It's been two decades since the nation began to talk about Anita Hill — and she has some thoughts on what we should talk about next
Anita Hill is back in the news — but this time, it’s because of a movie.
Hill, who first rose to national prominence in 1991 when she testified in the Supreme Court confirmation hearing of her former boss Clarence Thomas, alleging that Thomas had sexually harassed her, is now the subject of the documentary Anita (in theaters March 21). The film — by Oscar-winning filmmaker Freida Lee Mock — has won raves at festivals, but the maelstrom of 23 years ago are still a touchy subject for the woman at its center. This week’s issue of TIME takes a look at why Hill decided to participate in the documentary.
The reasons are multifaceted — unsurprisingly, considering the controversial and complicated case that serves as the film’s subject. But one of them is not so difficult to parse: Hill’s testimony brought sexual harassment into the national conversation, and there it remains. People know what sexual harassment is and are willing to talking about it; in 1991, they weren’t. As Hill told TIME, she’s glad to see the work done by modern activists, who are also featured in the film — and though Anita isn’t strictly an advocacy film, it highlights the modern state of sexual harassment.
And that’s why Hill says she has some thoughts about what needs to happen next. Here’s what she said about her vision for the future:
I would like to say that I do have a vision. This really is Freida’s film and I didn’t have any kind of agreement in advance for what she could or could not do, and I didn’t try to design the film for her, because I knew she wouldn’t agree to it, because she’s a consummate professional — but I do have a vision.
It seems to me that we have lived with a generation or so of informing people what their rights are, and giving women and men the skills to come forward, to talk about what goes on, whether it’s sexual harassment or sexual assault in the workplace or any number of settings. My vision is not just that we can give people to skills to talk about these things and address them when they happen. My vision is that we change the culture so that you don’t go into a workplace assuming that these things will happen, that the culture is changed in a way so that when they do happen it’s a rarity and not the norm. That’s what I’m aiming for.
It’s good for people to know what to do, it’s good for people to have the skills, it’s good for us to raise our voices against it — but it would be better if we could envision a world where it no longer exists.
And that — even though Hill’s still a controversial figure — should be something everyone can get behind.