Saturday, October 8, 2011

Clarence Thomas Confirmation Hearing, 20 Years Later

"You are ruining the country.  If you do this to me, you can do this to anyone."
- Clarence Thomas, October 1991

Next week marks the 20th Anniversary of the Confirmation Hearings of Justice Clarence Thomas.  While working for the Department of Education and the (no, seriously) Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Mr. Thomas did things to Ms. Hill that frat boys would do to each other: putting public hairs on Coke cans, talking about bestiality, graphically describing porn, and bragging about the women they've been banging.  Does frat house behavior belong in the workplace?  I'd say no, but that's the standard for 2011.  In 1991, the public figured that boys will be boys, and women in a man's world should expect this type of behavior.

Sitting in judgment of the accuracy of the testimony of Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas was the 102nd Congress.  Notice anything?  In a case of he-said, she-said, the jury was composed of 98 men, and 2 women. Neither Nancy Landon Kassebaum nor Barbara Mikulski served on the Judiciary Committee, so neither participated in the investigation.  Watching the Senators conducting the hearing in 1991, it feels like a foregone conclusion that Thomas would be confirmed.  52 Senators (including Nancy Landon Kassebaum) thought there was no reason that a justice with allegations of sexual misconduct against him should not serve on the Supreme Court.  The pervasive mood of the hearing was that men control the workplace, women are merely visitors, and if they do not like their treatment (at, yes, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), then they should quit, even though it means derailing their careers and taking a pay cut.  Suck it, ladies, but it's grown up time, and if you don't like discussions of the films of Long Dong Silver in this government workplace, then you need to find another job.

Being a woman who grew up in the aftermath of the Thomas Hearings, I'm somewhat heartened that this kind of circus would not happen again - because there is no way that the Senate would allow an all male Judiciary Committee to investigate.  The bar would be lowered for Anita Hill.  She wouldn't be expected to produce a video tape of Thomas talking about his member, like it appears in 1991.  It would be more likely that co-workers would be willing to come forward and say that Thomas could be an ass from time to time without fear of reprisal.  The economic impact of leaving one's job in the second most expensive city in the country would have been discussed as a reason that someone would have to endure a monthly (or however sporadic) moment of shit, instead of Orrin Hatch yelling that no one would put themselves through this, dammit, Anita, what's wrong with you, you who belong in a mental institution?  

Today, these types of allegations today results with an immediate suspension, followed by an investigation, during which the douche canoe resigns in order to become a commentator on Fox News.  Think about how fast Anthony Weiner left office after the penis pictures emerged, and you have to have some hope that a fundamental shift has occurred in society over the past 20 years.  And for that, I would like to thank everyone involved for ruining the country.

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