While watching the new HBO film “Confirmation,” about the Anita Hill hearings in 1991 (and I use the term “Anita Hill hearings” deliberately), I had flashbacks. I recalled being a young woman working in an office of mostly men who had all the power. Those October days changed everything for me and many other women. When I wasn’t being yelled at to get back to my desk, l would sneak over to the single TV in the office. We all sat there riveted, watching this lone African-American woman in a suit, sitting at a big table all by herself, talking about things she never, ever wanted to utter in private, let alone in public. We saw all those male senators across the room loom over her, not understanding how this could actually be happening to them. They were incredulous. They had no idea how to process it, but women did.
On the evening of Saturday, April 16, in their prime premiere spot of the week, HBO will air “Confirmation” starring Kerry Washington as Anita Hill and Wendell Pierce as Clarence Thomas. Washington, who of late has been playing the perpetually-in-motion Olivia Pope on ABC’s “Scandal,” plays Hill with reserved silence. She is the complete opposite of Olivia Pope.
The film begins with the reluctant Hill getting a phone call from a Ricki Seidman, a female investigator in Senator Ted Kennedy’s office, who receives a tip that there is a woman who had some negative work experiences with Clarence Thomas. Seidman has to turn her information over to Joe Biden’s office, because Kennedy, due to his background, was not able to question another person about anything related to sex. (Imagine if Kennedy could have fully gone after Thomas) Those of us above a certain age know the story: Anita Hill gets subpoenaed. Shows up in D.C. Testifies about what Clarence Thomas did to her. Forces him to play the race card. Rises above all the bullshit and becomes a heroine for the ages. (I recommend that everyone watch Freida Mock’s documentary “Anita Hill” which is on Netflix as a companion piece.)
Millennials who have come of age after Hill have her to thank for the sexual harassment laws on the books, and I hope they will be watching on Saturday night. This movie is not only a history lesson, it is a film that shows us what happens when one person stands up to the truth. And it also shows us the importance of a Supreme Court battle which is so relevant to what is happening in our world right now.