Twenty-three years ago, Anita Hill testified before Congress in the confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas, who is now a Supreme Court justice. Hill’s testimony brought the term “sexual harassment” into the general American lexicon, and changed the way we talk about gender, power and the workplace. At the time, Hill was vilified by the media and treated horribly by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Her testimony, and the hostility she faced, galvanized women and feminists across the U.S. On Friday, a new documentary called “Anita: Speaking Truth to Power” will be released. I’ve seen it, and it’s excellent — go check it out.
Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Hill — one of my personal heroes — and to interview her for Cosmopolitan. You can read the whole thing here. A bit of it:
What advice would you give to other women who want to speak out?
Take care of yourself. Talk to people who know you and love you and tell them what happened. Accept that it’s not your fault. A lot of people still think, “Oh, well, I thought I was being nice but they misinterpreted,” or “I just wanted to be friendly,” or “I was trying to be a good employee,” or “Maybe I should have worn something different.” But you are not to be blamed because someone else misbehaved.
Then you can prepare yourself to come forward. Know what the institutional policies are, whether it’s a college or a workplace or any other organization. Take the steps to learn what the processes are, who to go see, what an investigation is going to look like, what kind of evidence you need to be able to convince people of what’s happening, and the potential outcomes. Having that knowledge is important.
These things can be all-consuming. You get to a point where you can feel like you are defined by this thing that is happening to you, that you didn’t choose, that somebody imposed on you. That’s when I say, go back to those people who love you and care about you and realize that this is something that is happening to you. It is not who you are. You are not a victim. You are a whole human being with a lot of skills and a lot of gifts that will define who you are, and you should refuse to be defined by an incident. Remember those things that made you who you were before it happened.