Hill and Lewinsky – modern day heroes

Navigation in modern day society isn’t easy. We are all still learning as we go along, which isn’t a bad thing. This learning should never be defensive, but more of a continual understanding of people. All people.

As far as genetic lotteries go, I think I did fairly well. Am I overweight? Sure. Am I balding? You bet. But balding and overweight beats out gender and racial discrimination by a large margin. I’m still capable of getting away with for more and will be given more opportunities, than any ethnic minority or woman simply because I’m a white male. I have obviously acknowledged this fact, and I consciously try to level the playing field whenever possible. I may not be perfect at it. I’ve caught myself ‘mansplaining’ things a few times. But like many, at least I’m trying because at the end of the day, I want to be better. We can all be better. We can all do better.

Between the #MeToo movement, the axe finally coming down on R. Kelly, and from unfortunate tales from people who are close to me, although it was still apparent there was a problem, what progress I thought we had made as a society still is such a long distance to go before equality can actually be a thing. Sometimes it feels like an idea that seems almost out of reach.

I was following down the YouTube rabbit hole today and found John Oliver videos about workplace sexual harassment, and public shaming. Two things that, in my personal opinion, are both still way out of hand. Within these two videos are, who I have come believe, are heroes. First we have Anita Hill. For those who may be unfamiliar, Anita Hill testified before congress against the supreme court nomination of Clarence Thomas on claims of sexual harassment (it seems that history has repeated itself). From Wikipedia:

In 1991, President George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas, a federal Circuit Judge, to succeed retiring Associate Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Senate hearings on his confirmation were initially completed with Thomas’s good character being presented as a primary qualification for the high court because he had only been a judge for slightly more than one year. There had been little organized opposition to Thomas’ nomination, and his confirmation seemed assured until a report of a private interview of Hill by the FBI was leaked to the press. The hearings were then reopened, and Hill was called to publicly testify. Hill said on 11 October 1991 in televised hearings that Thomas had sexually harassed her while he was her supervisor at the Department of Education and the EEOC. When questioned on why she followed Thomas to the second job after he had already allegedly harassed her, she said working in a reputable position within the civil rights field had been her ambition. The position was appealing enough to inhibit her from going back into private practice with her previous firm. She said that she only realized later in her life that this ambitious venture was a poor judgment and also explained that “at that time, it appeared that the sexual overtures … had ended.”
According to Hill, Thomas asked her out socially many times during her two years of employment as his assistant, and, after she declined his requests, he used work situations to discuss sexual subjects. “He spoke about … such matters as women having sex with animals and films showing group sex or rape scenes,” she said, adding that on several occasions Thomas graphically described “his own sexual prowess” and the details of his anatomy. Hill also recounted an instance in which Thomas examined a can of Coke on his desk and asked, “Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?” During the hearing, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch implied that “Hill was working in tandem with ‘slick lawyers’ and interest groups bent on destroying Thomas’ chances to join the court.”


So here you have not only a woman, but a woman of colour, speaking out against a reputable white guy in a high position for sexual harassment… in 1991. During this period, and afterwards, Hill’s integrity was continually attacked as if she had done something wrong. She never caved. She still speaks out and continues to try and push equality forward for women everywhere.

I remember during the Clinton years, the myriad of jokes that were made in regards to the Monica Lewinsky affair. Cracks about her weight, her promiscuity, as though getting caught was completely her fault. She was shamed, and has been shamed, for years. A 22-year old who made a mistake. Meanwhile, Bill Clinton was quickly pardoned for his sins, and is still highly revered among democrats. Fast forward nearly three decades, and Lewinsky has gotten past the media and public scrutiny and fights for unjust shaming, but not without adversity. Moreover, she now fights against unjust public shaming, which has only become even more prolific with social media.

What makes me sad is the fact that we still need heroes like these, and that the unbalance in society while may have improved since the 1990s, women are still facing the same arguments and adversity now as they did almost 30 years ago in the form of victim shaming. 20 years ago. 10 years ago. Even as early as five years ago, I’d have had a more negative few as these two women as I do now, which circles back to a point I made earlier. We can all do better.