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Top 10 reasons to watch the film "Anita: Speaking Truth to Power"

Nov 15 2014

10. You were too young, busy, or maybe even unaware to watch the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991. The Hill-Thomas Hearings were a landmark event bringing sexual harassment into public conversation. Anita: Speaking Truth to Power offers an overview of the most significant moments of the hearings. It will have you on the edge of your seat waiting to find out what the Senate Judiciary Committee decided about Thomas’ sexual harassment. The proceedings of the hearings and the questions the committee asked Anita Hill are truly astonishing. Everyone should watch to see how she was treated and witness the courage she displayed.

9. You’re not quite clear on what sexual harassment is. Many people are confused about what sexual harassment actually is. Anita provides concrete examples as Hill describes Thomas’ behavior and remarks. (For reference, The United Nations Women’s Watch has a great fact sheet where you can find specific definitions.)

8. A lot of what you’ve heard about sexual harassment and sexual assault is wrong. During the film, Anita Hill breaks it down for viewers: Sexual harassment and sexual assault are not about sex or physical attraction. It is about control, power, and the abuse of that power. This is called power arousal.

7. You don’t realize how prevalent sexual harassment actually is and where it takes place. Sexual harassment doesn’t just happen in the workplace. In the United States, 83% of girls in grades 8 through 11 have experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools. Watch Anita to see Anita Hill address this issue and talk with young women about combatting sexual harassment in the workplace and at school! (For more facts on violence against women and girls see the UN Report on Ending Violence Against Women.)

6. You’ve heard the term “intersectionality” used before, but you’re still unsure of what it means and how it affects people. Intersectionality is an academic term coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. Intersectionality refers to the idea that people face intersecting forms of discrimination based on their race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. Watch Anita to see how her identity as an African-American woman spurred virulent racist and sexist criticism during and after the hearings. Keep in mind that women of color disproportionately experience sexual harassment and sexual assault. 

5. You’re looking for a way to get involved in the fight for gender justiceAnita highlights a number of organizations and individuals that are working to end sexual harassment and sexual assault. Hollaback! is one of the excellent organizations mentioned in the film led by co-founder Emily May. Hollaback! encourages young men and women to unite in the fight against sexual harassment on the street.

4. Our current Vice President, Joe Biden was on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Biden, among other prominent political figures, is featured in the footage from the hearings. Though Biden didn’t attack Hill like some of the other members, he did not offer any words of support. And Clarence Thomas? He’s now a Supreme Court Judge. It’s important, and interesting, to know the history of our current political leaders. 

3. The film is making waves. Since being released at Sundance Film Festival in 2013, Anita Hill and Frieda Mock have visited colleges and universities around the country to educate a new generation of leaders in the fight for gender justice. Beyond its educational impact, the New York Times calls it a “marvelously structured film,” an “important historical document,” and named it a “critics’ pick” in 2014.

2. The opening and closing scenes are brilliant (spoiler alert). Anita begins with the now infamous phone message Virginia Thomas, Clarence Thomas’ wife, left for Hill in 2010. The message asking Hill to apologize, saying, “I would love you to consider an apology,” and suggesting that she pray about it is unbelievable. You need to hear the entire message. The end of the film reveals some fun facts about the bright blue dress Hill wore to the hearings. Hill still has it, and a national cultural institution recently asked to display it in their collection of Americana.

1. We’ve made advancements in getting sexual harassment charges heard and taken seriously, but we have still have a lot of work to do. Since the 1990s the number of reported cases of sexual harassment increased and new legal precedents were established. If all the reasons above haven’t convinced you to watch Anita, it is at least worth watching to learn about our history, think about our present and learn how to create a future where women are respected and protected from gender discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual assault in all aspects of life.

A gender lens
exposes gaps in knowledge,
identifies root causes of barriers,
and proposes workable solutions.