Thursday, October 21, 2010

By request – my thoughts on that voice mail message…

A certain Maggie has asked for my thoughts on that voice mail Virginia Thomas, Clarence Thomas’ wife, left for Professor Anita Hill on her work line at Brandeis University (Go Judges!).

Pause…sip coffee…continue.

Let’s jump right on in!

In 1991, Anita Hill was called to testify during the Thomas confirmation hearings.

She testified...

…and all kinds of hell broke out over her testimony that Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her when they worked together.

I remember watching the hearings live and thinking that Anita Hill was poised under extreme pressure…that she handled deliberately insulting questions with fierce integrity…and that my ass would have gone straight off if I’d been on the hot seat before Congress.

Anyhoo, Anita Hill testified…then Clarence Thomas testified and call the accusations a “high tech lynching”…and then Thomas was confirmed.

The Thomas hearings marked the first time I heard about sexual harassment at work.  They sparked a rather disturbing debate over what women wear to the office, how we interact with male co-workers and whether we should have to weigh potentially negative career consequences with inappropriate and/or intimidating harassment.

A lot of interes focused on Anita Hill and what she might have gotten out of testifying.  She had a career, a private life and I’m pretty damned sure she didn’t profit in the academic world for having been tossed into a shit-storm confirmation hearing.

Thomas, on the other hand, was able to assume the position of a victimized man of color…and avoid solid questions about his judicial positions.  In many ways, Anita Hill’s testimony smoothed the way for Clarence Thomas to become a Supreme Court Justice.  

Catch that knee...I'm not saying Hill was wrong.  Rather, the response of the press and many in Congress was wrong...they sank their teeth into dismissing the issue of sexual harassment at work instead of seriously vetting the nominee.  Team Thomas latched on to that shit and used it to focus attention away from his record.

Thomas went on to write a book…and, given that he’s been essentially mute while on the Court, I’d say he scored several interviews about that book simply because of his confirmation hearing-based infamy.

Fastforward to the now…from 1991 to 2010…and once again a Thomas is harassing Anita Hill at her workplace. 

Virginia Hill dropped in from outer space and left a voice mail for Anita Hill at Hill’s place of work.

“Good morning, Anita Hill, it's Ginny Thomas.” … “I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. OK, have a good day.”

Hill reported the voice mail to the authorities who then contacted Virginia Thomas and she swiftly confirmed that she left the voice mail for Hill.

Virginia Thomas offered this explanation for leaving the voice mail - “I did place a call to Ms. Hill at her office extending an olive branch to her after all these years, in hopes that we could ultimately get passed what happened so long ago.  That offer still stands, I would be very happy to meet and talk with her if she would be willing to do the same. Certainly no offense was ever intended.”

And once again a Thomas is playing dumb about harassing Anita Hill at her place of work.

Professor Hill’s response to this incident is a clinic in how to deal with a situation where someone essentially accuses you of lying through a passive aggressive offer of forgiveness.

Hill responded to ABC News with - “Even if it wasn’t a prank, it was in no way conciliatory for her to begin with the presumption that I did something wrong in 1991. I simply testified to the truth of my experience. For her to say otherwise is not extending an olive branch, it’s accusatory.”

She went on to add - “I don’t apologize. I have no intention of apologizing, and I stand by my testimony in 1991.”

Once again, Anita Hill has given her testimony.

And once again, Anita Hill has told the truth.

***logs off wondering what this Thomas hopes to gain from harassing Anita Hill at her place of work***


Courtney said...

I was a senior in high school when she testified at Thomas' confirmation hearings. Her courage and strength inspired me to push back against harassment that I was already facing at work. I've always been really impressed with her, and this latest incident just increases that feeling for me. Yesterday after hearing about this latest installment of harassment, I sent her a note at Brandeis thanking her the example she sets for women.

Comrade Misfit said...

what did Ginny Thomas hope to gain

That's the big unanswered question. What it showed, though is that she needs some serous professional help and, quite possibly, some heavy-duty meds.

Anonymous said...

It has always been upsetting to me that(1) Thomas got on the Supreme Court and (2) Anita Hill went through all that insanity only to be treated poorly.

It seems to me it is Mrs. Thomas who needs to move on. This is beyond odd. Does she need to prove somehow in her mind that she is not married to a scank? Who knows and who cares. She should never have done this just like her husband should never have harassed Hill in the first place. This is like Jaws II just when you thought you were safe... the shark is out there again needing to be fed.

This is crazy!

Jeffrey Ricker said...

"Olive branch" my ass. More like a switch. And yet another opportunity for the world to see that Professor Hill is a woman of class and that Clarence Thomas makes poor choices off the bench, too.

kmd said... has a fantastic analysis of what Ginny Thomas hoped to gain.

J9 said...

what did Ginny Thomas hope to gain

My theory is that this is a preemptive strike on a near future scandal that will break about Ginny and/or her right wing speaking engagements.

beks said...

ditto to everything you said...and isn't it an effective publicity stunt?

Anonymous said...

I saw some footage on TV (last night maybe?) from the hearings. Now, I could have misinterpreted what Thomas said, but it sure sounded like he was asserting that Ms. Hill's accusation was racially motivated.

Cela ne semble pas raisonnable.

Um, Ms. Hill is a person of color, too....

Blue said...

I remember the hearings as well. Anita Hill was honest, intelligent, articulate and courageous and the entirety of the U.S. Senate should have been ashamed and embarrassed (the especially egregious Arlen Specter if memory serves) by their pitiable performance (though, if I recall Joe Biden has some bright spots).

This fresh incident merely demonstrates that the missus is as ignoramic (yes, I made that up but it seems appropos) and as much of an ass as her spouse.

CR said...

Normally, Shark-fu, you're the one who makes me laugh, but someone "offering an olive branch" by giving someone a chance to apologize? Now that's funny. Such generosity.

I guess I can appreciate these things because I've given myself ample opportunities to apologize (wince).

'Drea said...

"…and once again a Thomas is harassing Anita Hill at her workplace." -- Love it.

That was such a lame ass, insincere message that Virginia Thomas left.

Anonymous said...

Listen to what she said: "what you did with my husband" The only thing I could think when I heard the message was this: Virginia Thomas suspects her husband is cheating. She thinks he slept with Anita. Instead of dealing with her problem with her husband she is lashing out at the only "other woman" that she knows about.

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