th, 2011

    I saw your excellent speech at the Anita Hill event at Hunter College.

    First, of course sexual harassment is still a problem. That’s too easy of a question. The harder question is if sexual harassment is treated seriously (or more seriously) in the workplace, school and community you live in. I believe it is though more work still needs to be done. The fact women have a lot less fear of being stigmatized for coming out about a sexual act done against them, against their will or without their consent is a major victory. The work now is to educate both genders on what it means to sexually harass another person (and personally, guys coming up to you and asking for your number or trying to get a date is not harassment). As well, there really needs to be a dialogue and discussions on how both genders view women. I’ve been amazed of how lowly many of my male friends think of women. I still could not determine how or why they came upon these viewpoints. And these are guys who went to good universities (Cornell, UCLA, NYU, etc).

    One other thing. The treatment of women in the Western countries (USA, Europe, Australia, etc) is much better than in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. More work needs to be done to empower those women. Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times has had many excellent op-ed pieces on these issues. The sex slave/trafficking business in particular is the most disturbing thing for me.

    Sorry, I have no personal stories to share. I do know of female friends who have told me stories of being harassed and feeling sexualized in the workplace or in the train or in other places (especially the gym).

    I do know who Anita Hill is, especially after she got a call from Clarence Thomas’ wife to apologize for what she did to her husband. But I never looked into the details. So I don’t really have much to say about this. The event tonight was a great education on the importance of what she did and how much it contributed to this important issue.

    Technological advances has made things much better. Just the fact you have this blog and others can talk about their experiences or provide their insight is huge. Previously, you needed to have a national newspaper column or be on TV to reach a wide audience. Not anymore. As well, remember, the women’s suffrage movement took over 70 years before they finally got the right to vote. Gay marriage and equality has also taken a long time (30-40 years at least). Change usually doesn’t happen quickly (without a revolution).

  • Lina @ at 1:41 am, October 16th, 2011

    Julie, I watched the conference on CNN earlier today. I had never heard of fbomb until today. I am 47 years old…mother of 6, 3 girls, 3 boys. I have experieced sexual abuse by a male “friend” in high school, sexual harassment at work and survived a domestically violent relationship. I now volunteer at my local dv shelter and facilitate our support group. I have had wonderful mentors in my life and espire to be the same for the young women who come into my life now.

    I may not know you personally, but I am soooooooooooo proud of you! Your wisdom, courage and compassion are inspiring. You understand and express the ideas I am trying to teach my youngest daughter now. I am so afraid for the future of our young people, especially the girls/women. Yet, you give me hope. I am amazed that someone so young is as informed, articulate and confident in herself as you. Please, never stop….you are the Gloria Steinem (sp?) and Anita Hill for your generation.

  • Matt SS @ at 11:11 pm, October 17th, 2011

    Well, technically, 17 is legal in many states, and way above legal in other countries. Pretty much all the guys I know who are 22-14 would not think it was weird to date a 17 year old, and most girls as well. I know a few hipster girls who date guys much older than them, like they are 17-19 and dudes are 25-30.
    I do think it is rude to ask a girl you don’t know for her number, be conspicuous in looking at her body and such if she is not in a bar/club, or some other place where people go to look for that kind of thing. Probably the only way that we can reduce this sort of behavior is to have parents condition their children not to behave that way. I doubt you could do a school type program for it, it would likely backfire.

  • Herb Silverberg @ at 3:28 am, October 19th, 2011

    Julie,

    This 73-y/o discrimination/civil rights lawyer was moved beyond words by your speech. I would be proud to adopt you as my granddaughter and claim all the credit for how you’ve turned out! Keep the faith, stay on this path, continue sharing your wisdom and inspiration with all of us. And do post a video of your speech.

  • The Anita Hill 20: Sexual Harassment and Teens | fbomb @ at 11:01 am, December 5th, 2011

    [...] but also probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever had the opportunity to do. Using your feedback about sexual harassment and my own observations, I pulled together a speech that I thought reflected our generation’s [...]

  • Lauren @ at 1:20 pm, October 7th, 2012

    I thought the whole thing was a JOKE not to mention phony and racist! Please those SAME women slobbering over Anita were rushing to tear down Paula Jones after she accused thier golden boy Clinton of the same exact thing. The feminazis have not only proved they are racists but hypocrite oens as well. And where was the outrage for Tailhook or Bob Packwood?!! The feminuts have shown they only care about black women when it suits them namely when they can go on a high-tech lynching.

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