Because of Anita Hill: A Review of The HBO Film, Confirmation

During my  years in undergrad, I worked at a very well known sports apparel store, “Finish- Locker”. I loved my job, I loved the atmosphere, and I loved the attention that I got from working at the most popular store in a small southern college town. All of the major athletes would visit the store as well as celebrities, when they came to town for concerts. My co-workers and I always delighted in shared stories about how we were constantly associated with the store in public. People would even refer to us as, “Finish-Locker” outside of work.  It was great.

In spite of all of the fun that I had during my tenure with the company. I was being sexually harassed by my store manager “Herb”; as were the rest of the female employees. He would talk about our private parts to our male co-workers in front of us. He would also ask us about our sex lives and what we were willing to try. There were also times where he would try to touch us inappropriately. We would outwardly protest his advances, which seemed funny to most of us and “harmless”. I am almost ashamed to say, that it became the norm.

It was not until the summer of 2010, that I was approached by a former female co-worker who was fed up with her treatment at the store. She was a little older than me and had decided to contact human resources to report the incidents that took place during her time working at “Finish-Locker”. While on my way to class, she stopped me and asked could I do her a huge favor. I had no reason not to. I asked her how I could help, with no conception of the potential task.

“Would you support me if I contact HR about, Herb”?

The HBO Film, Confirmation premiered Saturday April 16 at 8pm on HBO. Confirmation, tells the true story of Law Professor Anita Hill’s 1991 testimony of the sexual harassment that she endured during her time working for Judge Clarence Thomas, who was awaiting confirmation to enter the Supreme Court. Hill was subpoenaed to testify in front of the U.S. Senate about her experience with sexual harassment; at a time when many women’s voices on the subject were not heard.

kerry-washington-anita-hill-confirmation-image      (Photo/ HBO)

The film opens up with news clips of Tom Brokaw and other major news figures of the early 90’s reporting the impending decision of President George H. W. Bush’s nomination for Supreme Court. The retirement of Justice Thurgood Marshall provided an open seat in the Supreme Court and President Bush chose Clarence Thomas to fill it. Many people interviewed during the nomination of Judge Clarence Thomas, spoke out against the choice to have him in the Supreme Court. Most notably, women’s groups and African American’s, stating their disdain for choosing a Black candidate solely to meet a minority quota. The film then introduces Anita Hill working as a law professor at the University of Oklahoma when she is contacted by Senator Kennedy’s secretary, Ricki Seidman, to discuss her experience working under Clarence Thomas 10 years’ prior at the EEOC and the Board of Education; particularly, to discuss the sexual harassment initiated by Thomas. Shortly after the conversation with Seidman, Hill writes an affidavit for her protection and sends it to the office of Senator Joe Biden. Conveniently, a copy of the affidavit is leaked to the press before Thomas’s confirmation and Hill is subpoenaed to testify in front of the US Senate about her harassment.

“These girls always think it’ll help to talk to the press, and every time they come off looking cheap”

I watched in horror as an eloquent young black woman, sat before an army of all white senators, who bombarded her with questions about her ordeal. Both Democrat and Republican seemed to be on a mission to weaken her integrity. However, her determination to tell the truth kept her strong and able to face the senators during her deposition. The most revealing aspect of the film, is Hill seemed to be on trial while the prosecution was trying to disprove her innocence. The senators even went as far to suggest that Hill was offended, because her advances to towards Thomas were snubbed.

ANITA HILL
Anita Hill testifies in the Russell Caucus room on Capitol Hill in Washington where the Senate Judiciary Committee was hearing testimony on the nomination of Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court in this Oct. 11, 1991 file photo.  (AP Photo/Greg Gibson, File)

Kerry Washington, most know for her role as “Olivia Pope” in Scandal, does a remarkable job capturing the emotion and articulacy of Hill during her deposition. Washington executes every move of  and gesture of Hill. She even manages to capture Anita Hills walk. Wendell Pierce, best known as “Bunk” from The Wire, also delivers a strong performance in the role of Clarence Thomas. Pierce offers a compelling reenactment of Clarence Thomas’s famous speak where he likened the testimony of Anita Hill on his character to “a high tech lynching”. Thomas’s redirection of the subject allowed the issue of race to become the forefront of the deposition. Leaving the viewer to understand the value of a Black woman in the face of adversity.

confirmation cast           (Photo/ HBO Films)

Director Rick Famuyiwa effectively establishes the political climate of the early 90’s in America.  As well as the ignorance to the problems that the country faced when it came to sexual harassment; an issue that was bigger than all parties involved. Famuyiwa seizes the attention of the viewer allowing us to clearly see the villainization of a victim .

joe biden      (Photo/ Getty Images)

Greg Kinnear’s performance as Senator Joe Biden’s at times out shined Washington’s portrayal of Anita Hill. Kinnear captures Biden’s insensitivity as a politician who makes a point to stay in the “good ole’ boy’s club” by not going against the grain. There were times when I found myself fascinated with him, and other times where I was disgusted and disenchanted by his actions. Specifically, after Hill provided the Senators with a detailed affidavit and read her statement to the panel. It was Senator Biden who repeatedly probed and prodded Hill to restate her experience of when Thomas referred to his appendage as “Long, Dong, Silver”. Thus further embarrassing her. The final moments of the film explore Hill’s decision to exit the deposition after taking and passing a polygraph test.

“I have said everything that I came here to say. But they just don’t care”

At the end of the film I kept asking myself how this could happen to a woman who was so expressive and eloquent in her testimony? I think what troubled me most is that it felt like she was fighting to prove that a woman is capable of standing up for herself, even it means taking on very powerful men. Why did Anita Hill have to become a martyr for women in order for people to start to effectively deal with the issue of sexual harassment in this country? I don’t really have the answer, but I praise her for her strength and giving women like me, the courage to write this review and provide personal experience as a victim of sexual harassment.

abc_wn_hill_web_101020_wg    (Photo/CNN/Getty Images)

They tried every tactic to diminish Anita Hill’s character by labeling her as a lesbian, a woman whose sexual advances were rejected, and someone who suffered from a psycho- sexual disorder that caused her to have sexual fantasy’s about Judge Thomas. It’s hard to believe that this took place in America less than 30 years ago. It makes me wonder, if this were to happen in 2016, would we believe Anita Hill?  Most women don’t speak out against sexual harassment out of fear that people won’t believe them. Unfortunately, we live in a society that turns the victim into a villain and makes a point to discredit them if they step forward. Time after time we blame victims for their assaults by accusing them of lack of proper decision making when it comes to their lively hood. The problem is not solely based on the sexual harassment of the woman, however the response of the country once the situation is brought to light.

ah smileeee(Photo/ Getty Images)

It takes a tremendous amount of courage to do what Anita Hill did. Because of her heroism there are now resources for people to confide in if they are experiencing issues of sexual harassment. Hill’s valiant efforts encouraged a surge in women to be elected to congress the following year. Whether my co-worker knew it or not Anita Hill’s accomplishments in the Fall of 1991, made it possible for her to feel confident in knowing that she could take the first step in reporting our boss’s unwanted advances.

When she first asked me about supporting her, my instinct was to say yes. But I have to admit, I did hesitate. I thought about the potential backlash that she and I would both receive for just telling the truth. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for the firestorm that could await me.  Before I said yes, I did pose the question to her about whether or not people would believe her. She simply said: “Someone will”.

 

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