In 1991, Anita Hill made history when she testified at Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearing. She alleged that Thomas sexually harassed her which sparked a nationwide debate on the issue. And now some 26 years later, Hill has been elected to preside over the Hollywood Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace.
One might say that the position is poetic justice. Industry executives have created the commission to address an apparent long-standing culture of sexual harassment and sexual abuse. The Harvey Weinstein sex scandal and the viral #MeToo campaign opened the door for more allegations against entertainment heavyweights like agent Adam Venit, Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Tavis Smiley, Russell Simmons, Brett Ratner, and others.
Hill’s first-hand experience coupled with over two decades of work to change the culture gives her a keen insight into how harassment starts and how to end it. According to Variety, Hill is planning to come up with a multi-pronged strategy to change the culture in Hollywood.
“I’m proud to be leading this newly-formed Commission on a long overdue journey to adopt best practices and to create institutional change that fosters a culture of respect and human dignity throughout the industry.”
According to the Brandeis University law and policy professor, the group will examine not only sexual harassment guidelines, but also safety, power disparity, equity and fairness, education and training, how to report and enforce violations, research, and collection of data.
Hill will draw upon her experience as a current board member of the National Women’s Law Center and the Boston lawyers Committee for Civil Rights as well as her past tenure as chair of the Human Rights Committee of the International Bar Association to bring about a revolutionary change in the hostile and predatory environment.
“It’s time to end the culture of silence. I’ve been at this work for 26 years. This moment presents us with an unprecedented opportunity to make real change.”
Commission co-convener and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy is encouraged by the participation of so many Hollywood executives. She sees the tides turning and is anxious to keep the momentum moving towards change.
“The fact that so many industry leaders– across film, television, music digital, unions, agencies, ATA, AMPAS, television academy and guilds– came together, in one room, to explore solutions speaks to a new era,” Kennedy said.
Hill’s new assignment comes on the heels of yet another apology from former vice president Joe Biden who presided over Thomas’ confirmation hearings over two decades ago. Still viewed as one of the most epic failures of his political career, Biden has reaffirmed that he should have done more to protect Hill from the brutal attack delivered at the hands of his Judicial Committee peers. CNN reported that the move is likely politically-motivated as he ponders a White House run in 2020.
But Hill isn’t dwelling on the past. If she had to go before the Committee and testify all over again, she would do it. The work is important and it must continue. Anita Hill is up for the challenge.