In an era where sexual harassment in the workforce was hardly a cause for complaint, Anita Hill defied the social constraints of the time by asserting her rights and doing what was necessary for herself and for society at large. Acting as a true sociological documentarian, director Freida Mock brings together the story in this all-too-real documentary of Hill entitled, Anita.
By weaving in footage from the period, including Senate hearings, Mock details the story of Hill and how she was verily and forcibly thrust into the national spotlight. The facts are as follows: In 1991, Hill, a law professor at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, was inquired by the FBI about her former boss, Clarence Thomas, at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on his suitability to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Hill complied and answered all questions, also slipping in her belief that Thomas' behavior toward her had been sexually inappropriate.
What transpired next was a glaringly controversial hearing that titillated American audiences. Hill was questioned for nearly nine hours before a Senate committee chaired by Joe Biden and other 14 white senators. "I thought that he respected my work and trusted my judgement," Hill says with a broken edge. Unfortunately, an all too familiar statement, comments like these are painfully common amongst sexual abuse victims. As if to behold a scam, Hill was asked to give vivid explanations about what Thomas had uttered. Hill abided and gave graphic explanations of Thomas' interest in "group sex, pornographic materials and his own sexual prowess."
Though uncomfortable, Hill held her composure despite having to relive the sad and uncomfortable details, showcasing the destructive reality of the criminal justice system. Unfortunately women in sexual abuse scandals must always prove their own innocence.
Shots of Thomas throughout the film include his resilience: "I unequivocally, uncategorically deny all allegations made against me." Reminiscent of a similar catalytic denial, Thomas astutely, with his Clintonian guise, reveres his own sanctity. Dismaying at the audacity that he could do the things he's been accused of doing. When he declares what he's experiencing as a "high tech lynching," the all-white committee flinches. A seamless tactic that proves to work. The articulation and defiance of Thomas is a stark juxtaposition against the tongue-tied Hill, making the case against her stronger.
Mock makes it clear: these matters should not have been publicized, and yet they were. It's obvious that America loves a good race story, and what more could one ask for? A former black employee speaking out against her misogynistic black boss? A perfectly thrilling and money-making story.
By facilitating the defense that Hill never got, Mock tries to enlighten the audience about the story behind this sensationalized scandal, as undoubtedly through time the case became more of an investigation of Hill's own character than Thomas.' She tries to disentangle the facts and uses the footage to back up her belief of Hill's innocence. It's evident that rape trials are modern day witch hunts and in the face of supposed democracy and fairness Hill, a sagacious black woman, sat forthright.
What makes this story so enduring is Hill herself. At times nervous and taciturn, she was no less astute and defiant in her belief to set the record straight. Compelling and necessary, women all around the world should flock to see a woman who took no punches, ultimately believing in the power of her mind and her own humanity.