Last night (Tuesday) Anita Hill herself brought the conversation of women’s empowerment to Kansas City! The Kansas City Library held an event where they screened the film Anita: Speaking Truth To Power. Anita answered questions and signed books following the screening. I believe it was easily their best program of the year. With over 7000 RSVPs, the library changed the location of the event from the Plaza Library to the historic Folly Theater in downtown Kansas City. Anita Hill became a hero in my eyes the moment I learned about her story. So, it was with great enthusiasm and not a bit of impatience that I awaited last night’s event.
When we walked into the theater, I was immediately struck by the age groups present for the event. Most attendees were middle-aged and older. There were a few people in attendance who I would have assumed to be Millennials (in addition to me and my 4 girl friends). The usher teased me about being the youngest person present (there were a couple of children present, so I was certainly not the youngest attendee). I think the library and the Folly Theater expected the crowd to be composed solely of Baby Boomers. Granted, the day Anita Hill faced the U.S. Senate, I was only 11 years old and had no idea what was going on in the world. I was also excited to see the how many people of both white and African-American backgrounds were present.
Because of my age, I did not learn about Anita Hill until much more recently. I am ashamed and indignant to admit that I had no idea who Anita Hill was. Even when I saw the Vagina Monologues performed in college, I remember hearing her name mentioned but I didn’t know the story of that name. I know the content and subject matter are considered controversial. But I still have trouble comprehending the how and why that lead to me never learning about her in school.
I had already seen the film, but it was fun to watch it again with my boyfriend who had not seen it yet. He is a tad older than me so he actually remembers seeing her story as it was unfolding back in 1991. Following the film, Anita Hill came out on stage and answered questions. People lined up and she took the time to answer every question. She is a fantastic speaker and incredibly poised on stage. Seeing her speak was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you ever have the opportunity to listen to her, don’t pass it up! She is so motivating and positive. She encourages everyone to be their own person and she expresses a hope for a positive future.
Following the Q&A, there was a book signing and I finally got a chance to speak to her. She took a minute to speak with everyone who stood in line.
I know that there are a lot of women out there who have had similar experiences to Dr. Hill. But I believe that it is because she decided to speak up that an opportunity for change was created. Of course harassment still occurs, but because of Anita, women were encouraged to speak about the harassment they have experienced. I believe that much has been accomplished, but there is still lots more to do.
It is more obvious than ever that we live in a rape culture and a culture that still blames women for the treatment they receive and protects perpetrators from punishment. This blame can be found in the questions that women who have been raped must answer: Was she wearing revealing clothing? Was she asking for it? And it can be found in the ways parents have to teach their daughters to be vigilant and aware in order to protect themselves from harm because the world will refuse to see them as a victim and the perpetrators will have no sense of right and wrong and no education as to what consent actually means (or they simply won’t care).
It would be easy to keep the focus of these issues solely on the female victims, but that would be inaccurate. These issues transcend gender and race. Men, of course, can also be victims and they must also be protected from abuse and harassment. We’ve seen it in the news and from the NFL. Anita made sure to make this point. Yes, race was a factor that played into the story of Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas. But the legacy that is left behind is one that everyone, no matter their race or gender can latch on to. Because of Anita, I have hope for the future and I have strength because I know that I am not alone. And I, of course, believe Anita.
Check out the videos I took of Anita during the Q&A:
(Sorry the image is sort of washed out. My phone apparently doesn’t like the really bright lights they had shining on her)
Anita Hill links:
All these issues are still with us: Talking to Anita Hill — Slate Magazine
Anita Hill Talks Feminism, sexual harassment, and Clarence Thomas — MSNBC Article
Anita Hill Talks Civil Rights — Color Lines