Yesterday’s news cycle was heavily focused on covering the sexual violence allegation charges against Supreme Court judge nominee Brett Kavanaugh, brought upon him by professor Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Through lengthy televised proceedings, both Dr. Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh testified in front of the U.S. Senate to deliver their testimonies on the allegations that Kavanaugh tried to rape Dr. Blasey Ford during high school. As of press time, it remains to be seen whether the allegations will harm Kavanaugh’s chances of being voted as Supreme Court judge.
All throughout the day, callbacks were being made to another instance of a Supreme Court judge’s confirmation being challenged by sexual harassment allegations, over twenty years ago. Clarence Thomas, who was nominated by then-President George H. W. Bush, was accused by his former aid during his stint as chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, Anita Hill. As it played out then, Hill’s lengthy and grueling testimonies did little to stop Thomas’ confirmation.
Director Frieda Lee Mock’s 2014 documentary Anita recounts the 1991 proceedings that took place from Hill’s perspective. Watching the 1991 footage feels eerily similar to that of Dr. Blasey Ford, except in Hill’s case, questions about her experience from the mostly-male Senate were incredibly insulting and degrading (looking at you, Joe Biden). But it’s clear, even in the grainy 1991 footage, how calm and composed remains throughout, despite emitting a few exasperated sighs here and there.
Lee Mock also tracks the aftermath of Hill’s testimony and Thomas’ eventual confirmation, and catches up with her life in the present day. Although her life was changed forever, and her new normal became constant press harassment, death threats and the like, there’s some comfort to be had that Hill continues to live her life with her head up high, and she’s gratified by her career as a law professor, and her pride in coming forward. Not to mention the fact that young people still look up to her as an example of standing up to sexual harassment and gender inequality.
Hill is a great example of courage, and Anita showcases that dutifully, although at times the film itself seems to be trying to fill in for time. Still, to fully understand how things went down in Capitol Hill back in 1991 and to learn how to view new cases like these critically, and to just appreciate Hill for doing what many victims of sexual harassment fear of doing, rent or buy this film on iTunes, Kanopy, Hulu or Amazon.
Aimee Murillo is calendar editor and frequently covers the Orange County DIY music scene, film, arts, Latino culture and currently pens the long-running column Trendzilla. Born, raised, and based in Santa Ana, she loves bad movies, punk shows, raising her plants, eating tacos, Selena, and puns.