MiamiHerald / I was five years out of law school when Professor Anita Hill put on a sky-blue suit and walked into our consciousness, and history. The coverage of her accusation that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission seemed like a circus, complete with flashing cameras, clueless senators, and salivating commentators. Still not jaded by experience and convinced that there was purpose and meaning to these public confessionals, I was appalled by the glittering Hollywood veneer that overlaid the proceedings. Mind you, this was before the O.J. trial, the Clinton impeachment, and The Real Fishwives of Wherever.
Today, the Hill hearings seem sober and constrained. Social media has made it impossible to have any conversation about any topic without devolving into the trite, the shallow, and the tweeted. It’s not at all surprising, then, that sexual harassment has gotten the hashtag treatment.
Last weekend, Alyssa Milano invited women across the country to put the words #metoo on their social-media accounts to show solidarity with victims of abuse in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein accusations. My Facebook feed began to fill up with stories of misconduct ranging from rape, to “date rape,” to lewd jokes in the workplace, to being whistled at, to being ogled, to childhood abuse. It evoked some confusing emotions in me.
The first one was empathy for women who felt victimized. There was such a flood of responses that you couldn’t dismiss the phenomenon out of hand. There were women the age of my mother who recounted tales of sexual violation, and the thought that those incidents were still so fresh decades later was sobering.